Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Exceptionalism rough comments welcome

A friend of mine recently recounted an experience that he had in a grocery store parking lot..
   A young lady (homeless maybe) asked him for money he had no cash so could not help. she then approached another woman with the same results. My friend and this woman discussed this interaction,him expressing concern over the fact that this issue of panhandling seemed to be on the increase and that worried him. She agreed and commented that it was really hard to know who was telling the truth. My friend responded  that in a way it did not matter, a generous act is worthy unto itself and it up to the recipient how to use these acts. She agreed and they parted. He later observed the same woman giving dog food to a man with a dog.
  Interesting. This little interaction allowed the other person to be more generous.  Something to remember for each of us and how we interact with ourselves in terms of society and all that comes with it.
  A little sidebar, my friend thought it might be enlightening? to consider why the woman gave dog food not cash or human food. This reminds me of my friends Grandfather whose hobby was picking "bums" and forcing them to eat breakfast. The paternalistic idea that he knew better than them what was good for them. Everybody I tell this story to says "Good for him" I am not so sure. It seemed odd to me at the time. Why not give these persons what they thought they needed?
  Reminds me of the story of a friend of mine who settled in Guatemala in the late sixties. The peace corps decided to help the village that had adopted him by teaching them to farm fish. These people were hungry but their perception was that this was because all their farmland had been stolen to grow bananas(and drugs). The helpers from America had the idea that if these poor ignorant villagers just learned about the good old protestant work ethic they would be a lot better off.
   The ponds were built and the fish grew and the peace core left and the villagers had a feast. So much for the fish farm. Is there a wrong or a right in this story? Maybe not. Neither party could actually solve the problem of a changing demography that this village was dealing with. They were  unwilling to adapt  and unable to get their farms back. Both parties were hoping for good and maybe neither understood the complete dynamics of a global situation. Many "helpers" went away thinking that the villagers were lazy stubborn and ignorant. The villagers may have had a different opinion.
    The story goes around the US that natives to this area sold land for liquor and trinkets. Here is a huge
'failure to communicate" Most if not all of the humans who lived here did not "GROK" the idea of ownership. These are my moccasins or clothes or whatever,but the idea of "owning land was completely out of their worldview. I do not think I have the words to express what I sense the Cochiti thought of their relationship to the land. I do however know that there was no sense that one could buy or sell land. Did the land own them? Did they "share" the land? I do not know. It seems that one could make a deal to farm or hunt on land that others had farmed. In some way one could have territorial disputes. In none of their interactions did it seem one could "own" The land. Maybe deals were made that were mot understood but I am sure that the land was not "Sold".
  Back to exceptionalism. OUR IDEAS ARE RIGHT. Which of course means that"Your " ideas are wrong. So the woman at the grocery store may have been part of that paradigm. The "homeless"  are at some deep level "wrong" lazy stupid, druggies, something that is wrong. The natives are wrong. Those villagers are wrong. I guess I really sense that wrong is not totally accurate. "less than us" is more precise. Those "other" are not as smart industrious and godly as we are so we must A) care for and train them. or if they are "dangerous" B) put them down. (any other will do)
 I think  that we have this idea that persons who have fallen on hard times are there because of their own weakness(including moral,for example that speculators and CEO's who demand huge salaries because they deserve sooo much more than "you other weaklings". I always bring this up because these same persons make mistakes they say "What do you expect , I am only human!"
 So did this woman give dog-food because she felt sorry for the dog having a "bad" owner? It could be she had no cash or human food or it could have been that she thought the man would use money for drugs and decided for him that that would not be good for him or the dog. We have a way of thinking in our culture that allows us to stand in judgment because we are entitled by where and when we were born. We think that we are better than because of the vast wealth of this land and because it attracted a lot of brilliant driven sociopaths who took over and are willing to work to the exclusion of all else for "personal gain". They are more "successful" than and feel superior to thos who will or cannot do as they do. 

1 comment:

  1. It is hard when you hold a mirror up to examine your own motivations. If you're honest, you might not always like the results. Good thoughts on generosity and exceptionalism. It is better to somehow avoid judgement as much as possible, when giving, but on the other hand how do you balance being nonjudgmental with the need to make quick decisions to get along within a monetarily-based society? Don't have those answers, I'm afraid.