Have We Created Societies of Social Welfare Bums?
Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.. Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love the greater the jealousy.
A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.
– Robert Heinlein, American writer (1907-1988)
What do love and jealousy have to do with welfare? A great deal, as you will learn. First let me note that the two paragraphs that comprise the quote come from different sources by Heinlein.
Let’s lead off with a big idea, though one you should find comfort with. We have people for whom someone or some people other than themselves takes priority over their own best interests. And we have people who, when all distractions are stripped away, have their own best interests of primary importance.
Doesn’t everyone give importance to their own best interests? Of course, it’s how we survive. Doesn’t everyone have to put the interests of others ahead of their own sometimes? Yes, but in the case of our self-first group, putting the interests of others ahead of their own may indeed be in their own bests interests. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.
Take the example of a highly paid executive who makes a sizable donation to charity right before the end of income tax season. By no small coincidence the amount of the donation happens to lower his income below a threshold, putting him into a lower tax bracket. In the end he is money in pocket and he receives acclaim for his donations. Is that bad? No, most of us would do it if we could. But that person can’t claim to have the best interests of others ahead of his own if he will benefit financially from the donation. His own wallet counts first.
Now let’s take the example of a parent who loads his adolescent son with electronic toys and gadgetry, so much so that the boy spends much of his time at home alone playing with the games. Admirable, huh? Except when you realize that the parent has thereby relieved himself of the parental obligation of interacting with the child, of teaching life lessons to the child while conveying the benefits of a close relationship between parent and child. That’s what parents are supposed to do, what they have done throughout human history. The parent avoids that. That puts his own interests ahead of those of his son, no matter how he appeases his conscience by telling himself how good a father he was to give his son so much, more than he had as a child.
Another example, this time from the other group, might be the businessman who takes time out of his work week to mentor school kids–or even one child–so that the children have examples of good role models other than their own parent(s). Many other adults belong to service organizations in their communities where they volunteer many hours each year to benefit certain groups or individuals with needs they can’t otherwise meet. They help, others benefit.
We have one group who loves themselves first, another who loves others more. You likely know many of each type. You may even have friends of both types. “Love” may be a strong word for people for whom love is, essentially, a business arrangement.
To put this into clearer perspective, let’s take an extreme example of a life crisis. Let’s say a natural catastrophe such as a hurricane or tornado destroys one or more distribution centres for electricity in your area. It will take weeks, maybe months, before power is restored to your home and every other home, business, factory, recreation hall and other gathering place within 500 kilometres of where you live.
At crisis times, we all need allies. It’s the time when everyone should pull together. In this scenario, which group of people would you rather have as your allies, the self-interested ones or the ones who willingly share and think of others before themselves?
That’s easy to answer, you may say. Choose the group who will help you most. That extreme example was only to give perspective. Life is filled with all kinds of situations of a less critical nature in which we could use help from others. You might have a flat tire on the freeway and your cell phone battery is dead. If someone were to stop to help you, which group would you expect the helper to come from?
Some people can’t make it in life. For many reasons, they have fallen into a pit of problems from which they can’t extract themselves. They lose their job, can’t pay their mortgage, get hassled by credit card companies, and so on. No matter what they do, they can’t manage to put their ducks in line.
We have welfare (also known as social assistance) to help them. But for how long? If they do not have the necessary work skills, attitude and work ethic to get and hold a job, it could be years before they can pay their way in life again, if ever. Somehow they didn’t get what they needed while they were in school, including life skills that could help them to survive in times of crisis.
They often live in the poorest quality of housing, maybe it reeks of the urine of past occupants or harbours cockroaches or has plumbing that works only sporadically. Or all of the aforementioned. It’s not pleasant to be inside, especially in summer, so they sit outside with their beverage of choice, often beer.
That’s where they are when some people see them and complain that “we pay our taxes so these people can sit around home all day and drink beer.” Have you ever heard one of those complainers express a desire to change places with those welfare “whores” they despise? If life is so easy for welfare recipients, why would more people not want to change places with them?
We have many people in our society who, for a variety of reasons (none of them pleasant), must spend many years in prison. The prisons allow the inmates to work, for which they receive a little money (a dollar a day, for example) they can use to buy small treats for themselves. They often have access to libraries and classes to upgrade their education. And they can watch television.
Setting aside the discussion of the mood we might expect prisoners to be in (remember, they must associate with staff members who are outsiders to them) if we kept them confined full time in mind-numbing violence-inducing cells, we have people who condemn prisons for being places of luxury. “It’s a great life and we pay for it!” Have you ever heard one person who seriously would trade places with a prisoner for any given period of time? Of course not. They know life is not luxurious or comfy in prison, no matter what they say.
Some people want to help those confined to prisons. Some want to help those who are stuck on welfare because they can’t figure out how to dig themselves out of it. Some want to throw a lifeline to people who have lost their jobs or whose homes have been lost to fire. Or people whose life mates have walked out, leaving them alone enough to want to end their lives. Or people of an age they should retire because their health is not so good, but they can’t because they have lost their life savings to some scam or stock market downturn.
They are the helpers. They are the “liberals” who want to “help out every freeloader who can’t be bothered to work enough to earn a proper living.” Even though not one of the self-first complainers would ever offer to change places with a person with a problem, they condemn those who would help. Because helping others does not help themselves and they are always more important than any others.
Those helpers are the ones you want as allies in a crisis. Ironically, the helpers will, in a crisis, help even the most self-interested lamers.
Returning now to our opening quote from Heinlein about love and jealousy, does it become obvious to you which group of people are likely to become jealous and which more apt to love others?
If you have a mate who is jealous, now you know why. That mate is not someone who would lay down their life for you in an emergency, no matter if you would for them or not.
Study your friends, workmates and neighbours and you will see which are the selfish ones and which the generous helpers. Some love themselves first and foremost, some love others more.
Remember, you will eventually have a crisis in your own life. Cultivate the helpers now so that they will support you when you need them. That’s what friends do, though they serve much different functions most of the time.
The old saying goes: to make a friend you need first to be a friend. If you want to have a helping kind of person as a friend, you will need to make friendly gestures to that person first if they are not already your friend.
In other words, help someone else now who needs your help. That person needs a friend now and will be your friend later when you need him or her. Maybe. The ones who become friends will far outweigh in benefits to you those who take what you give and forget about you.
Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to raise their children to be helpers, to be able to make friends, to be self sufficient yet comfortable with interdependence.
Learn more at http://billallin.com