The death of altruism & Me
Posted August 23, 2010on:
Considering the name of this post, it is somewhat ironic that I’m going to be discussing the “death of altruism” and the “sad life of Me-ism.”
There is some iron about what I’m writing about, considering all of my posts are “& Me” but that doesn’t mean I believe the world is all about me. It’s just a pattern I got into early in this blog after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I used cultural icons like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, Shirley Temple, Donna Reed and Madonna in her cone bra era to explain what I was going through at the moment. They were all & Me, as if I actually knew them.
Cultural icons = celebrities, but is less shallow. Or, so I pretend.
The death of altruism is a concept that came up over the weekend at the wedding in St. Germaine, Wisconsin, of the daughter of friends. It was a beautiful reception, very optimistic about the future.
But at our table, we were discussing the World War II service of our fathers, all Jewish. One was actually taken prisoner by a German soldier, but had torn off his dog tag, which indicated he was Jewish, before capture. The other had served in Europe as well, living through some very tough battles.
Mine had been turned down for service several times because of his health, but eventually he signed medical waivers, which allowed him to serve in an Army depot in San Francisco. Even his bride – my mother – could be with him on that assignment. How lucky he and the future me plus my brother were.
What is the difference between the “greatest generation” and all the ones that have followed? I suggested it was the death of altruism. No longer do we see a higher good beyond ourselves.
Our parents were part of a generation that lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had a sense of being in this together, of caring for each other and supporting each other. They made do with what they had and saw a need to improve the world so future generations had it better than they.
The post-war period was one of investment – in schools, hospitals and in families. They didn’t scream about how we would pay for it or that taxes were too high. They saw it as a duty to future generations.
And now, it is all about “Me. Me Me.” It’s what can I get out of it and not what I contribute.
There are screams against taxes, and suddenly fiscal conservatism that was not voiced during the previous administration. Then it was OK to go into Iraq without solid proof of complicity in 9-11 and spending untold billions that were not included in the budget so no one really knew how much debt we were in. It was OK to kill tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in the name of several fighting the war on terrorism (that never ends).
Now all of a sudden we have to control spending because our debt is the highest in our history. So we cannot help our fellow citizens by creating national healthcare, invest in jobs in ways other than with tax cuts to the very wealthy? We can’t because it’s all about Me. Me Me.
How horrible is our debt? According to usgovernment.com, we are NOT at a historic high in terms of percentage of debt to gross national product (GNP). That came in 1946, when we were at 121.25 percent of GNP, compared with 94.27 percent today.
It was based on these sources:
- US Government – Historical Debt Outstanding US Treasury’s measure of US National Debt
- Measuring Worth – GDP Series for US and UK includes GDP and chained GDP for US; GDP and chained GDP for UK
- Gross Domestic Product by State from Bureau of Economic Analysis
- US Population Estimates from 1900 Census Bureau’s annual population estimate from 1900 to 1999
- 2005 Census of Governments – Finance Technical Documentation Contains Census Bureau spending and revenue codes
- JpGraph Chart Library Open source graph creating Library for PHP.
- Statistical Abstract of the United States historical editions of Census Bureau’s publication. From 1878.
- Historical US Federal Expenditure by Function 1902-1970 Table from Historical Statistics of the United States: Chapter Y: Government. Includes US Federal Expenditure 1902-1970, p 1123-1124.
- Budget of the United States Government Main page for latest US government budget documents.
- State and Local Government Finances Census Bureau main page for state and local government taxes and spending.
What are your values? Mine are that we should care bout more people than ourselves. And while I am not a Christian, I’m sure Jesus would agree it is not about Me.Me.Me. It’s about all of us.