Monday, September 21, 2009

In lieu of gratitude 

I would have left this opinion alone except for two things. One of them will be in the next post. (UPDATE: Sorry, forgot the link.)

This woman attends both the town hall by Rep. Bachmann and the T.E.A. party on Lake George across the street as someone opposed to both. (I wonder if she was the one who I watched boo repeatedly from the bleachers at the town hall. I wanted to take a video of her and give it to her children to see; I wondered how she would explain her booing not only of the Representative but also the questioners who were opposed to H.R. 3200. But I have no idea if this is that woman or not, and booing is part of your First Amendment rights.) She gets into discussions with people at both with whom she disagrees, and gets it all in print. Bully for her.

What caught my eye was this passage:
Bachmann�s assumption that the poor should be happy in their hearts to rely on religious charity is simply laughable.

It ignores the fact that, to many people, charity is ingratiating � and it is always undependable and inconsistent.

Is it really such a beautiful thing that a family trying to treat a member�s terminal illness is ingratiated to begging money off �the generous public� at car washes and charity suppers?
Now a woman who's studied "feminist rhetoric", whatever that is, didn't use the same word "ingratiate" twice without a reason. What would be her reason? The word "ingratiate" simply means to bring someone into the good graces of another, most often yourself. Its etymology contains the Latin word "gratia" for "favor, grace." So shall I understand that this woman believes you should be able to get something from another without exchanging anything in return? What does she want in lieu of gratitude?

There are two ways to do that. You can be moocher, someone who begs money from someone else by being mostly annoying; we give the bum money not out of generosity but to make them go away. It would be great if every time I had a poor person approach me I felt Christian love and charity towards them. I don't; I consider that part of the human condition of being always in sin. I had someone approach me as I went into the Ace Bar on the east side last week and ask specifically for $1.50. I tried to see if I had that exact amount. I had $1.35 and gave it to her. and she seemed disappointed. No thank you was forthcoming. As I turned another man, who had seen me fish for change in my pocket, presented himself looking for some money too. I shrugged and said I had no more. This wasn't true, but all I had was $20 bills in my pocket, and I didn't feel THAT generous particularly when he just asked for "change".

It would be nice to say I felt I had done some good deed, but that wasn't really what I felt as I walked away. We all want, as Adam Smith said, to be seen by others as being good. When I give money and am somehow seen as still coming up short, my desire to do more is diminished.

The other way to get something without exchanging anything in return is to use government to take from someone else and give it to you. The writer identifies herself as "a pro-public-option taxpayer" -- does this mean she would like to use force as a substitute for gratitude? What is the moral argument for that? Dennis Prager explores this:
On what moral grounds can the state force a citizen essentially at gunpoint to give away his legally and morally earned money? Why isn't taxation a form of legalized stealing? The obvious answer is that common sense dictates that citizens have the moral right, even the moral obligation, to vote to give money to, at the very least, enable a government to fund a police force, sustain a national defense, and help those incapable of helping themselves or of being helped by others.

But at some point beyond that, taxation becomes nothing more than legalized stealing. Obviously, people will differ over where exactly that point is, but no rational person disputes that such a point exists. No one could argue that a 100 percent tax -- even if it paid for every need every member of the society had -- was moral and not simply a form of theft.

So moral problem No.1 with taxation is the morality of forcing other people -- under threat of violence -- to give their money away.
But this student of "feminist rhetoric" would rather argue for something potentially immoral than be bothered with offering the simple value of gratitude.

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