Friday, September 18, 2015
"Preaching to the choir" stops when "it gets personal"
I did get a mailing from Save the Children this week, asking if I would sponsor a specific (female) child, this time in Egypt (it wasn’t Syria, Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan). I had supported STC in the 1970s, sometimes looking at it as “conscience money”. At the time, the charity did assign specific children (usually in Africa) to sponsor, and the child would change about once a year. I would get occasional mailings from or about the child, but it was difficult to answer.
In circumstances right now, I do question the point of this kind of a “relationship” with someone sponsored. It doesn’t seem very real. I still feel that I should “get my own work done”, as I have outlined here before.
I’ve written a few posts on the International Issues blog about the “personal” aspects of responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. Essentially, the “spare rooms” argument doesn’t mean a lot in practice. But for the US to accept many more refugees than it has or has said it is willing to (that is, in the hundreds of thousands), in the current political climate with regard to immigration, ultimately personal involvement from a lot of volunteers (not just money, and not just spare rooms in houses) would need to happen. It would have to cross barriers concerning religion and sometimes gender and sexuality. Essentially, volunteers would have to become dedicated to responsibilities comparable to foster parenting, to say the least. They would be supervised by new non-profit groups formed in various ways as intermediaries. Some of this is happening in Canada now.
As I found out during my eldercare experience (from 2003-2010), substantive interaction with others in need is more difficult for one who did not have his own children. This does become a “chicken-and-egg” kind of problem.
As I’ve noted before, a major concern of mine is the expected moral compass for someone who is “different” like me. I set my own expressive goals in life, and it is important to follow my own inner direction. (This is a property of the “unbalanced” personality in the language of Rosenfels.) I don’t like to pimp the specific causes or needs of others unless I have a genuine, longstanding connection with them. I don’t like to be recruited. I don’t proselytize, or like to listen to “missionaries”.
As a moral matter, it ultimately matters that one’s “expressive purposes” or output ultimately connect to meeting the needs of others. To some extent, the free marketplace provides a measure of whether one is doing that, and this makes the “free content” issue relevant (and my lack of sales numbers disturbing to some people, behind the unwelcome phone calls). One should care about the customer.
In this regard, I find it isn’t that hard to get my “choir” interested in my content. I do find people on social media who can relate to it. I probably leave the impression that I live in my own world, which fills me and doesn’t leave time for people with “real needs”. One disturbing observation is that in my fiction stories, the “powerful” do tend to self-select and come out on top, and the “weak” are at best left behind in a wasteland – not a whole lot is done to reach out and give them hands up. That’s a bit like Ayn Rand, maybe. Maybe it sounds like Donald Trump harping about “The Losers” or the “stupid people”. Socially, that kind of attitude sounds at best insular, and at worst arrogant and likely to incite expropriation. (Trump hasn’t gotten over Omarosa.) One true thing I’ve noticed: my own life has a lot more in common with that of many heterosexuals in my own social and cultural “class” than a lot of people realize, but it has almost nothing in common with the “masses” in great need. I’ve noticed on a few volunteer events recently (“Community Assistance”) that I have no idea how to communicate with the “clients” at all. Then I seem to be the “separate creation”.
Another moral matter is that of “belonging”. As I “argued” in the “Epilogue” of the non-fiction part of DADT-III, any of us living in a relatively stable, free society owe it the capacity to step up when there is sudden, unusual need – which may help explain the impulse from some people to offer “spare rooms” even if the idea isn’t quickly workable. It tends to argue for the need to become “socialized”.
There are some moral ideas that are clear-cut. If you procreate a child, you must support it (hopefully in marriage, even if same-sex). That isn’t controversial. Less clear-cut is the idea of being prepared to step in and help raise someone else’s (like after a family tragedy). And eldercare is quickly growing as a responsibility for the childless. There are also things one could imagine saying as obligations that ought to come from inherited wealth (which some on the Far Left want to eliminate), even when not expressly stipulated in wills or trusts. One could be to make a house available to others when there is enough need. But that may not be practical if one isn’t prepared for the personal interaction that goes with it – relationships that were not expected or welcome in the past. “Mind your own business” doesn’t always work.