Friday, September 9, 2011

The Entitlement Mentality

Since the President drew attention yet again last night to his vision of the authentic American character, Noman thought he'd spend a moment examining the visage.  President Obama said:
In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America. 
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world. 
But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation... 
No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.  

So cough up the dough, homey!

Note that the President began his Demosthenian peroration by flailing at a straw man.

Nobody wants to dismantle government. Many people want it to function within well-defined limits as it's drawn up in the Constitution.

Nobody wants to refund everyone's money. Many people resent as a usurpation the fact that the federal government should have laid claim to it in the first place, and put itself in the position to decide whether to refund it to the people who earned it, or bestow it upon others whom politicians deem more worthy.

Nobody is suggesting that everyone should write their own rules. Most people believe we should all play by the same rules, but fewer of them, and don't like leaving them up to the vagaries of political influence and back room dealing. They resent the imposition of massive, all-comprehensive super rules on the populace by single-party fiat. And they don't trust politicians who shackle the nation with rules that please only denizens of DC soirees, ivory towers, Midtown conference rooms, big city union halls and hostile foreign capitols.

No one wants to tell everyone that they're on their own, which would be an ontological error as well as a mis-depiction of social reality. Many people simply believe that the beneficiaries of one's charity should be a matter of personal choice, not that of DC politicos.

President Obama clearly doesn't understand these many other people--a vast majority of Americans, Noman suspects. But, he's right that this figment of his imagination is not who we are; what he described is truly not the American story.

Of course we're all connected.  But, there are connections of blood, of faith, of locale, of preference, of task, etc. And, they're not all the same, equally urgent, personally important or morally compelling.

They do not all exert the same claims on the human heart, or pocketbook no matter how strenuously President Obama implies that they do.

Noman, for one, resents his continually smuggling that amorphous mass of people inhabiting the country (or world)--be they here as terrorists, antagonists, illegal aliens or people who do not share the same lofty view of Noman as the President insists Noman must have of them--into the inner precincts of the human heart which are reserved for family, faith, comrades and country. 

Connections between people attempting any difficult task--mountain climbing, or living, for instance--are intricate and need to be adjusted at a level close to the connected and their connection, not on the faraway blackboards of social tinkerers.

The President's adversaries understand the human responsibility to catch a falling person, to carry more than one's weight for the sake of humanity, decency, for love of God or country, or simply because it's the right thing to do.

Moreover, they understand that we're all subject to the same harsh death sentence if we don't develop this sense of duty towards one another.  Most of us learn it from our religion, not our government.

What many cannot understand is the mentality of people who approach the climb with an attitude of expectation that someone else will carry them.  That person, not the perplexed onlooker, is the socially unacceptable one.

S/he converts her problem--living, climbing--into everyone else's problem.  By the same token, this person is not likely to be looking out to help others as they are simply too preoccupied enlisting others to help them.

No society filled with such people, or dedicated to creating more of them, or geared towards redistributing resources to their maintenance can long survive.  It will go broke from the dispiriting affects, bad blood, and material drag that their posture foists onto everyone else, the overall system.

For the sake of illustration, America was introduced to one such person last year.  Zeituni Onyango, better known as President Obama's (formerly) illegal alien auntie.

Zeituni caused quite a stir by asserting with six-shooters-a-blazing her beliefs that:
  • because she was here (illegally at the time), it was America's obligation to make her a citizen; 
  • the system which provides her (admittedly substandard) housing and income took advantage of her rather than the other way around; 
  • heaven is paying her bills--overlooking the agency of Massachusetts taxpayers; 
  • this is a nice country in which you can do whatever you want when you are here; 
  • it's a free country for which, and to which, she owes nothing; 
  • America is owned by Almighty God and that if it's going to preach Jesus Christ it's job is to help people, help the poor, help other countries and take care of women; 
  • America had to give her her right; 
  • she's not the President's obligation; and 
  • she's able to scam the system by luck and God's miracle.  
Zeituni is the kind of person that gives God talk a bad name and turns people off to Christian charity, not to mention government.

While she verbally disclaimed that America owed her anything, her actions and attitude belie her words.

Zeituni is correct that this is a God-blessed, "God-owned" country, though a number of her nephew's most ardent supporters would vigorously deny it.

What makes America great is the freedom, the opportunity to make a life for oneself and one's loved ones that doesn't ultimately depend on what party you affiliate with, what family or neighborhood you are born to, who your father is, which tribe's blood fills your veins, what schools you went to, whose ring you kiss or who you run to for protection.

It is a perversion to think that what makes America great is simply the wealth its political-economy engenders, that one has a right to it merely because it is there and one stands in proximity to it and, moreover, that one is entitlted to have others provide it to you.

The appended clip is long, and shorter versions of it abound on YouTube.  But, all of it is instructive, and Noman marvels at the turn her interview takes at minute 7, and especially at minute 8 of the clip.

This is one cagey woman, a free rider in economic terms.  What would be the moral term?  A selfish person?  

Note the confused family understandings.  On the one hand, she claims special status as President Obama's African Auntie.  On the other, she is not the obligation of her rich nephew.

Rather, she is the obligation of the amorphous citizenry of the state to which she immigrated illegally, was told to leave, and whose immigration laws she flaunted for years until her nephew was elected President and an immigration judge reversed his own prior ruling.

This is mirrored by the President's perspective that it is government, the collective organ of power, which bears the responsibility for taking care of everyone's poor relations, or even those just down on their luck, not the wealthy and privileged nephews of the world.

By virtue of whose justice or which rationality is this the case?  Because the President's view better corresponds to human nature?  Because it's the American way?  Because Christian charity compels strangers to bear burdens that people shuck off of themselves and onto others, but fails to oblige blood relations to care for their kin?

Beyond inviting her to inaugurations, the President is far too cagey himself to let Zeituni scam him the way she does others.  Better to foist her off onto the taxpayers of Massachusetts and deliver a speech about our collective responsibilities as one nation under God.

Such are the advantages of developing a social conscience in lieu of a moral one.

Noman understands that Zeituni Onynanga may drive Barack Obama as crazy as she did most of the people who witnessed her performance and glimpsed into her narrow, self-obsessed heart.  She is undoubtedly an embarrassment to him and to his politics, and he may simply want nothing to do with her.

But, if that is his prerogative when she is his auntie, why is it not the prerogative of bystanders to whom she is simply a crushing burden.  Those people have to get on with their lives, too.

Why do the nation's responsibilities to itself and among its members oblige others, and not kin, people closer to her, or President Obama in the instant case?  When did it become the American way for people not to take care of their own, or to expand that sphere of belonging to humanity at large?

To care for everyone is to care for no one in particular, which is convenient once you've parlayed mau-mau politics into fabulous wealth like the President has.  What about for the rest of us?

Since the President insists on preaching liberal pieties and on continually menacing the nation's financial stability in order to fund them, there are a few things Noman would like to know of this oracle, this liberal messiah.

What gospel is this? By what authority does he preach it?  Noman is amazed at his teaching because it has no authority--moral or otherwise--to back it up.  Yet Barack boldly proclaims it, angrily even, to be the one authentic interpretation of America's history, character and responsibilities.

Is this chutzpah, cojones, or what?

Noman hopes that readers will forgive the gratuitous observation that besides kinship and blood, Zeituni Onyanga and President Obama share a belief system, an entitlement mentality.  They are equally selfish people despite obvious differences in their accomplishments.

The widespread, and wider-spreading, belief that somebody, somewhere owes me something is the reason America is going broke despite producing $14 trillion of product and collecting $3.5 trillion of taxes annually.

It only adds insult to injury that fiery-talking politicians and their corrupt cronies prosper while the nation and people suffer. Meanwhile, the decreasingly mighty middle class in whose name the wise and all-knowing Oz professes to bestow Presidential blessings grits its teeth and patiently awaits election day.

Postscript: though not directly on point, the following news hit yesterday's wire: Obama's Uncle Quietly Released from Jail.  Noman hasn't had this many laughs at a politician's family since Billy Carter urinated in tall grass in front of visiting foreign dignitaries.

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