Friday, June 05, 2015

More about what others "should" expect from "me"

I want to return for a moment to considering “what should be expected” from those of us who see ourselves as “different” (even “special”), last taken up May 6.  

Let’s cast in a more specific way what we tend to “expect” of everyone.  It’s going to be pretty secular, within Western values, but most major mainstream religions (even moderate forms of Islam that we have worked with in the US for decades) follow these ideas.  

First, start with the libertarian idea, “do no harm”, and “keeping promises”, or, as the Cato Institute often puts it, honoring contracts you have made voluntarily.  That’s what is usually legally required.  Marriage is often viewed as a contract, so that means, don’t cheat.  And if you have children (whether or not married) by a voluntary act, you are responsible for supporting these children and raising them so they can earn a living on their own once they are adults.  Simple enough, right?  

But there are at least three more areas.  

So, second, family responsibility that we don’t “choose” often comes our way.  I had my does of that for the last seven years of my mother’s life, and there were issues back in the 1990s.  Eldercare is more likely to affect the childless now than in the distant past because people live longer with disability (especially Alzheimers) and have had fewer children.  Families often expect older children to learn to take care of younger siblings. (I’ve even heard Dr. Phil review the retort, “They aren’t MY children.”) Sometimes, after family tragedies, other siblings (who could be childness) are expected to raise the orphaned nieces and nephews.  “Social conservative” writers Mero and Carlson have made a lot of the “other people’s children” issue (Books, Sept. 18, 2009).   So it’s reasonable to suppose that, as a general matter, everyone should learn to do personal care of others, including both children and elderly adults, even before dating.  
The third area concerns inheritances.  Yes, I have an estate, which is fortunate for someone who is almost 72 himself.  Inherited wealth is generally not “earned” (except, of course, by caregiving).  The radical left has wanted to eliminate it (at least, there was rhetoric like that when I “came of age” un the early 60s).  So is it reasonable for strings to be attached?  They really aren’t in my case, in a way that I can see, unless I have missed something, and it’s always possible for something to crawl “out of the woodwork” (to borrow a phrase from the 60s series “The Outer Limits”). But some wills come with strings.  There can be a “Raising Helen” provision, raising a deceased parent’s other kids or dependents. Sometimes a bequest is available only if someone marries. That’s the scenario of the comedy “The Bachelor”.  That could be pertinent to the gay-marriage debate.  But today, some probate judges might not enforce such a provision, thinking it’s bad public policy.  Provisions like this are not very good for the institution of marriage.   

It’s possible also to require that someone remain employed full time or earn a minimum amount on his own each year before being allowed the bequest, so that he can’t “free ride” on it.   

But in a more general sense, it may be reasonable to expect a beneficiary to become more open to actual involvement in providing assistance to others (beyond normal structured, tax-deductible charitable giving to institutions and organizations through a bank, which I do).  For example, one could become involved directly in housing the homeless (Issues blog post, June 2).  One could be expected to become able to adopt or provide foster care for abandoned children.   

One can flip the viewpoint around from the beneficiary to that of the “disadvantaged” in society.  It could be viewed as a very personalized way of countering inequality and the possibly socially provocative idea of the “rentier” (as on Piketty, Book reviews, July 22, 2014).  So it could be viewed as a strategy to promote social stability (as in my DADT-3 book (Press release, April 2014, here ).  It could be suggested that the situationally disadvantaged have a “right” to expect that others who fall into unearned wealth will reach out to them.  
Social media fits in to this idea because appeals for assistance (like “gofundme” and campaigns like “Make a Wish”, “Ice Bucket” and “Be Brave and Shave”) for very specific causes and “clients” can be circulated quickly, whereas that was not possible when I was growing up.  In my coming of age, giving was more formal and institutionalized.  There was not as much in the way of personalized calls.  

That get’s to the last point, which is more ambivalent.  This is the idea that if you regularly speak out on an issue publicly (especially in broadcast mode), you really should have a stake in it, particularly stemming from someone who depends on you.  Before you’re “listened to” or even heard, you should have some of the responsibilities and risks and obstacles that others have.  I sometimes get this idea from people who “have” to make a living selling things, whereas the culture is making us very unwilling to be approached by sales people (“hucksters”).  

One variation of this idea (and a fourth major moral expectation) is that your content (if self-published, in books or on the web), should pay its own way (May 25).  That means, there is someone who actually “wants” it and will pay for it.  There is someone who benefits from it.  It’s no longer “preaching to the choir”.  I have indeed seen a lot more of this idea in recent months.  There is some controversy in the “writers” community – in that a “writer” can tell stories that other people want, not just their own (which is seen as generating “gratuitous” speech).  I could flip this and remind everyone that topic-specific or client-specific speech is often “partisan” and not very objective (June 3).  If you want to become a citizen journalist, you have to be objective and you can’t just tell people what they want to hear – you have to make them “eat your vegetables”.   

But that begs the question, is “citizen journalism”, self-broadcast, always protected as a fundamental right.  Is it something any of us have a right to do?  Authoritarianism, for example, maintains that everything should be vetted first before the public can see it – but then we find ourselves in the world of Russia (Putin) and China. But, after all, authoritarianism does protect stability, but at a price. 

Putting all this together, you can see that I was rather disturbed by calls I would get over the years, encouraging me to drop everything and become a life insurance agent, financial planner, or tax preparer, “like everybody else”.  You can see the tone of it. (Teaching gets more complicated).  

It is very difficult for someone who was not competitive socially in the past, who has never had “procreative sexual intercourse” or had children, to take on taking are of other people’s families.  I keep seeing calls to do this.  I can’t define the rest of my life in terms of “their” (or OPC) needs, unless I succeed in my own terms first.  So I need to see this citizen journalism and media all the way to the end (Sept. 30, 2014).  Please respect that.   

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