Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paying For My Sins



Burdened with Guilt?

This seems to be the season for the intellectual post. After seeing fellow blogger The Verdant Dude pick apart the artist and his art via Roman Polanski, I thought I would dust off a blog that I have had in waiting for a few weeks.

Last week I was standing at the bus stop in the early evening twilight when I spied the sign pictured above. It is for Arizona's version of the United Way campaign where they ask state employees to contribute part of their paychecks to help the needy by pooling all their money together to help the less fortunate.

As I stood waiting for the bus in order to save money on gas, which is a luxury I can't afford these days, it sort of dawned on me that "I" was one of the less fortunate! Where was my slice of the pie?

First of all, I am not against charity. Just like I am not against religion. However, whenever middle men start to step in to take their 'cut' of the good deeds of others, I start to get a tad bit annoyed. Organized charity, just like organized religion tends to lead to the dark side. Remember, there is money to be made in other peoples suffering. Something that plaintiff attorneys in this country are well acquainted with.

So I stand there waiting for the bus, thinking that I have been asked to donate to this cause, when I am in danger of losing my job to budget cuts because this state is 4 billion dollars in the red due to miss-management. Something just does not seem right here.

Add to this, the fact that in the past I have actually been on committees that helped distribute some of this charity. When we went to see one of the 'less fortunate’s' home, we found a color TV, an X-Box video game, a Chevy in the driveway, Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch in the kitchen and a single mother with 6 children, all from different fathers. Less fortunate suddenly seemed to be more like bad decision making. How did this less fortunate person qualify for this charity? She applied for it, just like a job interview.

As I continued to stare at the sign in the gathering darkness of the bus stop, it sort of dawned on me that this was all about guilt and not wanting to get our hands dirty. Many folks 'feel' for the less fortunate, but they don't want to actually get their hands dirty and 'do' something about it.

They could make sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless in the park on Sunday. They could offer rides to a limping transient trying to get to the homeless shelter. They could offer to pay for an all day bus pass for a homeless person. But they don't. Instead they will donate $50 to some bureaucratic charity to do it for them.

Isn't this like paying someone else to sit in traffic court for you if you get a speeding ticket. Isn't this like 19th Century England, were the aristocracy could 'pay' for someone else to sit in prison for them when they were convicted of a crime. It just defers social responsibility with money.

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, they air about 500 Accident/Injury Lawyer advertisements a day on television. All these commercials assure the viewer that the attorney is working to protect their legal rights in the event of an accident. Bullshit, they are offering to be professional insurance claim collectors and want 33% of your pain and suffering. If they really cared that much, they might be doing pro-bono criminal law to put the drunk driver that hit you behind bars. Yeah, that is going to happen!

So the bus finally arrived and took me home, where I made my nightly martini and sat on the front porch, just happy I have a nice home, wife and job. But the notion lingered that we are just not a responsible society anymore. We pay others to do thing that we should be doing ourselves. Somewhere back down the line, we placed way too much emphasis on the use of money to solve all our problems.

Is it just me? Or am I being way to cynical here?