Punchinello’s Chronicles

May 17, 2009

Service to Others

There’s a huge and fundamental difference between the concept of service to others, and the concept of common goals. President Obama, speaking at the Notre Dame commencement ceremonies, shows us a number of the absolute differences between liberalism and conservatism. One of those differences rests on the implied capabilities of “others.”

In an illustrative anecdote, Mr. Obama talked about his days as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. He spoke of not only one set of circumstances, he spoke of two sets of circumstances! What most people will remember is that people of many faiths, many belief systems, and many opposing views all worked together in “the service of others.” The point was supposed to be that rational, reasoned debate can be inclusive of many divergent views. Always.

In fact, there was another key circumstance involved: President Obama said that the reason everyone came together was because of the closing steel mills! Those closures directly and immediately led to lost jobs, lost income, and the resulting loss of homes, possessions, and plans.

One question is how people react and respond to life events. Another question is how to label events in life, whether they’re caused by people or caused by circumstance. Was the closing of the mills an “accident?” Did the mills close by an act of God? Is business a naturally occurring event, or is business the result of human intent, dreams, goals, and hard work?

The first conclusion we might draw — one that Mr. Obama and other liberals would prefer that we conclude — is that the reason so many people with such diverse and conflicting views worked together was because they wanted to be of service to others. They set aside their personal philosophies and religions in the name of such sloganized terms as compassion, sympathy, love, and so on.

In this scenario, never stated out loud, the people living in the community were the victims of a horrible, natural catastrophe! The steel mills closed in the same way that an asteroid struck the planet! No human thought, analysis, preparation or safety net could have possibly been put in place. None of those community citizens could have predicted the closures, so they “needed” the help of community organizers.

We’re led to believe it’s this desire to be of service to others that forms the very basis for all this working together. We’re not supposed to remember or think about the fact that the steel mills closed! We’re not supposed to think about how those steel mills created a lifestyle and environment. If we think about the mills at all, we’re led to believe that evil, greedy, heartless “capitalists” or “business owners” caused the calamity of jobless despair.

We’re not supposed to think about how the steel mills created those jobs. We’re not supposed to think about the independent actions of people in the surrounding community that led to their seeking work at the mills. We’re not supposed to think about how the reason the community needed help was because there was a common goal in ALL the people of that community to sustain their previous lifestyle!

When hurricane Katriana destroyed New Orleans, did the massive amount of help provided by so many people rest on their desire to be of service to others? Or did that help come in the face of a disaster, for the purpose of helping those caught in the disaster to stabilize, then rebuild their lives? This second assumption should be that everyone in New Orleans was capable of helping themselves. But that additional help would be welcome.

The first assumption is that the people of New Orleans no longer could live their own lives. Ever! Helping others is not the same as being of service to others! Helping is not a state of being! Helping is a short-term, temporary offer. In America, we have a permanent class of work in the service industry. “Being” of service to others is permanent.

The key…the underlying and foundational difference between liberals and conservatives, lies in the implication. Liberals hold that “the others” are permanently helpless, crippled, and incapable of doing for themselves those things that will build or rebuild a life of happiness, joy, and success. “Others” are somehow built differently. “Others” never will be able to take care of themselves.

Conservatives hold that EVERYONE has the potential to build their own life! Everyone has their own hopes, goals, passions, skills and ideas, and everyone ought to have the freedom to pursue those ideas! Within the law, and insofar as one person’s ideas do not forcibly infringe upon the freedom of others, ALL men and women should be free to act in their own personal interests, even when that includes the interests of the surrounding neighborhood.

Liberals, and Mr. Obama’s storied community organizers, begin with an assumption that without their help, without their service to others, the people of that South Side community were doomed to failure. Those people were dependent upon the steel mills. They were dependent upon the owners of those mills. When those mills closed, the people in the community were helpless to do anything for themselves.

Being dependent is not at all the same thing as being self-reliant! Dependable is not the same as reliable! The workers at the steel mill were not dependent on the business! Instead, those workers relied upon the continuing success and profitability of the steel mills!

To the liberals, those people in the community who presumably needed help were incapable of ever living a self-reliant life! They never would be able to do anything unless someone replaced the caregivers of the steel mills…the businesses. Liberals perceive business owners as community caregivers, morally responsible for the well-being of the surrounding community.

This only can be true if we begin with an assumption that people in a community or employees of a business are fundamentally stupid, unskilled, and at the most basic level, incapable of providing for themselves! Like children, never like adults!

Yes, there always will be some number of people in any community who cannot provide for themselves. Some portion of people will have mental or health problems, or they’re experiencing overwhelming problems of life. In a small portion, the surrounding community may have to support them for the long term. But it’s a small portion! It’s not the major portion! It’s not “the community.” It’s not simply a never-defined, never delineated group of “others.”

When we help people get back on their feet, we assume that they’re fully capable of providing for themselves. It’s only that they’ve been hit with an emergency or major problem that’s preventing them from living their own lives. But that’s not what liberals mean when they call out for service to others. It’s not what President Obama asked the Class of 2009 to strive for with his story of the South Side community organizers!

Service to others means to the liberals that some large portion of society always will be too stupid, too dependent, and too incompetent to ever care for themselves. To separate the “others,” liberals assume a smaller group of controlling, elite, social engineers and organizers. That cadre of “masters” are morally charged with managing the lives of those “others.”

Freedom and anarchy mean the same thing to liberals. When people are dependent, stupid, sick, incompetent, or otherwise doomed, then liberals tell us we must “limit the freedom of those others” for their own good. The big question is how to define the masters! Without the masters, there aren’t any “others.” What are the criteria, with what authorities?

Service to others is almost always a slogan that means “power for the masters.” By what standard do we measure the service itself? Did the specific services and things provided by the South Side community organizers match the ideas and desires of the supposedly needy community? Were those organizers offering support of an already-existing idea? Or did they come in an tell everyone what they should be doing?

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness begins with a basic premise that each of us and all human beings intend to stay alive, intend to be free, and intend to pursue happiness in their own self-interest. All of us have our own idea of happiness, and all of us have the capacity to work toward that happiness.

Service to others means either sacrificing our own lives and our own work toward happiness in favor of those others. Or it means assuming that a large group of “others” are mindless animals in need of a benevolent rancher who will provide for their everyday needs. The problem, of course, is that eventually those well-kept animals will be slaughtered.

“Serving mankind” is one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone television series. In that story, mankind was served up as a delicacy on the menu! The managing aliens spoke before the United Nations and told humanity that their only reason for helping the people of Earth was that they wanted to serve mankind. Yup…serve them up for dinner!

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