I think the main problem at large is that people have forgotten (or simply don’t realize) that by living as part of a society you inherently sign a social contract. Everyone born into any given social community is opted in automatically without choice or consent. What this means is that you are, by right, part of the community, you benefit from the community’s gains, and you are protected by that community. Now, you can opt out; only if you remove yourself from the social structure and stop taking the benefits provided (i.e. stop paying taxes, move to a different country with a different social structure, become a cave hermit in the remote wilderness) But if you don’t, then you have taken on a set of rules and a responsibility that coincide with the right to all due benefits (the chief responsibility of our society being the stupidly cliché and simplistic “golden rule.”) If every member of the community is eligible, then every member must be responsible to ensure the benefits’ continuous availability. (Although it partly is, this is not solely about money; also respect, security, safety, happiness, and human-rights etc…) This is where the misunderstanding comes in. You aren’t being an ‘evil-commie-socialist’ by giving back to society. It is required of you by the contract, but it’s also in your best interest.
The principle is not based on actual or perceived need, but on potential need. Obviously, there are people that need a lot, as well as people who need for nothing. The important point, though, is that everyone has roughly the same potential to end up in need. Anyone could get sick, anyone could get robbed or cheated, everyone needs access to get an education, everyone will die, anyone could be oppressed. That is the point of the contract; it’s why we have formed our society like this and not a cannibalistic anarchy. By ensuring none of these things could happen to the whole community you are ensuring they can’t ever happen to yourself. No matter how safe and sound you feel, no matter how impermeable or untouchable you think you are, no matter what your station in life may currently be; things change, and tragedy can strike anyone anywhere at anytime.
I’m not talking about a utopia, seriously, just a completely attainable place where people finally understand what it means to live in a community. Just play your part and pay in your share for the society that got you to where you are (You didn’t get there alone, be honest. Everything from your school, down to the road worker and garbage man are deserving of your respect and a return for their labor.) Just imagine, for a minute, a millionaire (whether his money comes from a company he built, his parents, the lottery, or back-breaking work,) he could only have accomplished it on the shoulders of the investors, engineers, teachers, gamblers, doctors or neighbors. That person would not be a millionaire if other people hadn’t held him up; If a doctor hadn’t delivered him or immunized him, if his neighbor didn’t respect or trust him, if a stranger hadn’t lost everything thereby making an opening or an opportunity, if there were no roads or trash collectors or farmers. With out the support of a society in people’s lives, it would be impossible for them to be “successful” in the way most people imagine it to be. There is too much work to be done and too much at stake to try and survive on your own. You can’t have an empire without resources, you can’t run a bank without customers, you can’t be a star without fans. When treating everyone else as less important than yourself, you convince them they aren’t needed and they will start to treat you the same.
Another thought, part of the problem with some of these people is that they haven’t really thought through their priorities. Some of them tie up their happiness in the pursuit of money. If you achieve gaining more money than you need, but you still need to gain more because that’s what makes you happy, isn’t the never ending cycle obvious? It will never be enough, so you will never be happy. Once you’ve gotten to the point that you’ve made so much money that you and each of your children could never spend all of in your lifetimes (and it’s still not “enough”) you should probably try and find something that would actually bring you meaning and happiness (how about instead of living for the profit, you live for the happiness your product brings, or the adventure of scientific discovery?) Wanting money and being rich aren’t inherently bad things, at all. But it is bad doing so for no other reason than selfishness. Not saying you should give all your money away (unless you want to…?) But don’t continue to make a sport of making money at the expense of your community without ensuring other people the same protection and support you had. To those who aren’t millionaires but still have plenty to be comfortable; I’m not saying you didn’t earn your comfort, but as I said before, it wasn’t only you that paid for it. Make sure you aren’t denying others the chance to have your level of health, happiness, comfort, or respect. Tomorrow your house could burn down, your bank could collapse, you could be diagnosed with a brain tumor, an earthquake could destroy your city, a silent majority could try and put you beneath them, or you could be ripped-off, raped or beaten. Where would you be then if society at large wasn’t a force to enable you to stand back up and fix the broken pieces.
A lot of these feelings of overestimated strength, egotistical independence, selfishness, and indifference, are products of an earlier era where these were needed. It was a time where only the strongest or most cunning genes would survive. But it is no longer beneficial to behave this way, we have vastly evolved from the small social groups requiring militant selfishness and ruthlessness. To behave like this now sets you apart from the “new” shift in social structure, which is based on strength in numbers. It damages your relationship with the community, leaving you vulnerable if you alienate yourself. Just because it was/is justifiable on the basis of animal instinct, doesn’t mean that we have to accept it. We have evolved a consciousness that is able to decide to not behave like animals. We can do the right thing for the sake of it being right, not just because it benefits us (which it ends up doing in this case anyway) In all honesty one person wont make or break it. Whether you decide to play along or not, you will still be enjoying all of the rights and privileges that the community tries to make sure everyone has. Until you’re not. If enough people decided to play the game on their own then society will fail. Not for some distant stranger, but for you. In that case, good luck. You’ll need it.
I think Elizabeth Warren expressed my opinion on the social contract very well:
November 13, 2013 | Categories: Pursuit of Happiness, Rant, Uncategorized | Tags: AMERICA, Democrats, Elizabeth Warren, GOP, Government, Happiness, Human Rights, Liberals, Morals, Philosophy, Pursuit of happiness, Rant, Republicans, Social Contract, Socialism, Society, USA | 1 Comment
“How much is enough?” If we as a society are really committed to the notion that “more is always better” and if we believe we can sustain economic growth indefinitely.
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life … that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption… .We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever accelerating rate.”
But as an engine for humanity, it is not sufficient to simply buy and sell. Many economists today are suggesting we must not rely on growth as our sole criteria for judging a ‘healthy’ economy — that we must find ways to measure the quality of people’s lives and the impacts we are having that are not based on just dollars and cents. We have all heard that money can’t buy happiness. Now we’re having to acknowledge that happiness is not a commodity to be bought and sold, and we can no longer afford to be addicted to consumption.
I am not against the theory of Capitalism as a means for distributing goods and services, just as I am not against alcohol. I am, however, against Capitalism or any economic theory when it becomes an ideology, just as I am against a pervasive culture of drinking and drugs in which individuals lose their capacity to choose (or even question their choices).
When our practices become so pervasive that they ‘take over’ people’s thinking to the extent they self-destruct (for example, through excessive drinking or excessive debt), then we need to stop and ask what is really going on. We need to challenge our most basic beliefs and assumptions about what we want, how we are living and the choices we are making.
Creating any new habit is difficult. And getting beyond an addiction can be extremely challenging. But having the courage to take stock and get clear about what we want is the essence of what makes us who we are. This is exactly what we need to do to create the foundations for whatever possible future we want.
November 13, 2013 | Categories: Hand Me My Shank, I Don't Like Jokes, Pursuit of Happiness, Rant, The Drama Of It All, U.S. Politics | Tags: AMERICA, Bangladesh, Capitalism, Elizabeth Warren, Free Market, Government, Obama, Politics, Social Contract, Socialism, US Politics, USA, Victorian Era | 25 Comments