In my last post, I asked: What do we expect government to do, as ‘coordinating agency’ of our own making, to keep our society one that uplifts human potential?
Every time I raise a question suggesting government has a role in ‘providing for us’, I internally ‘hear’ outrage. Crowds of voices scream: “We already have a problem with entitlement!”
First, I want people to consider who they target as ‘spoiled by entitlement’. I have deep and strong objection to use of ‘entitlement’ to scapegoat those of least power, those with least wealth accumulation (used as power). I could write far too much on this line of thought, and trust readers to consider: “What is it that leads anyone to assume great wealth, fame, power, is not linked to an attitude of entitlement?” Where do people think royalty gets it’s attitude? Where do people think assorted despots anywhere, in present or previous time, get their attitude? The word entitlement, as an attitude, certainly belongs at the top, even if it is found elsewhere. Perhaps the word entitlement, as attitude, belongs primarily at the top!
Second: “What is government for?” Why do we bother to have one? What’s the point? The most reasonable cause for a people to form a government, that I can think of, is to have a societal administrative system. Call it ‘government’. Any way by which the people can better provide for themselves, by pooling resources and organizing their use and distribution, can be assigned to government. Good assignments for government are: transportation, protection, education, health care, and support systems for times when need is greater than common neighborly input can answer.
Third: “Who governs?” Theoretically, any system that gives ordinary citizens voting rights, to decide who shall hold a governing office, is a system that best honors individual intelligence, autonomy, and right to ‘self-govern’. Most of us mean this type of system when we praise ‘democracy’.
(There’s an understandable prediction of best outcome if self-governing citizens are well educated – thus public quality education, available to all, is essential. We don’t have it; our schools have been under-funded for decades. Long ago, dedicated educators reluctantly bowed to ‘financial wisdom’ pressure to mass-produce ‘workers’ rather than critical thinkers. There’s been little public support for issues such as class size.)
Fourth: Given an “educated, self-governing population that elects its administrative system”, what, precisely, do we want ‘government’ to do? Beyond education, why do we want access to roads, food, housing, and health care?
Furthermore, considering ‘entitlement’, why do we care if some possible ‘entitlement’ attitudes are given a pass, while other possible entitlement attitudes are nearly criminalized by our scapegoating? Ah – the concept “justice” springs to mind!
Discussing ‘justice’ could take a while, so I’ll shift to a simple scenario. Imagine a family deciding some of the children are ‘rightly’ more privileged than others. Families that get carried away with gender and assorted biases do decide this, but as a rule, we say such a family is not supporting all its children in a way that uplifts each child’s potential. We might say such a family has some ‘cruelty’ in its approach to child-rearing.
Imagine cruelty. Imagine the family satisfied that one child sleeps outside in a garden shed while another has a room with private bath. Imagine one child taken for regular medical care while another has never been seen by a doctor. Imagine outcome of each child’s potential.
Expand the imagining. This time it’s a community. Some citizens sleep under bridges, have no health care, dumpster-dive for food, and, as a consequence, schooling is erratic. Others live very well indeed, attend private schools, are kept comfortably separate from the dumpster diving part of town.
What kind of a society do these people live in? How does extreme deprivation and poverty in our borders differ – to the person experiencing it – from extreme deprivation and poverty in any country in the world? How much potential is lost – potential we can’t imagine because it’s ‘potential’ – it’s not ‘realized’ out where we can see it? We have no clue what we lose as some among us are cast aside! What does a community lose when citizen potential is lost due to lack of support?
Expand the imagining from community to nation and you can see what I’m trying to show. We are not responsibly running ourselves, our ‘democracy,’ to support best potential in our ‘family’.
Recently I made a grocery run as a storm was moving in. At the store entrance I briefly stopped to learn why a woman was standing beside a table, (items protected by plastic sheeting). There she was – in the miserable cold and wet of falling snow, seeking donations. The money was for a program to fund cancer treatment in America for children whose families have no health care. Or, if health care is provided, have extreme limited means to cover costs associated with treatment, but not covered.
Wow. This woman was not herself ‘of high comfortable means’, nor was she so impoverished that dumpster diving was her habit. She was possibly around 40 years old, I would guess of “lower middle income” – or, given our region’s economics, possibly unemployed. She had a lot of information about the organization for which she was gathering donations, but given weather conditions, I did not spend time learning. (Nor did she press – she was, for her own purpose, ignoring the weather, while accepting that not many would stop even briefly.)
I didn’t learn how she came by her passion for her organization. I suspect personal closeness to children’s cancer treatment – and, I emphasize, “as met by America’s for-profit health care industry“. “Behind” this woman were, and are, countless American families experiencing the draining distraction of a child’s cancer diagnosis. Bad enough in any country, but here – family response can lead to bankruptcy. Homes are lost over this. (Bankruptcy due to medical costs was prime bankruptcy cause in America even before the current economic crisis!)
The cost of medical treatment is an extremely powerful distraction added to a dreaded diagnosis. We ask these families to ‘buck up’, to ‘not assume entitlement’. We pretend that in America, all children, all people of all ages, are “free” to “realize potential”.
Is “what we have” what MidEast people should aim for? Really? How different is the experience of significant numbers of Americans from what significant numbers in the MidEast have been experiencing?
We can defend our shortcomings. We can, for instance, run the argument, “but we’re not that bad”, (a reasoning we’ve all heard from young children defending their transgressions.)
We can say: “Yes, but, we don’t have untried people held in extreme imprisonment conditions for annoying those in power”.
And then we can wonder about young Private Manning.
Readers – We do indeed have questions to ask of ourselves! –MaggieAnn