Monday, September 11, 2017

Week of 09/11/2017

Socialism Versus Compassion
The 2017 Hurricane Season is proving to be very destructive for the Atlantic.  First, the rampage of Hurricane Harvey destroying and flooding parts of Texas for a week, then Hurricane Irma blowing up Florida and Georgia as of this column’s posting date, and the full extent of that storm has yet to be determined.  And we still have a whole month to go for the whole season and a few more hurricanes to watch.
And a funny thing started popping up after Harvey flooded Texas...
Certain people started putting in troll messages on Facebook about the need to help bail out those impacted by Harvey.
“Everyone OK with using socialism to clean up after Harvey?” asked one Facebook troll post.  “Or shall we let the free market take care of things?  Asking for a friend.”  Other troll posts follow the same line that any kind of government assistance is socialism and quickly call out those conservative Texans for their philosophical opposition to the very help they’re asking for.
Listen, guys, I don’t mind a little hypocrite-outing.  But, to borrow from “The Princess Bride”, when it comes to socialism, “you keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”
What a lot of these trolls are calling “socialism” isn’t socialism at all, but a little thing we call “compassion”.
You see, helping people when they really need it, for no other reason than out of kindness, is compassion, not socialism.  The two things are not interchangeable.
Socialism is a socio-political train of thought; a philosophy whereby things are done for the greater good of the community instead of for the individual.  The idea that we should all pay for and provide for primary education, that we should provide medical coverage to the old and the poor, that we should help those in poverty, those are all socialist ideas.  Zoning regulations have been used to advance socialist ideas.  Covenant neighborhoods are enclaves of pure socialism, which I know first-hand  through recent experience. 
Compassion, on the other hand, is an emotion.  It’s a feeling of empathy.  It’s a desire to help those that need it that is not rational or born from reason.  You see someone hurting, someone that needs help, and you put yourself into their shoes emotionally and you want to do something to help them.  There’s nothing rational or reasonable about that.  It’s not about thinking; it’s about feeling.  You might even say that compassion is what makes us human.
Compassion can drive people to act, but there is nothing socialistic about that.  Likewise, socialist ideas can be spread without any kind of emotion to them.  Public education was advanced over a century ago not on some perceived desire to “level the playing field” between rich and poor, but rather to make competent factory workers that could read the instructions on the machines they would soon use.
So when it comes to helping people who need it, specifically the federal government bailing out communities like those in Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and New York and New Jersey after Super-Storm Sandy, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and soon for the Florida area after Hurricane Irma, is that really socialism?
Let’s get brutally honest here... no, it’s not socialism.  It’s compassion.  You’re helping those that need it at a time when that need is the greatest.  You’re helping to clear debris and rebuild homes and rebuild communities devastated by forces beyond anyone’s control.  And then, when that’s done, the help ends.
What would be socialism, though, would be telling people how they should rebuild and how they should carry on afterward.  It would be socialism to tell people in a flood plain that they shouldn’t have their homes built there in the first place.  It would be socialism to tell the businessman that he can’t rebuild his pawn shop or set up a payday loan business or strip club in an area that was once devastated by a disaster.
If you think about it, the so-called “fiscal conservatives” that vote to deny funding to bail out these communities are more socialistic than the people that are quick to call for such support.  Their very argument, that money dedicated to such endeavors would be better spent on other perceived obligations – such as endless wars – is actually a socialistic notion.  It presumes that the “homeland”, the collective whole, is more important than the “individuals” in one small part of the country.  That’s pretty socialistic for a bunch of people who claim to despise it.
Yes, the “free market” fails the community in these situations.  We saw this in all past disasters and we’ll see it in pretty much every future disaster.  Insurance companies will refuse to own up to their part of their deals.  Suppliers will price-gouge at every opportunity.  Then again, it’s not really the “free market” at play here.  It’s capitalism that has manipulated the rules to get the maximum amount of profit for a select group of businesses – a.k.a. insurance companies – with a minimal amount of risk.  And it is safe to presume that this is by design, because they count on our sense of compassion to get the government to do the heavy bailouts.  There’s nothing socialistic about that; it’s just shrewd business strategy and political manipulation.  It’s sociopathic, not socialistic.
Maybe it could be seen as Karma that these disasters happen in places full of hypocrites that oppose helping others and then look for help themselves when they need it.  And, yeah, I can’t deny feeling a little bit of schadenfreude in exposing the hypocrisy.  But if you’re going to do it, at least do it right, and stop confusing human empathy with an unemotional idealistic philosophy.

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