Monday, October 31, 2011

Charity vs. Socialism

I suspect that this blog post may lose me a few readers; I'll have to live with that. Because this is such an intensely emotional topic, I've stayed silent for a very long time. Not because I don't have my opinions, but more because I couldn't clearly articulate my thoughts.

I am liberal in my views about people being happy in their lives and life-styles, but I admit to being fiscally conservative and worried that there is way too much government involvement in my personal life. Trust me, I like money as much as the next guy; day to day living is made easier with it. And, one of the best lines I ever heard about money was from my friend Bernie who said, "While it's true that money can't buy happiness, try living without it!" Amen, sister, Amen.

But as it relates to current affairs, I can't in good conscience not weigh in. Not especially after a flip cartoon has gone viral on Facebook and other places. For me, it's the last straw. So get ready. Read at your own peril.

The cartoon I'm talking about is one of a man speaking with Jesus and he is saying, "But, Jesus if we feed all these people, won't that be!!!" Kill me now. Really? Really?? Now we want to bring Jesus into this? Shame! Because most of those who use this cartoon to prove a point against the Unfeeling, Uncaring Economic Establishment, also believe religion is the opiate of the people and will have none of it!

You are hereby put on notice: You can't have it both ways!

Okay, I'll play your silly game: Going along with the notion of "What would Jesus do," this man who fed the masses with the loaves and fishes is also the man who preached very clearly, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Meaning, these two states are clearly separate and both must have their due.

He's also the man who was reticent to do this miracle of the loaves and fishes just as he was to call attention to himself by changing water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. He did not see it as his place to make global, sweeping changes to the state of things. He did preach that we should all examine our conscience and act on a situation presented to us in order to deepen our sense of understanding and compassion.

The Christ was NOT a socialist; he was not political in any way, (much to dismay of many of his disciples, like Judas, who were hoping he was going to liberate the Jews from the Roman occupation.) What The Christ was, is a highly evolved thinker, and an active thread of Spirit who understood the soul-stretching qualities of compassion, faith, and charity. He taught us that the earthly body and life should not be our only concern and what we should really be doing is expanding our connection with Spirit.

He appears to have been an individual who lived in the world as it was while hoping to grow spiritually from the experiences it offered. He did good works, cured many, provided us with miracles to consider our potential, but he did not insist that the good works be mandated by an governing body. He also said, "The Poor will always be with you." Which means that he understood that all of us at one time or another will be poor, either in spirit or physically. It also means that The Poor are our opportunity to grow our sense of compassion and love by addressing their needs as we can. Or not; it's our individual call.

But, before I go much further let's make sure we're all working with the same understanding of the words socialism and charity.

As defined by Webster's Dictionary:
Definition of SOCIALISM
1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

To my mind, the third definition is what's afoot here. And, if I had not spent time in Russia, I would not understand the impact of that sort of transition. But I did spend time there, and I did see what the years of Communism did to the country. I did hear the tales of what is was like to live in a place where Socialism leads to misery.

As my one Russian friend said, "Yes, the notion of equality for all meant that we were all equally miserable. Contrary to what we were told, it did not make for an elevation in our status as citizens; Socialism lead us all to our lowest common status. Marx and his people were exempt from the horrors of the system they started. They lived well while most of us starved."

When I asked Kira to explain further or give an example she said, "Dalink, do you know why Russians starved and suffered through bread lines? Look around at how vast our country is, there is farmland everywhere. But, we had no equipment and no one would farm it because the Government came and took what the farmers produced, "For the People," and did not pay them. They told the farmers what crops to plant and how much and regulated all parts of their living until the farmers couldn't farm or wouldn't farm because they could not make a living."

She continued, "So the farms went fallow and there was none who would take it up because there was no way to make it work. Now my country must start over again. Almost from the beginning, but there still are few farmers and much more land than farmers to tend it."

Another friend of mine, Ludmilla, still shared her family home with a man who had been placed in it during the Communist regime. I absolutely couldn't get my head around that as she explained, "I cannot get him to leave. I have slowly bought my flat back but he doesn't care because he has lived there for years and has no intentions of leaving. I must pay rent and for food and utilities and all the things that the Communist said they would take care of. Thank goodness Communism is ended, but now I must buy these things and the money is not there. It is very hard to make it work. This man, I have no legal recourse to remove him. If he does not wish to go, I will have to wait until he dies."

Yep, the third definition is the one you should be worried about the most...

Because let's be clear: Charity that is mandated by a government is not charity; it is socialism. A government established program that makes certain that everyone has equal status is not Nirvana, it's Socialism.

As defined by Webster's Dictionary:
Definition of CHARITY
1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
2: a) generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also aid given to those in need, b) an institution engaged in relief of the poor, c) public provision for the relief of the needy
3: a) a gift for public benevolent purposes, b) an institution (such as a hospital,) founded by such a gift
4: lenient judgment of others

The word most often associated in these various definitions is, gift. A gift is something that you decide to give to another. It's not a mandate. It's not a requirement. It's not a legal or governmental parameter. It is your choice.

While it might be expected, such as someone might expect that they get gifts on their birthday, if no one gives them a gift, the birthday boy or girl cannot go to the government and insist that they make amends and/or make us give them a gift.

Okay, so now that we're clear on the difference between these two words, let's keep going with this discussion. Feel free to give me your thoughts on all of this, so we all can learn by sharing.

Currently, with the whole Occupy Wall Street efforts, people are attempting to bring into clear focus the growing divide between the Haves vs. The Have Nots. I get it. While I don't agree with the tactics, I'm sure parents felt the same way when I and my friends were out protesting the Vietnam War.

The need for change is always brought about by civil unrest, it seems. Protesting and making public statements is also part of that. So for those who are genuinely there to express their concern and the need for change, good on you. But, let's face it...there are hundreds who are there just because it's a way to vent anger and hatred toward who and whatever. Some aren't even sure why they're there except that it's a happening. Some are there because they don't know what else to do to impact this issue and move things in a positive way.

But, mostly it's about fear and frustration. It's about seeing that others seem to have way more than you do and thinking that's not fair. It's about feeling like David facing off against the Goliath of big business and banks. It's about worrying how you're going to find a job in this crappy economy. It's about bills you can't pay. Or being in debt that you don't want to take responsibility for now that you're drowning. It's about being strapped with a home that's lost a significant part of its value and/or being upside down in a mortgage. How are you supposed to survive? Why doesn't someone do something to help you? What's to keep you alive body and soul?

AND ALL OF THESE ARE VALID CONCERNS, but they're not going to be answered by taking money from those who have it and giving it to those who don't. They're not going to be answered by impinging on the ability for businesses and individuals to make as much money as they can. It's not going to be answered by more government involvement and regulation. They're not going to be answered by the Liberals' insistence that the government Level The Playing Field and give to those who don't have money from those who do.

Don't you understand that when the thought, "The government is just going to have to pay for this because I/we need it," what you are doing is forcing your needs/wants/ desires onto every other citizen? WE are the government. Our taxes are the funds for all of these programs, bail-outs, welfare, student loans left unpaid, bankruptcies, and mortgages that are foreclosed upon.

If you need help, it should be my choice to help you! It's not your right to expect that simply because you need it, it should be provided!

It's about you becoming right with the idea of money and understanding it for what it is. It's about more of us becoming better educated about how money actually works. It's about seeing how the money is made by individuals and organizations. And it's about following the American dream of doing the same. It's about the opportunity to rise UP to affluence and success.

It's about adjusting our thinking about what are truly personal rights. It's about taking responsibility for the financial choices you made and honoring them. The government is not the answer. You are the answer. If you want to be the master of your own destiny, you can't ask the government to step in and micro-manage your destiny when you don't like how it's going. The United States of America was founded upon the principles of opportunity....all of us have opportunity. Some of us run with it and some of us don't. It has little to do with how hard someone's circumstances are and how easy someone else's might be.

If we are so concerned that we no longer understand how to be charitable and seem to be cold and uncaring, I'm with you on that. We, as a nation, are forgetting what it means to be charitable. ALL of us are forgetting it. Not just the ones who have the money, as the Liberals would have you believe. In fact, it's still true that the wealthiest of Americans are giving record amounts of money to charities and causes. But the rest of us? Not so much. "I don't have enough money to take care of myself in this economy! You can't expect me to give money to others!" It's time to rethink this comment.

While money is often the indicator of charitable behavior, it is not the entire answer. Charity of spirit and willingness to extend ourselves to others in any way possible is also part. By volunteering our time. By being a mentor. By being neighborly. By checking on an elderly person who lives near and seeing what you can do to help them. By offering to help a young mother with her children. By offering a neighbor who doesn't drive if they would like to go with you when you go to the grocery store. By hosting a pot luck dinner where everyone brings what they can and many are fed for just a small investment. By doing unseen acts of kindness. By becoming an active member of your community.

We say, "Charity begins at home." That's so very true. For those of us who are loved, we first learn to be charitable by how we deal with those who occupy our home space. We have our parents then teach us what it means to be charitable to those who live near us. We join civic groups; we go to houses of worship; we become a good neighbor.

Oh wait, most of us don't do those things anymore. Religious custom is fading for a vast majority of us. That's fine with me, if you don't want to go to a religious address, but each of us must find an alternative means of connecting with others and become aware of those who are in need. We must find a way to become a charitable part of community.

You have to find a way to develop a charitable nature, not just fixate on financial concerns. We must teach each other what charity means by our actions, not by Occupying Wall Street. And, please, stop looking to the government to mandate your financial security.

This little girl is Merlin. She is Michael's foster child. About nine years ago, a speaker came to the church he attended to talk about their charitable work with children. He decided he would make the monthly contribution to their efforts. Merlin is his assigned child. Very few people, up until I just told you, even know he has done this.

On a regular basis, we get a letter updating her situation. When she was very small, her aunt wrote these letters which are translated into English for us. They are full of small details about how Merlin is a good girl and likes school, etc.

Now, Merlin writes to us about her days and sometimes sends a drawing. It's very sweet. In all cases, the letter is full of statements of gratitude to, "Godfather Michael" for his support and care. In the letter that held this picture, she talked about being excited with her new school clothes!

And, here's the thing that illustrates true charity to me. Michael started this when he was making next to nothing as a new funeral director, (this industry, sad to say, pays terrible wages in general,) and he was paying a mortgage, child support, the rent on his apartment, and all that goes with life.

Still, he decided that he wanted to help a child thousands of miles away because, as financially strapped as he was, her circumstances were much more dire. We are spiritually richer for his decision. Even the months in this economy, when we aren't sure how we'll pay all of our bills, he still honors his commitment to this girl.

The poor will always be with you. It's time for all of us to decide if the fact that we might be economically poor means that we are also going to be made poor in spirit.

Bad economies and world crisis come and go. Your spirit's richness and depth depends entirely on you and your willingness to grow it. No government can make your life better if you aren't willing to understand that being rich has little to do with economics, and everything to do with your ability to care and reach out to others. And, most importantly, your willingness to reach for more and better for yourself, despite the odds that seem against you.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Is Rich


Rocky Creek Scotties and Rocky Creek Ramblings said...

Holly, if I didn't already love you and want to hug you, after reading this, I would!! Thanks for a wonderful thought-provoking post today. Charity that begins at home reaches around the world.


Eva Gallant said...

Well said.

Cinner said...

Very powerful post today, very thought provoking for sure, will we be poor in spirit I hope not. hugs to you dear friend.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Really? Do you think you'll lose readers over this?!?! I don't. I wish more people would read this-- political folks, parents, neighbors, students, CEOs, the Occupiers-- everyone because it opens a terrific dialogue without antagonism, anger or finger pointing.....

After reading this, one sentence stood out--

"It's about more of us becoming more educated about how money actually works."

If people were more EDUCATED about how money works, we'd all be in far better shape. Instead, I think the media and politicians spend far too much time "spinning" truths for either ratings or personal gain rather than stopping for a minute and looking around and actually seeing what's going on then LEARNING about why we're in this situation.

I watched the head of Starbucks on tv talking about a new program to help fund small businesses but all the news reporter did was drill him because if more small business started, more people would have more money to buy expensive coffee, and it all seemed self-serving to Starbucks. There was very little about what a terrific idea it was to actually HELP small businesses launch and therefore help put people back to work.... Again, a little education would go a long way. BUt at least religion wasn't introduced into the interview. (sheesh)

Anyway... now I'm rambling after your beautifully written and thoughtful post. High Five to YOU Holly! I feel far more educated after reading your post than I did after reading both the LA and NY Times this morning.

Love you tons, xoxoxoxo jj

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

I agree with you totally. Back when I was a divorced woman at 25 with a 2 year old, it never occurred to me to stay home go on some kind of assistance. I worked. Times were very lean but I took care of my by myself. No, I didn't get child support either.

I do believe in giving a hand up, not a hand out. I will and have given time and money to someone that is trying to help themselves.

There is also that proverb about "give a man a fish .....and teach a man to fish".

Well said. Great post.

Sara said...

I can not imagine you losing readers over this thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing your views with us.

Love to you Holly!


"Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go." Mother Teresa

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