I ran across an article over at TeaFizz called “The Truth”.
The article was about comments recently made by former-President Jimmy Carter which are apparently causing quite a stir in some circles.
Near as I can tell, it’s mostly Republicans and christians — but perhaps not exclusively them, as that last link to someone I think of as “one of the good guys” over at The Moderate Voice may show — getting stirred up, as well they should. After all, as TeaFizz notes, Carter is telling the truth. And anyone who reads enough knows just how much the Theocrats hate that.
On the other hand…
Self-proclaimed idealism notwithstanding, TeaFizz appears to take a kind of watered-down Ayn-Rand approach to Foreign Relations. After noting that Carter is stupid for telling the truth — no wonder so few Republicans believe in doing that! — and opining how nice it would be if we could all be one big happy family, he notes:
But that’s a pipe-dream. It is not within our nature. I believe that we all KNOW that it is not within our nature, but that we try to convince ourselves that it is.
I understand why we do this, but that doesn’t make it right. We seem to think that admitting we really don’t care about someone on the other side of the world makes us bad people. It is an uncomfortable feeling, admitting you don’t really care about another human being. But saying you don’t care about them is something totally different than wishing harm upon them. It is simply not possible to care about everyone, for all the “haves” in the world to be able to take care of all the “have-nots.” The only thing we, as individuals, can do is to provide whatever help we are capable of. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. — TeaFizz, “The Truth” (April 16, 2005) TeaFizz: Life sucks…now run along.
While I don’t plan to actually contradict TeaFizz, because I must admit that he is essentially right, I think people — heck, I’ll go out on a limb here and say it this way: “even people like George Bush” — do care about others. They’re just, as TeaFizz said, setting different lengths to which they’ll go for others. Some will only go so far as to allow others to exist; some want them to exist and be as well off as the rest of us. Those are pretty close to the two extremes. (The real extreme would be those people who want everyone else dead on the one end and those who want everyone else to be supremely happy on the other. But those aren’t just extremes; they’re absurd and unrealistic extremes.)
To add to that — and I think Bush fits in this camp — some people differ markedly from me on what they think is good for other people. Like many who got rich not through their own gifts, but through the gifts of others, Bush appears to believe “everyone should earn their own way” and he wants to cut all government “hand-outs” like welfare (except corporate welfare), social security, a living wage and so on. Some people just think that’s what’s needed to make others “tough enough to survive.” (It’s no huge surprise that many people think the President Jimmy Carter, whose life most exemplifies the Spirit of Christianity laid down by Jesus, was the United States’ worst President, while the one who most makes a mockery of Jesus’ words (George Bush) is considered by some of those same people to be a terrific President.)
At any rate, there actually is “something more” most of us can do than what we do.
Not supporting exploitation of others, particularly when those others include us, and we just can’t think far enough to recognize that we’re being exploited, for one. (Thinking we’re really better off in the long run because we get something cheaper at Wal-Mart than at a local store comes to mind.)
As TeaFizz said, Carter was telling the truth. But I think he was also implicitly disagreeing with any theory that goes the way TeaFizz put it: that it’s okay.
It may be okay to not go to the extreme for people clear around the world (or even in your own decrepit downtown), but I don’t think it’s okay to just shrug our shoulders and say, “Nothing wrong with ignoring those folk.” This is particularly true when it’s often our actions that help make their lives what they are. As the smarmy Walt Disney voices used to sing to me as a kid, until I was ready to strangle them, “It’s a small world.”
And the United States has it’s hand in every port and every pot, for better, or (sadly, perhaps more often) for worse.
I don’t think any of us should beat ourselves up, or necessarily sacrifice our lives to the goal of improving everyone else’s. But there’s nothing wrong with at least thinking about ways to to live our lives without negatively impacting theirs.
And, who knows? Maybe if we think about it, enough of us will actually do it to make a difference.