It has its own logic. People are hungry. Feed them. Simple. Cops are killing young black men. Kill the cops. The 1% have too much and the 99% don’t have enough. Take from the 1% and give it to the 99%. From each according to his or her ability to each according to his or her need. Fixes everything, no?
No. No it doesn’t. It is childish logic that makes sense when we are young but experience tends to show its flaws. A related post you can check out is “The Big Score“. I’ve made a kind of journey on this. When I was young I was mad at the grownups because somehow it was their fault that there isn’t world peas and kids in Africa go hungry. This anger is the root of my itch to put service ahead of everything else we are called to do. Christ said we’d always have the poor with us. It’s been a couple thousand years. They are still here. I’ve been poor more than I’ve been financially peaceful.
Some of my friends made that childish leap that there is an amount of money you could throw at my poverty and fix it. For a time I accepted in donations enough money to add up to most of what I make annually. The flaws in my spending habits didn’t change so more money just gave me more ways to behave badly with money. Throwing money at me sort of helped but also sort of made things worse. I still live(d) under that a rule which said that extra money should be spent since money is perishable.
My dear friend Mo Karnage runs a soup kitchen as part of Food Not Bombs. Every Sunday afternoon she takes food she has cooked to Monroe Park in Richmond and feeds whoever shows up. There is always a line for what she cooks. She’s a fangirl of orthodox, PDRB kosher food, so it’s all sourced from dumpsters and donations and steadfastly vegan. If feeding the hungry would solve the problem of hunger in Richmond then her FNB soup kitchen would be enough. It isn’t enough. The line for her food is proof that there is an audience for FNB that will show up every Sunday afternoon irrespective of whether they are the 99% that need a meal.
Various kids have made the news over time, especially as we recover from Halloween and start the annual info-babe feature stories about families that don’t have enough to afford the Christmas Shopping binge or a big, overpriced turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. The kids get interviewed by the local info-babe because they see a homeless person and decide that the answer is a blanket or a sandwich. There are always willing homeless who will participate in this annual community theater event that generates warm & fuzzies for everbody. I don’t want the kids or Mo to stop doing what they do. There is a place for it and a crowd that needs it.
Too often our emotions kick in and our understanding of the problem is way too simplistic. Resource dumps tend to find an audience and risk becoming a hungry maw that consumes all of what is dumped and cries for more. We’ve thrown trillions in cash into Africa in an effort to help that poor, doe eyed kid in the tv-ads. That kid or his grandson, is still on TV with the same doe eyes standing in the same garbage strewn alley rimmed with cardboard shanties. We haven’t filled that maw. Not sure we can.
Cops are killing young black men so the answer is to come down hard on the cops as the bad guys. Whoa. Stop. Just . . . stop. We need the cops. Are there bad cops and good young black men? Sure. Are there bad young black men? Probably. We don’t need the adjective “black” in that sentence. It works just as well as, “are there bad young men?” Yep. You can go further, “Are there bad men?” Definitely. Some of them are cops, some of them are black, and, shocker, some are women, both black and cops.
Cops are trying to deal with the stuff we don’t want to deal with. Where there are bad cops they need to be dealt with properly, through the courts, not through vigilante justice. We don’t increase the peace or improve our communities through revenge killing. The culture of vigilantism that pervades some neighborhoods isn’t killing just cops. It’s killing community members in far greater numbers. The conversation I want to have is about the culture of eye-for-an-eye vigilantism. That will do more to effect change than another funeral for a person in blue.
From each . . . to each . . . I’ve talked about this before. What you create is a perverse economy that makes need valuable and deprecates ability. This turns the whole economy on its head. Productivity and GDP plummet. Many of the countries that govern this way cope by vastly expanding government control through price controls, rationing, and so on. The needs remain, and capitalism, through the black market and consequent corruption, steps in. Instead of making things fair and less oppressive, all of it escalates into an even greater farce and the elites get even more stupidly wealthy and powerful and the 99% both exploit the black market and complain about it. ‘Merica is almost there. We don’t have far to go.
Say we succeed. The 99% become the 49%. The former 1% become the 51%. Woo. No? Well . . . Now you have a different poor minority who remember being wealthy. It’s a double dose of resentment. We took their wealth. That’s one reason to be pissed. We made them miserable. That’s reason two to be pissed. The point was to make it fair, so no one had too much and no one had too little. If, if we succeed with this, and that assumes the effort won’t be gamed or cheated on, all we’ve done is increased the number of miserable people by adding those who are itching to take back what was taken from them. You can say that’s progress. I won’t.
One area of naiveté I have a hard time with is the left’s assumption that no one will cheat within their utopian schemes. I’ve given too many cab rides, seen too much, to have any patience for someone who won’t acknowledge that any utopian scheme has to account for us, the malcontents, who will find a way to bend the scheme to our gain. If we can’t outright rebel against the new Reich we’ll find a way to cheat, to beat it so it serves our whim. Any utopian ideal can’t succeed without a solution for us, for the outliers who will mess with the plan.
No, murderous genocide isn’t a solution. That works for a decade at most before it engenders a popular uprising and the perpetrators are themselves murdered. My answer remains to work local, with my immediate circle of friends, to be that “do-for-each-other” culture that is part of many communities. The large stage of national and international misery is too much for me. It makes my head explode. Most of the players on that stage feel like commedia dell’arte characters. They seem farcical. Thinking about them has me reaching for duct tape and aspirin. But . . . I can get to know my neighbors, befriend them, prayerfully come to understand how I fit as a fellow pilgrim, and participate.
We have to pray every time the urge to just feed the hungry without consideration of the bigger picture. There is a story that brings that person in line for a meal from Mo Karnage worth knowing. Mo and the one waiting to be fed should keep it up, do that, feed those that want food. But, along with that, others can hang out in Monroe Park and see about building community and relationships, and where we can, help people out of the rut that results in reliably showing up on Sunday afternoon for FNB. Prayer helps us understand how God would use these outliers in Monroe Park to accomplish world peas and fewer starving people. So, pray, then act. They go together.
Right now, in a thousand different ways, in places where the white market economy is absent, people are hustling to make a living.
I need to repeat something. If your heart is broken, if you are hurt and angry, pray for mercy. Pray for a gracious heart that can forgive those who sinned against you. It is through forgiveness that you can find peace and justice. As Ghandi famously said, “an eye for an eye and we’ll all be blind”. My life is saved because I forgave so many, and so often.
Being pissed at the cops is an evil, foolish path. Yes, bad cops need justice just as bad people, of any ethnicity, need justice. Knowing what that justice will be starts with prayer and forgiveness. The members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church demonstrated this. Christ died over two thousand years ago. Our world, in 2015, is more luxurious for many, myself included. Yet, some of the same social injustices that he sought to address remain. If simple solutions were enough, something other than the world we have would exist. It’s not hopeless, though. Look at how we have changed in a couple millennia. For all our problems there is a lot to be happy about. The answers are familiar, we just have to keep at it, keep doing what works, and innovate where it makes sense to do so. We also have to keep asking if our chain of logic from problem definition to solution is still valid. Where it isn’t any longer, keep hungering for better solutions and implementations. And always, pray so we can keep God’s voice clear in our hearts and stomachs as a spiritual compass to guide us.