Steve-O-in-NJ also gets a Comment of the Day for a very different reaction to “Ethics Observations On ‘Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman’”
Steve’s reaction, as you might expect if you are familiar with his commentary, is much harder of nose. It it too callous to be ethical? The ethic of the United States, from it’s origins, has always emphasized personal responsibility and the obligation of society and government to allow individuals to live their own lives, address their own failings, achieve what they can achieve, and advance by their own effort and talent. Community, by it’s own nature, implies a group that strives to help when it can, but the bitter attitude reflected in the hateful “prayer” is something quite different.
Steve answers the query, “Have I been dismissive of your burdens, and perhaps even cast blame upon you?,” by stating, “Like I said, I have my problems, you have yours. Deal with them. The one thing all your problems have in common is you.”
I’ll answer this: “Have I been indifferent to your struggles, since they are not mine?”
I have my problems. Others have their problems. Everyone has enough problems of their own and it isn’t their responsibility to solve yours for you. Solve your own damn problems, or, at a bare minimum, try to solve them without getting me involved.
Have I been dismissive of your burdens, and perhaps even cast blame upon you?
Like I said, I have my problems, you have yours. Deal with them. The one thing all your problems have in common is you.
Did I sneer at your poverty, your drug addiction, your broken relationships, and say they were the just desserts of your poor choices?
Damn straight I did. Not to sound like cranky libertarian Neal Boortz, but our lives are the sum of our choices. Not to also sound like J.K. Rowling, but it isn’t our talents, but what we do with them that defines us. Society didn’t stick that needle in your arm, or make you not show up to work so you got fired, or make you associate with that POS guy who fucked and trucked.
Have I stood at a distance and shrugged, because someone else would help, or if no one else did, the government would lavish plenitude upon you?
Maybe I did. My first responsibility is to me and my family.
Did I think that you were greedy for free money, and not feel the sting to your pride?
Nope, I didn’t, because if you really felt a sting you’d make it your business to stop living off the efforts of others.
Did I never feel the self-doubt and the hurt?
Oh please. You should feel self-doubt and hurt if you are living off the efforts of others.
Did I never extend a hand in genuine friendship, giving in to my own fears, rejecting you for your skin color before you could reject me for mine?
You know, generally I don’t associate with marginal people, whatever color they might be. They’re usually marginal for a reason.
If I showed you a smile, was it forced and hollow, because I cared more about not being called a racist than in offering you genuine happiness?
Your happiness is your responsibility, not mine. Maybe I force a smile because right now you can call me a racist and trash my life, but don’t count on it to last.
Did I always demand you come to me asking, and never came without being asked?
What’s so wrong about that?
Was I the one who demanded you get a job before I’d respect you?
Yup. Start contributing and being productive, you slug.
Was I the one who belittled you for taking the opportunities offered you, without ever taking a moment to see if you were actually qualified?
Why were they offered in the first place?
Did I ever stop to listen to you, to really listen to you, instead of lecturing at you?
I’m not interested in what the marginal have to say.
6 thoughts on “Comments Of The Day Day Comment Of The Day #2: “Ethics Observations On ‘Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman’””
My feelings exactly.
If things aren’t going your way the only persons that can change your trajectory is yourself or a prosecutor. It is your choice to make your life the best it can be, no one else’s
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to them who weep foolishly, and sit down and cry for company, instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication with their own reason. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. The gods love him because men hated him. “To the persevering mortal,” said Zoroaster, “the blessed Immortals are swift.””
I think there are a lot of incredibly valid and valuable points there, especially the last 7. I personally would not be as callous for some of the others, although I understand those points probably aren’t as absolute as stated. I have seen people who struggled with hardship not of their own making. I have seen poor working families who were devastated when the bad wiring in the house they were renting caught fire and took everything they had (rental insurance is very difficult to get here and very expensive due to the poor condition of many of the rental properties). What about someone whose house is severely damaged in flooding, but they don’t live in a flood zone, so can’t buy flood insurance? I have seen working families where both adults got sick at the same time, losing their jobs. There are a lot of things that devastate people that are not of their own making.
The difference between the people I mention above and what I think Steve-O is referring to is that these people need help temporarily. They need a helping hand for a little while to get past their temporary misfortune, not a lifetime of dependence. I have no problem giving my old mattress and and recliner to a person who is pulling their life together (just got a job and an apartment, but no furniture) rather than sell them on Craigslist. I have no problem giving Christmas presents to the children of a woman dying of cancer and burdened with medical bills. I will not give money to a drug addict or an alcoholic.
As for being an ethical course of action, I think one of the most ethical things to do for people in need is NOT to help if you can’t. One of the things that keeps good ‘marginal’ people (as phrased above) marginal is that they keep trying to help the people around them. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself first (as implied above). If you try to help the drowning person who is thrashing about, only to drown yourself, you just made the situation worse, not better. I see people who keep turning their lives around, but the moment they are finally doing OK, they try to help a deadbeat relative or a drug-addicted friend who isn’t ready to be helped. This always ends with everyone losing. I can do the things in the previous paragraph because I have some discretionary spending. I can afford to buy newer furniture (OK, I can afford my wife deciding we need some new furniture) and don’t really need the $50 bucks I would get from selling them. It isn’t going to result in my family going hungry or even skipping a night out at a restaurant. This isn’t true for everyone and the pressure to ‘help’ friends and relatives when someone starts approaching self-sufficiency is very corrosive.
Steve wrote, “The one thing all your problems have in common is you.”
This directly feeds into this statement…
If you want changes in your life or work, the changes must begin in you.
The only self awareness that many people have these days is that they are the victim of others and cannot under any circumstances perceive themself as being the root cause of their own problems. The twisted societal trend of participation trophies and teaching that feelings mean more than common sense have helped to brainwash these people into believing that correlation = causation and their emotional perception overrules logic and facts.
Or, as most famously stated in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” (though the quote is older),”No matter where you go, there you are!”
This reminds me of one of my favorite light bulb jokes. “How many Communists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Zero! The seed of revolution is within the lightbulb itself.”