In many ways, the overarching culture of consumerism in the US has created a horrific effect on the mindset of its citizens. The daily need for each person to venture out into the market place and consume whatever passes before their eyes roots itself into the subtle philosophy guiding our society’s thinking. That thinking begins to shape public opinion and policies to guide our community. One such way is that the market should be free of any regulations or hindrances. Another is the belief that all things including necessities like food and shelter should be earned through hard labor, even if it is for less than minimal pay.
Allow me to explain. We are growing divided by the feelings that each of us collects a salary and it is ours to hoard and spend as a reward. The overlords have given the scraps off their tables and the underlings must scramble for the small rewards. The rewards are immediately returned to the overlords to pay the bills and necessities. As the underlings gain years of experience, some have the ability to hold back a part of their rewards in a nest egg. These older underlings are able to see the brilliance from the world of the overlords, and, in turn, they do not feel the need to help or encourage the other underlings around them. Instead, they like to speak of how this is their reward and they believe that others should work for their own. The divisions grow and the populace is left distracted from the real problems. It is just as the overlords want and they are happy to remain above the fray.
Today, I heard the most outrageous thing. While discussing with a person about the obstacles of hiring qualified employees for the positions available, I mentioned something about the requirements of unemployment benefits. It was a point that in order to receive the benefits that the person has to make efforts to acquire a job. This means applications must be submitted several times during the week, which leads to many applicants that are not qualified for the positions. Yet, they are applying to fulfill the requirements of unemployment benefits. This seemed to be a statement of fact and not political view. Unfortunately, it was not taken that way.
I knew that it was a conversation that I did not want to enter, but I felt that it was necessary. The other person, a very staunch conservative, suggested that to fix this situation our government needed to simply remove the benefits of unemployment and other aid such as nutritional and monetary forms. This would give the individuals two choices: find a job or turn to crime. If they chose the path of crime, they were responsible.
I pointed to prisons being overwhelmed already and such a solution would increase the overpopulation and burden on the state. The response was simply that those populations could be lowered with executions of prisoners within three days. Now, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, I did not assume that shoplifting for food would be a crime punishable by death, but this was my first experience with the hardcore belief where the solution was removing the social safety net as the right path.
So, I took myself out of the discussion and moved on. There was no way that the workplace was the setting for entering a verbal debate over the irresponsible solution of someone claiming that others should be responsible for their own needs or become criminals. I realize that the harsh conditions of the last few years have put a hard line between people, but to actually witness the inhumanity of this person’s solution was quite hard to stomach.
Since that moment, I have taken the opportunity to examine the details of the situations around me. Often, I have wondered if we have not all lost our way in the very beliefs of our Western philosophies. The struggle of the less fortunate to collect the small, sometimes less-than-the-minimum-to-live-on rewards holds the compassionate mind in complete shock. The pure selfishness of the very fortunate who have accepted their positions, which are often gained by privileged and opportune circumstances, engrossed with the idea that hard work was the key to success. It is this simple fiction that spreads like propaganda to the less fortunate with the promise that they will one day taste the sweet success. Those believing in this are forced to support the upper class and turn on their colleagues among the lower class. Unfortunately, this is the very reason that the feudal systems of medieval times created a horrendous environment for progression of society. We are sinking back into those terrible fashions and we must stop.
With all of this, I am brought back to a single thought. As I view the writings of the New Testament to be a message of a philosopher and teacher, I turn those that believe that a society should not lift up the lower classes and poor to the words of that text. Time and time again, the message brought by the sayings of this messenger is one of care and compassion for your neighbor. The care of a fellow person is far more rewarding to the person and the world around than to reject such a need to someone. I may not hold to the dogma and doctrine of the modern churches, but I feel that we are in a perfect situation to change this world for the better by simply showing compassion for those around us.
I know that this is starting to reveal itself in the recent debates in the US over immigration reform. As aware as I am of the political reasons for this, it is good to see that finally we may be turning our eyes to the compassionate spirit within all of us.
As an individual citizen of the United States of America, I have paid taxes with each job that I have had in my adult life. I have never had a problem with the philosophy behind paying income taxes. I do believe that some alternatives might make the system work better for the government of the country or states, but I do not hesitate to pay my share of taxes. It ensures that the country will have the proper funds for all the different services the government must provide. Services like defense, infrastructure, and social programs are just a few. These programs require some form of revenue to support them for the future. It is a simple procedure that most civilized countries use to govern the society.
The arguments from both side of the debate center around one simple factor when it comes to taxes. This is my hard-earned money and I should have a say on how it is used. Now, for one side, this is a simple matter that if the taxes are lowered or eliminated, then the money will be used as the citizen wishes. This is a simplified definition, but the point is that the lack of tax revenue starves the government to the point that unwanted programs fail.
As most of these programs work as a safety net for the populace, this side wants to dissolve the net because the government is just giving money to those that have not earned it through hard work. On the surface, this seems a fair argument to those seeking to make our society about the individual. Individualism walks hand-in-hand with the capitalism ideal that business success and wealth of the individual should benefit from lower taxes. This ideal suggests that to raise the tax levels for the successful is a punishment of the success. In other words, this style of thinking leads leaders to remove the barriers to capitalism and its free market.
On the other side of the coin, the need for tax revenue to support the government and its proper administration is important to continuation of the country. This angle moves the eyes from the individualism to a community environment. A sense of collective resources being used for the group as a whole boils up from this side. Their ideals that the success of capitalism comes from consumerism, in turn the dependence of the free market on the people must submit to equality through regulations. In the minds of this side, the tax levels should show that the upper income levels pay a larger portion to help support the community.
Now, with all that stated in a very simple form, it would seem that the struggle could remain for years, but it is crazy to think that such a matter could stay in a cyclical pattern. Even my cynical side does not despair when I look at this. We live in a world that is moving forward with progressive thoughts and situations. A simpler way to express the two sides is to say that one side wishes to cling to a hardened status quo while the other side seeks to push our society to a dark chasm of chaos in the unknown future. However, I don’t believe this is the future if we just open our minds to possibilities. There are so many possibilities to find constructive ways to use the riches of our society. Natural resources safely used and infrastructure projects are just a couple areas.
A spirit of community grew from the dark times of World War II. The world grew to use its wealth to venture into community building and exploration. This idea of coming together has been lost to many of my generation as we are all looking for the entitlement of individual success without helping the community. Perhaps it is time to return our thinking to those dreams of success as a community that the individual can be proud to be part of. Remove the barriers between us and return to the spirit that we are all human beings.