Friday, September 18, 2015 10:37 PM
There are needy people and there are takers. A needy person could pass you on the street and you’d never even know. Takers will confront you about your having something and not sharing it—as if it was their job to decide who you should care about. A needy person suffers want—they don’t look around for someone else to take care of them. And they shouldn’t have to—in a perfect world. Takers are like bottomless pits—they’ll take what you offer without gratitude and expect more.
In a world full of caring people who want to be charitable, the needy stand in silence while the takers rush to take as much as they can. One of the reasons poverty is so hard to eradicate is the impossibility of publicly offering anything to the needy without the takers swarming in and swooping up whatever they can carry off. Places like shelters and soup kitchens only survive because they offer things of value only to the extremely desperate—takers have bigger fish to fry.
Civilization has sprung a leak. The masses of refugees trekking from Syria, Afghanistan, and environs are fleeing an area of increasing warfare and bombed-out desolation. Putin supports Assad (and Iran) because they are valuable trading partners—for arms and oil, at least—and also a little bit because Russia values any nation that’s crazy enough to join them in their struggle to maintain equity with the USA and China. I recognize that the U.S. has its share of unsavory alliances, too—where we blithely ignore world censure for geopolitical or economic reasons—but this insistence on defying the rest of the UN, refusing to abjure Assad, and thus preventing the injection of some global peace-keeping effort into the region to end the violence (and stem the flow of refugees) is looking like a dandy prequel to World War III.
We’ll stop ISIS alright—they’ll get chewed up in the crossfire if the Russians send military support to Assad while the rest of the world tries to support the non-extremist rebels. We weren’t going to be suckered into a war over Crimea—all by itself—but you add Syria—and the flooding of Europe with refugees—and tensions between Russian and the U.S. could get very strained.
And with impeccable timing, Japan’s Prime Minister and his hardliners are trying to force through a constitutional change that would allow Japan to become a military power—only to defend peace, you understand. The people of Japan are understandably upset that Shinzō Abe is setting them up to become embroiled in American-led military entanglements—but in an age of extremist violence, pacifism has its risks. I’m not sure how I’d feel—if I were Japanese.
I do know that their post-war outlawing of anything military is a tradition of which the Japanese should be as proud as we are of our Declaration of Independence. In its own way, that outlawing of war was a much higher step up the ladder of social justice than our enshrining of democracy. It would be a shame if they become followers now, instead of leaders in a new way of coexistence between nations.
But to get back to the refugees—the EU nations are seeing hard-right groups emerge in reaction to the infusion of immigrants from other cultures—they want the youth and energy their own aging populations can no longer give them, but they don’t want to trade it for tolerance or pluralism—that stuff is for sissies. And truly, even if they (and we) welcomed each and every refugee with a warm home and a good job, sending their kids to fine schools—they will still be dispossessed exiles from a war-blasted moonscape that once was their home—they will still remember dead loved ones who didn’t get out, still worry over at-risk loved ones who remain there. The only real answer is to end the fighting. Is Putin the main obstacle in the way of that—or is he just the excuse? Either way, it makes me very sad that most of our world leaders are people who just want the job—not people who know how to lead.
News-show talking heads commented today on the silence of the Republicans after Trump neglected to correct a whacko supporter who called President Obama a foreigner and a Muslim. While Democrat candidates didn’t hesitate to highlight this important difference in the two parties’ attitudes, the GOP candidates didn’t make a peep. It made me think of a bunch of schoolkids clowning around while their teacher writes on the blackboard—and when their roughhouse gets too out of hand, the teacher turns and gives them a straight look—and they all stare at the floor and shut their mouths, knowing that they’ve crossed a line of civility that grown-ups won’t tolerate. The trouble with the Republicans, like those rowdy schoolkids, is that they’ll count to ten-Mississippi and be right back at it, soon enough.
It’s the stupidity that wears me out—where to begin? 43% of Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim (although it’s a strange Muslim who goes to Christian church every Sunday). Beyond which is the fact that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim. Even foreigners, although technically disqualified from holding the office, are not bad people by virtue of being from somewhere else. Only ignorant people think that way. Foreigners are people who live somewhere else—people—what is there not to get?
It’s strange to me—both parties have corruption and incompetence—all politicians have feet of clay—yet the Republicans consistently appear to have gone over to the dark side. When I was a kid, both parties had good policies and bad policies—nowadays the GOP seems to have become the champion of bad policies. I think it has something to do with the shifting importance of conservatism in a world that changes so fast as to make conservatism a dangerous principle. Hanging on to the past is bad business—ask any company that’s lagging behind their competition in implementing upgrades and adopting new technologies. Traditions don’t get a chance to fade away anymore—they get sandblasted away overnight. How do you champion fundamentalism while making campaign-tweets? Cognitive dissonance has become their stock in trade. They make me tired.