Saturday, December 26, 2020

Toward The End Of A Difficult Year

     This will be brief...I think. With Christmas Day behind us, a single week remains in which to assess this Year of Our Lord 2020, to try to make some sense of it, and to think about how we might improve the “sequel.”

     Most of my drivel here at Liberty’s Torch is about politics, public policy, and the perversities of government. I doubt that will disappear completely from my oeuvre, though I do intend to try to broaden my offerings in 2021. Politics has become too depressing for a regular diet of op-ed. New topics are needed. Maybe I’ll produce a few essays on currency manipulation or strategic weapons, wait, what am I thinking? Bad commentator! No Nesselrode pie! I’ll have to give the matter some time to percolate.

     Of course, the “big stories” are already known to everyone who takes even a passing interest in affairs. There’s no need for me, or anyone else, to enumerate them for you. But there are innumerable little stories that have been neglected because of the “big” ones. Indeed, we’re surrounded by them. And I shall tell you a terrible thing, an open secret that you might have pondered in years past:

The first job of the media is to get you to ignore those little stories, and to give the whole of your attention to the stories they select and trumpet.

     This is thought-fodder that hasn’t been adequately addressed here or elsewhere. There’s a dynamic behind it that “should” be “obvious,” and so (for a change) I shall refrain from making it explicit. But I’ll point you toward one of the things it’s savaged – and not by coincidence:

     These Americans are the most peculiar people in the world. You'll not believe it when I tell you how they behave. In a local community in their country, a citizen may conceive of some need [that] is not being met. What does he do? He goes across the street and discusses it with his neighbor. Then what happens? A committee begins functioning on behalf of that need. All of this is done by private citizens on their own initiative. The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens. [Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1831.]

     What’s this? There’s a need that’s not being met? Quelle horreur! Surely the government must act at once! Private citizens are far too consumed with their own affairs to attend to such a “need!” – Today’s America (and to be fair, also every other country in the world).

     That’s the contemporary attitude, Gentle Reader – and it stems from the media’s relentless portrayals of every “need” as this huge, overbearing, terrifying thing that would make Godzilla run screaming for his mommy. But in pre-Civil War America, ordinary citizens saw to such “needs” according to their own priorities, abilities, and resources. De Tocqueville, a visitor from over-governed Europe, was stunned by our forebears’ readiness to act on their own initiative, without invoking the political sphere.

     There are many components to the thing, but two stand out above the rest: the vulgarized concept of “need” and the collaboration between the media and our native class of thieves, swindlers, fraudsters, and power-mongers politicians and their hangers-on.

     It’s when a “need” is seen as a critical, overwhelming thing that one’s personal abilities and resources could never address that those who desire power over us are best pleased. And yes, it also sells column-inches and commercial slots.

     Among my resolutions for the New Year, I’ve resolved to try (at least) not to belabor the overwhelmingly obvious for my Gentle Readers. You’re bright folks who don’t need to be beaten about the head and shoulders with stuff you can easily see and comprehend for yourselves. However, as it is still 2020 as I write this, I’ll allow myself a soupcon of Overwhelming Obviousness and leave it for you to ponder:

Every “big need” is composed of many “little needs.”

     Private action is inherently preferable to political action, again for reasons too “obvious” to explain...not that I haven’t done exactly that hundreds or thousands of times to date. If you want to keep government at bay – and great God in heaven, how obvious is the desirability of that! – you must be willing to take a personal hand in meeting the needs you perceive:

Feed the hungry.
Give drink to the thirsty.
Clothe the naked.
Shelter the homeless.
Comfort the sick and the afflicted.
Visit the imprisoned.
Bury the dead and pray for their souls.

     Those seven items are what Catholics call the corporal works of mercy. They are the only true needs, and they are not inherently “big.” If your district has some number of impoverished, or homeless, or sick persons who lack loving relatives, you can assist in meeting their needs. Moreover, you won’t be alone in doing so, for as soon as others notice what you’re doing, they’ll join you, if only to quiet their consciences.

     The hour is late when it comes to the confinement of governments to their proper sphere. We may have waited too long, allowed things to go too far. Yet there is still hope. And yes, your contributions are tax-deductible...for the present, at least. But don’t succumb to the lure of “checkbook charity.” The record of large “charitable organizations” at actually doing charitable work is exceedingly poor, marred by a great deal of corruption and waste. Roll up your sleeves and get involved in the gritty work.

     The United States has never been more than about 10% distant from a condition in which there are no involuntarily hungry, naked, or homeless persons. If the 90% of us who “have it good” were each to put four hours per week into charitable activity, that fraction would drop dramatically...if not all the way to zero. And governments would have no rationale for meddling in what’s properly the domain of the good man with an operating conscience.

     More anon.


TechieDude said...

Us Catholics call that subsidiarity.

If someone is in need, get involved, yourself, in fixing it.

It doesn’t mean badgering the gubmint to deal with it, making me pay at the point of a gun.

NOVA Shooter said...

... And governments would have no rationale for meddling in what’s properly the domain of the good man with an operating conscience

I don't disagree that this is something we all should do more but you have pointed out yourself that once a government takes it on itself to administer (control) something it will continue to do so even if the rationale disappears.

We should do it anyway because it is right.

Linda Fox said...

And, for the most part, when people are not forbidden to act, they do. Hence the many giving sites, which can, and have, raised far more money than asked for.

I recently had a wonderful experience. A young man who'd been sentenced to several years of prison came to my attention. He'd been a friend in the past of one of my children.

I found out where he was located, bought the ability to communicate with him through email, and sent him a note. I ended with asking if he needed anything.

He responded by asking for a shipment of food that he could eat - he was a vegetarian, and the pickings were slim.

That is also a private company fulfilling the need. I paid for several shipments of shelf-stable food and snacks, and went about my life.

He responded with thanks, and we fell into a habit of communicating. He seemed to be in a relatively good place, and I wished him luck when he was released. He let me know where he was located once he was.

I sent him a Walmart card, anticipating that he would need some items to set up a place properly. Again, thanks and more communication.

Eventually, he got a job with Amazon. As he put it, it was hard work, but steady. He eventually made shift boss, and enough money to buy a plot of land, on which he will be building a house (he's a pretty handy guy).

I sent a Christmas card to the new address. I got one back, with an Amazon card in it - a very generous one. I was touched, and very pleased, that he had the financial stability to manage it, only a few years after release.

So, when you visit the imprisoned (even virtually), you just never know what will come out of that.

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

Because the state does not know how to rehab as they do not know how to do charitable works. Most government perception of need is one they create in order to grift. God's blessings are upon you Linda for what you have done.