I’m mulling some thoughts that are highly insensitive. Some of them even offend me, and I can’t reasonably embrace them as my opinions. Nonetheless, they lurk in the shadows and force me to ponder. I suspect I’m not alone in this, so I’ll share them in hopes that some of you may find solace, either in learning you are not alone, or in the certainty that I’m a lunatic.
The recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean was an unimaginable tragedy. They are now counting over 100k people dead. There are whole villages that simply ceased to exist. I’m sure I can’t fathom the agony of the survivors. And while my heart goes out to the people, at a political and economic level I can’t help but wonder why it’s our job to clean this up.
How much aid did Sri Lanka offer us after Florida was battered by 4 successive hurricanes? Did Thailand send rescue teams after 9/11, or even a sympathy card? I suppose we can (and do) argue that we don’t need the help. We can take care of ourselves. Those people are less fortunate. Yes, okay, perhaps that’s why the U.S. receives so little disaster relief aid. But does that mean we have to supply it? China and India have economies growing much faster than ours, and this occurred in their back yard.
But maybe the world is our back yard. Yet I find that disquieting. Our revised reason for the Iraq War is that bad things were happening and we need to help those people. There is widespread concern about the very real looming threats of Iran and North Korea, and sentiment that we should do something about that as well. Bad things are happening in Dafur. We’re not doing much to help those people. Our own education systems and social welfare systems are teetering on the brink of failure domestically. Maybe we should help those folks.
In the end, it seems it all has to come down to priorities. We clearly can’t help everybody. Not only are there not enough resources, but in it’s logical end-state, you wind up with global communism by redistributing all the wealth. That’s a recipe for disaster.
So we have to be able to choose who to help. I have a fear that all too often we (as a country) make decisions about who to help and what to focus on based on headlines and media exposure rather than by making rational choices based on our own self-interest. We don’t have a coherent philosophy to follow, so much as an image to protect.
Ironically, a major exception to this is the Iraq War. We went into that war based on self-interest. The problem was that it was the self-interest of the Bushies and not America. It seems there needs to be some sort of benign architect of American political policy. A person or small group that can rationally frame a path forward. Leave the specifics to the “traditional” government, but bound the box. Unfortunately, this cannot be reasonably done by public opinion (which is the current media driven incarnation of democracy), nor can it be done by those seeking personal power and glory (which pretty much takes politicians out of it). While I’m enamored of this concept, I have no idea how to implement it without falling to the all to human frailty voiced by Lord Acton, that power tends to corrupt.
So for now, I’ll continue to mull…