I wrote the other day about the sadness I feel when I hear my peers speak only of the price criminals must pay, of the death penalty and vindictiveness, but that is only a part of what is troubling me and I felt I’d like to talk about something broader today.
I look around me and what do I see? I see an effort to make it easier for people to afford health insurance polluted, poisoned by those who stand to make the most money when health insurance is expensive. I see a sick blanket of racism fall at the doorsteps of the first black president, a blanket laid down by people not very different from myself in that they are white and of a certain age. I see those who have laughing at those who have not and I see the scorn greeted by anyone who speaks out against it.
It troubles me that we’ve become such a petty people. We are entertained by the most prurient of things – Rush Limbaugh cackling racism, the exploitation of the poor on reality television, supermodels flashing their genitals – while we forget our fellow man. More and more of us are led to believe the insanity that those who have need feel no responsibility for those who have not, that any man who missteps deserves the most draconian of punishments, that as long as I get mine I don’t need to consider anyone else. Is it any wonder our children feel so alone and are led so easily to the next impulse. Some blame it on video games, music, movies – anything they can – but so few of us take responsibility ourselves.
So many of us just take what we can get and so few of us ask what we can give. The spirit of generosity has been co-opted by a spirit of selfishness and the spirit of Ayn Rand chuckles from behind the wings.
This was troubling me horribly just now as I was watching Les Miserables, the 1935 version with Frederic March (who, by the way, was really incredible). If you’re unfamiliar with the book or the film, the theme is one of generosity of spirit as opposed to selfishness. That one should always give, that it is better to help others than to selfishly ignore the suffering of others, is what the work teaches and every time I am exposed to it I wonder what ever happened to this lesson. How was it lost?
Today, what was most troubling to me was how this reflected on my own life, for I too am guilty of ignoring this message in my own way. I’ll give you an example. I was going to write a book on ethics, for writing is my gift and such a book has the potential to do a great deal to help the world, but instead I decided I wanted to do something fun and write another comedy. Now, part of me says that people need humor but another part of me insists that anyone can write comedy while ethics are far more important. Here’s another example. Vicky has been considering adoption more and more as an option to having children. I’ve found myself rather closed-minded towards it, mostly because I’m afraid I wouldn’t measure up, and now begin to see how wrong that way of thinking is.
The thing is, we can all make the world a better place if we start from a place of giving and unselfishness, where we accept that every person should be treated with decency and respect and not simply for our own amusement, but most of all that this begins with one small change of attitude – if we give of ourselves just a little, that’s all it takes.