Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Golden Rule

Heather Armstrong coined the word "dooced", which is to lose one's job because of one's website. Armstrong frequently wrote about her work in her blog, where she posted her less than favorable impressions about her boss and coworkers. Needless to say, she was fired over this. Armstrong now warns people that posting about your work on your blog is a big, fat, stupid mistake and you shouldn't do it.

I'm about to write a post about a family member. This isn't nearly as bad as posting a commentary about my previous employer, but hopefully I still won't be blackballed from the next family reunion. I'll refer to this family member as Nameless. Nameless is on my friends list in Facebook. Today Nameless posted two status updates to Facebook, both of which expressed frustration at how Americans are donating money to assist Haiti after the earthquake, but Americans do not donate money to help each other.

Nameless' first post today read "Nameless is upset about all of this focus on amazes me that we as a country can text,donate ,do live teleathons etc for a country that has done nothing to help us.. not on sep 11, not in Iraq , yet its big news that people are homeless over there. maybe the moviestars, president and congress should visit my town , cause I still passed the 4 homeless people this morning! just sayn~"

I was stunned to read this and surprised by the number of people who agreed with Nameless' comments. No, I don't suppose Haiti has done much to assist the USA, either after 9/11 or any other crisis. Hello, people? Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and it isn't exactly a wealthy country compared to the rest of the world, either. It's been colonized, occupied, dictatored, and corrupted. Its people are poor, with limited access to basic health care and few remaining natural resources. This is a country that, as they say in the South, is too poor to have a pot to piss in. What could a country like this offer the USA? The average per person capita in Haiti is something like $2.00 a day. Someone might suggest that Haiti could have at least sent troops to assist after Katrina hit the USA, but the Haitian Armed Forces was demobilized in 1995. Haiti does have a National Police, but this force is known for its corruption and mismanagement. Actually there's a historical record of human rights violations by the military in Haiti, but you could make the argument that this has been the case since Christopher Columbus made a pit stop there in 1492. Even if Haiti could have offered assistance in some form to the USA after 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, I think Haiti should have kept it as Haiti certainly needs it more badly than the USA ever has.

Later Nameless posted...."is wondering when will Americans start the BIG HUGE fund raiser for all the AMERICANS who have lost everything? I believe in the "Do unto others as you'd have DONE unto you" but I'm 31 and still waiting to see the help for americans..... Not sure I ever remeber the "help out Americans Releif"....... Am I just stupid or Blind??"

The Golden Rule, as many of us learned in Sunday school, is to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Note that the rule states nothing about a guaranteed reciprocity for your actions, just that you should treat others well because that's how you would like to be treated. The USA is the leader of the free world and is privileged in many respects. Associated with this stature, prestige, and power comes the idea of noblesse oblige and social responsibility. We should take care of others as we are able, because that's how we'd like to be treated if fortunes were reversed. Or to put it more simply, we should take care of our neighbors because we ought to and we can, but we don't refuse to help someone because they haven't done anything for us lately.

As for the idea that Americans do not assist their own, I recommend that Nameless reconsider FDR's New Deal of the 1930s, Medicare/Medicaid, and even Farm Aid. There have been numerous programs that have been initiated by Americans to help fellow Americans. Not all have been effective, and rarely has a single program resolved the issue of anyone who has "lost everything" as Nameless puts it. Asking for a celebrity telethon to "cure" homelessness and poverty is unrealistic and indicates a true naivete regarding the factors that lead to homelessness and poverty in the first place. Yes, it would be wonderful if the American people would donate money to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or even the local womens' shelter in the same manner that we're donating to Haiti this week. There's no reason why we can't or shouldn't help our own people here in our own country, but the harsh reality is that Americans are more likely to blame the homeless man living under the nearby overpass for somehow creating his own situation, unlike the blameless victims of an unpredicted earthquake. It's also a harsh reality that the outpouring of relief efforts for Haiti aren't likely to "fix" any of Haiti's long-term problems, either.

Just sayin'.

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