A member of a group to which I belong recently posted what she hoped was not a silly question: why do people no longer love their country? She cited several instances in which this appeared to be the case. Hers is a valid question, and I think it extends beyond just love of country. The same could be asked about many things we have held dear.
I think one answer is that our values have changed over a short time; we have become the centre of our own individual universes. We no longer care about the fabric of a country, so long as we are all right. We have lost sight of what is outside ourselves, bigger and greater. There are many manifestations of this attitude—you don’t have to look hard to find examples.
What do we find? We do because we can. We have the freedom to do so. It is our right. This is Freedom. However, Freedom does not stand alone. It is counterbalanced by RESPONSIBILITY. The freedom to speak your mind is wonderful, and should be exercised responsibly and with discretion. Is what you have to say beneficial; will it do harm for you to speak, or to remain silent? Is it purposelessly inflammatory, and will it have a needlessly destructive result? Is it simply abuse?
There are venues in which speaking openly for your own satisfaction is acceptable, but in public forums, when other can be influenced or affected, discretion and responsibility must play a part.
The people who publicly accuse and abuse the government’s policies and (in)actions, for example, help undermine public confidence and trust at a time when it can be ill-afforded. We’ve seen this many times throughout history. This erosion may be due to vehemently expressed opinion based on incomplete fact. The greater the issue, the less likely it is the public have all the details. If you have a freedom to express your opinions, you also have an obligation to get it right.
Discretion is vital to Responsibility. There is no freedom without an accompanying obligation. Imagine: you have an opinion, or certain knowledge, or perhaps you have taken a decision to act. Your information is complete and correct. You have the right to speak, or to take the next step. At your discretion, is this the most beneficial thing to do? Is it for the greater good, or does it serve your interests alone?
Another example of ‘because we can’ thinking is the Corporate attitude toward employment. I have heard from multiple, independent sources that it is not uncommon practice for companies to dismiss new hires scant days before their probationary period is completed. This saves the company the cost of benefits, pension, vacation time, etc. It is legal for them to do this. It is their right.
It is irresponsible, and it is cruel.
Not only is it damaging to the newly hired/newly fired, but to the newly fired’s family as well. A single self-serving decision hurts spouses and children, but it is company practice. Company practice also damages the Public (taxpayers) because state and federal unemployment funds, already overburdened, must renew benefits for returning claimants. This practice shifts the burden of support from the company to the public. Is ‘a penny saved a penny earned?’ Whose?
It is unlikely many people have avoided the damage done by ‘because I can’ thinking. Sometimes this is expressed obliquely: ‘this is how it’s done’, which effectively absolves the actual ‘doer’ from responsibility (even though s/he is the one who took the decision to implement this step this way). ‘This is how it’s done’ is often overkill and detrimental, and in many instances unnecessary, but it is someone’s right to exploit.
In all these occurrences, ‘those who can’ serve only themselves. It might be the individual getting it off his chest without regard for the overall effect. It might be the company that is more concerned with profits than people. Individual agendas are the order of the day. The common good (which is to say, the good of ALL people), for which people have struggled and died, apparently has been forgotten.
We claim to be a compassionate society. People risk their lives to preserve, not just American, but all human rights, freedoms, and safety; people at home treat them ill because it is in our freedom to do so. We film ourselves when we dump buckets of ice on our heads for charity, and not when we behave in an abusive or cutthroat manner toward vulnerable others, because we can. We have that choice. When our own needs are ill-served, or our egos need stroking, when we are unhappy about the state of the world, we are critical and abusive about those whom we have elected or chosen to follow, so that we can seem heroic, tragic, or both. It may erode confidence in the government, or the church, or whatever else we treasure, but we got it off our chests.
Does this help the country, or the People? Can we love our Country, or God, or anything else when we are so concerned with ourselves?
Ask yourselves then:
• Because you can, must you?
• This is how it’s done, but must it be done this way?
• You have the right, and what is your responsibility?
• Whom do you serve?
There is no Love without Freedom.
There is no Freedom without Responsibility.
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