Posts Tagged empathy

This Is Charity

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Mesut Ozil of the German World Cup Soccer team has donated his €300,000 (around $405,000) prize for winning the World Cup to pay for the surgeries of 23 Brazilian children – one for each member of Germany’s 23-man squad.

Now this is what I call charity, not shit like Amy Adams offering her (most probably free) first class seat on a plane to a veteran.

While table scraps like that are a nice gesture, offering your first class seat to a veteran is not anywhere near anything I would consider generous and charitable. It is kind of condescending actually and it sure as hell doesn’t really help a veteran.

Now if a person of modest means who paid good money for that seat had offered it  to the veteran, I would feel differently, but to see a multi-millionaire be only capable of giving a poor man a nice seat on a plane is just pathetic.

Amy Adams probably got that seat for free anyway and while quite nice, I want to point that nice is just about all it is because, that kind of shit doesn’t help people!!

Amy Adams has the wealth to do so much more and to truly reach out to that man and help him out yet all she can do is give him a seat. Thing is, that veteran doesn’t need a first class seat on a plane as much as he probably needs a decent paying job with a livable wage and benefits, as much as he needs financial security, as much as he needs access to quality and affordable health care etc.

While it may feel great that he can stretch out his legs for a few hours, a first class seat on a plane doesn’t pay his medical bills, it doesn’t pay for his psychological counseling – which he most likely needs after the trauma of war- ,  it doesn’t pay for his rent or put retirement money in his account. That kind of stuff is nothing but shameless self promotion trying to mask as charity in a country where people are so used to not seeing charity that the majority are thankful for such a gesture and think Amy Adams is the best ever.

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Amy Adams

But she is not. She just gave up her seat for a man on a plane, thus exhibiting basic human decency. When you give up your seat on a bus for a handicap person you are merely exhibiting the bare minimum of human decency, you don’t get accolades for that (and for all our intent and purposes, a millionaire giving up her first class seat on a plane to a veteran is the equivalent of a regular person giving up their seat on a bus).

My point is, if you have the means and you want to help people, try helping them in ways that matter – in ways that truly help them get back on their feet, in ways that lessen their burdens as they navigate life in poverty and destitution, such as helping pay for the medical treatment of children whose families do not have the means to pay for such a treatment.

Giving up a seat you got for free is not impressive and it sure as hell is not charity. Not to me as I expect more and set a higher bar.

But agreeing to pay a war veteran’s medical bills for a year from your bloated thespian salary, for example, that is charity. Or would have been charity, if Ms. Adams had actually offered it.

As  Jack London once wrote: “a bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is a bone shared with a dog, when you are just as hungry as a dog.”

There is so much wealth in this nation and collectively we could do so much better for everyone, if only we had the will. Instead, we deal with poverty, need and destitution by telling fairy tales about bootstraps and hard work, and how misfortune only happens to the lazy, the immoral, to people who deserve it etc.

Most people who have it very good, who are members of the one percent, rarely think about what it really takes to help others; they often lack the empathy needed to help create a society where we help out those less fortunate than us with something more than table scraps. They sit in their ivory towers, throw down scraps they got for free in the first place and call that charity. It is not.

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Only Doing Good Things For People In Time of Crisis

Every now and then there is a headline in the news about some celebrity fulfilling a dying fan’s wish or something, such as English musician Ed Sheeran who sang a dying 15 year old her favorite song minutes before she passed away. He is being called a hero now and a great and amazing person, and he may very well be. I don’t dispute that. In fact, I have no opinion on that as I don’t know the man personally and what is in his heart, but I read something similar about Justin Bieber and countless other celebs doing such things for a dying fan and it makes me wonder because I really wish that these people would maybe also consider doing something nice for people or a young fan or whoever when they are not about to die.

I mean, why do people get all generous and giving when someone’s life is about to end and thus when it is too late? Why not be like that with the living? Why not make a young fan’s day, not because that fan is dying, but because they are a fan and doing nice things for people is decent. It is how it should be.

This sort of reminds me of people who get all mushy and generous around the Holiday season yet spend the remainder of the year not really giving a damn, including voting for policies that hurt the poor more than help them.

After all, why not help out in a soup kitchen in July? Why not gather toys and food for the needy in March? Why not help elect officials that will make sure that the needy have food year-round. People are hungry twelve months of the year, not just around the holidaya.

My message to people who want to do good is, do something nice and good for people – whoever they may be and whatever your abilities are  – just because it is the right, humane thing to do. Don’t wait for a disaster to help people in impoverished countires. Don’t wait for a fan to be at the verge of death to make their day. Don’t wait for Christmas to come around to think about the needy and hungry. Don’t just gift someone something nice or call them up because it is their birthday.

A lot of suffering in the world  – from the global to the personal scale – takes place everyday. Most people lead lives of quiet desperation. Out of view, to the point where it has become invisible to most and matters insomuch as it makes great first acts for celebrity Oscar vehicles.

But that is the kind of suffering and need that requires the most attention – diligently and regularly, not just once a year or on a special occasion or because someone is about to die. That is the kind of need (for money, food, kindness, empathy, a shoulder to cry on etc.) that is present year-round, not just when a holiday, a disaster or the grim reaper are around. That is because reaching out and caring do not have seasons or occasions, they should be done all the time because that is, ultimately, what makes the world a better place for all of us – from your co-worker, to your friend, to your sibling, the hungry child in the Sudan, the homeless girl in an orphanage etc.  That is what shows others that you value them because being valued makes happiness possible and unhappiness bearable.

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Consequences of Apathy

The Huffington Post, every now and then as part of a PSA or something, dedicates a post to the “Faces of Drugs Arrests” – supported by Rehabs.com as a follow up to its anti-methamphetamine campaign “Horrors of Meth.”

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“Faces of Drug Arrests,” is a series of shocking images, depicting the decline of different “suspects” (suspects of what? drug abuse?)  physical appearance over the years via their mugshots. The individuals shown were all arrested for drug and drug-related offenses involving meth, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs.

The ugliest thing about this post is not so much the ravaged faces of these drug addicts, but the comments section of the Huffington Post where people admonish these individuals as “disgusting” beings who hopefully never have kids.

One commentator, who neither knows any of these individuals or their stories and backgrounds and thus their experiences and how they came to be where they are, writes quite presumptuously that “they no longer care where they are or whether they’re about to die.

Others casually “other” the people depicted in the images, commenting on how “irresponsible” it is of them, especially when “these people” have children of their own.

One reader had the following to say “There’s NO REASON for anyone to continue to abuse themselves to this extent – help is readily available pretty much everywhere. These types of addicts just don’t want to take the effort necessary to clean themselves up. Yes, I know that’s not the case with some addicts, but in these cases…..?” 

“They are disgusting.”

“They are irresponsible.”

“They don’t care.”

“They don’t want to make the effort.”

Yes, because clearly mentally healthy, stable people enjoy becoming emotional and physical wrecks as a result of heavy drug use. Because, thank the spaghetti monsters that be, drug addiction is not a disease at all.

No one in these comments has even noted the fact that these are mug shots taken from arrests, as in these people whom everyone is summarily dismissing, judging and spitting on as disgusting, irresponsible, worthless wrecks have been criminally persecuted and incarcerated for their drug use.

And neither does anyone – neither the HP article nor the commentators – find it either problematic or acknowledge the fact that drug addiction is an illness that requires medical treatment of those who are using drugs, instead of criminal retribution.

No one is wondering, or is the least bit bothered, that instead of health and treatment these people are being treated to prison instead. “Hell [typo and I am keeping it there] Help is readily available” one commentator casually states. When in reality, no actually, help is not readily available.

The fact that these people have been booked and charged with a crime instead of being sent to rehabilitation to treat their illness should have given you a clue. That, and that in this country trying to get insurance companies to pay for meaningful drug rehabilitation programs is almost impossible, not to mention that government-run rehab programs, as far as they do exist, are terribly funded, ineffective and hard to get into.

So no, it is not “readily available.” Where have these people been? Canada? Germany?

Most importantly, there is a human being behind every mug shot depicted in this PSA; a human being with their own life’s stories, paths and trajectories. No one knows what has taken place in their lives leading them to resort to drug use and the addiction that comes from it. To judge them as if one did is mendacious.

Sending someone who suffers from the disease of addiction to jail is no different than incarcerating someone suffering from cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Moreover, since low-income and/or racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated for drug use, this undertaking has, essentially, become another way of criminalizing the poor for being poor.

Now what if all the taxpayer money that’s used arresting, processing, trying, probably public defending and jailing drug addicts  were instead used toward social programs that would support such people in the first place? What if instead of jail time, we offered help? How about trying to find out what those ills were that got them into heavy drug use in the first place, instead of making this ridiculous, callous assumption that they are there because they enjoy being there, because they made that choice and because they devalue their lives?

Although I do wonder how people who have been outcast and thrown away by society as disgusting, irresponsible worthless wrecks are going to “love themselves.”

People in this country tend to criticize “government hand-outs” and talk about the social safety net like it’s a giant waste of taxpayer money—a “wealth redistribution program” to steal rich folks’ money and give it to the poor. And they do not see the moral failing in such an argument because the same people that talk about social safety net programs as being a waste of money have no problem seeing that very money be used to send sick people to jail (or support defense contractors, oil companies, corporations, banks and the wealthy in the form of tax exemptions etc).

Unworthy of Help

The thinking that one needs additional negative consequences for harming one-self assumes that whatever situation one finds one-self in is not sufficient consequences. Even if someone is in an incredibly terrible situation of their “own making” (which is an extreme oversimplification as no one lives in a vacuum)  somehow that’s not enough punishment in and of itself.

The thing I truly abhor about this kind of rhetoric and way of thinking is that even if, given the same set of circumstances, I or Joe Green over there, would have emerged differently than someone else: So what? Different people are different.

And even in cases where someone is in a terrible situation because of their own making and bad choices: So what? Why is that justification to not help them?

I fully understand the value of consequences for harming others. I will, however, never understand the alleged value of consequences for harming oneself.

This calculated, cultivated lack of empathy in our society for anyone who isn’t successful, healthy, wealthy and “wise”, is very disconcerting and quite visible in the face of every person in these mug-shots.

Love, empathy and compassion are necessities if we are going to make it as a peoples and nation. They are not luxuries.

I wish people who just casually judged, blamed and dismissed a person in peril like that, praying self righteously to their “God” that the drug addicts in the mugshots may not have any children, would, instead, pray to their “God” that these people who are undoubtedly suffering, get the help they need – which would necessitate voting for programs that aide such people as opposed to voting for policies and politicians that do everything they can to dismantle the programs that aide these people.

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In Honor Of Today’s Court Ruling Regarding Same Sex Marriage In Chicago

gay and starving

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Obamacare Is Here

These images and write ups really bring tears to my eyes and make me so happy. I am so glad to see people are being helped and I am baffled beyond belief that anyone, politician or just ordinary citizen, would oppose the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and think it is ok to let people get or remain sick and then die because they cannot afford paying for health care –  to the point of threatening economic and social harm to extract concessions from the President without needing to make any policy concessions in return. It is absolutely unfathomable to me how someone can call themselves a human being and hold such a sentiment. 

I understand that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, that it is not what a lot of us progressives wanted, namely a single-payer system whereby the government pays for all health care costs or even a public option, whereby government-run health insurance agency competes with other health insurance companies, but this is a start and a lot of people who before were not eligible to receive coverage and were turned down or could not afford it, are now finally getting the help and relief they need.

Thank you Mr. President. Your mother who died of cancer and was struggling until her last breath with insurance companies would have been proud.

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Quote of the Day

No one can earn a million dollars honestly.”

— William Jennings Bryan

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