When I was a kid, I had an aunt who used to admonish me when I spoke without thinking that it is better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. It took me a while to take that to heart, so hopefully these days I have learned the truth of that long ago childhood teaching lesson. A few weeks ago one of my liberal Facebook “friends” posted a graphic created by the Occupy Wall Street movement criticizing the federal government for “millionaire representatives” cutting food stamps while homeless people froze to death on the streets of Washington, D.C. I don’t see the relationship between food stamps and dying on the street homeless, but then again my expectations of the cogency of Occupy movement communications are very low. Nonetheless, I want to address this charge because it is instructive to understand how liberal progressives think and to marvel that a group of people who are so devoid of responsibility have no problem criticizing others for what is their own responsibility.
Last I checked, Washington D.C. had shelters (church-sponsored or otherwise), private charities, a City Council, and of course members of the Occupy movement. But in the graphic, they didn’t call on any of these parties to do anything about helping the homeless in their own community. Obviously, the local community would have been the first line of support to provide shelter and food to the homeless, or at least could have contributed to shelters and private charities that provide these services. Where were these people? Next, the Washington D.C. City Council, which is made up of Democrats who supposedly care the most about “the little guy” could themselves have sponsored shelters for the homeless. It doesn’t appear they cared either that people were dying in the streets. And then we have the Occupy members. What were they doing in Washington, D.C. to help the homeless and the hungry? Well, I think we know what they were doing. Sitting in comfy pajamas in their parents’ basements mining liberal blogs for the latest “outrage” committed by Republicans in the U.S. Congress, instead of expending their energies in actually making a difference.
And this is where I come to the title of this blog about the biggest failures in life. The biggest failures in life (at least in my view) are those who feel they are taking the moral high ground by criticizing others for first, what is their own responsibility that they won’t accept, and second, what is not the responsibility of the party they’re criticizing in the first place. In this case, Occupy does not understand that charity is not the function of the federal government to begin with, yet it has for decades taken money away from the states that could be distributed far more effectively and efficiently at the local level. This practice is rife with bureaucracy and waste, and even worse, when they dole money back out to the states they shouldn’t have taken to begin with, they often use the threat of cutting off federal funds to coerce states into doing their bidding on some political matter. Despite that, if people are dying on the streets in Washington, D.C., it is still the local community and government officials that have utterly failed their own people since it is they who have full visibility into the point of need, unlike a far flung federal government. And that community includes the Occupy members who, instead of looking to themselves along with their community and local government, attempt to pass the blame off on a federal government that has no idea who is homeless or where they are on the streets of D.C.
To speak of this more generally, the responsibility to feed the hungry and provide shelter to the homeless is first the family, then the church or private charities, then local/county government. The state level would be the natural next level, but it is my belief that if charity has to bubble up to the state level, then the local community has failed at the most basic level of society. This view is based on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity that holds nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization that can be done just as well by a smaller and simple organization. So even though I’m particularly critical of the Occupy movement in this post, it also sheds the light on the rest of us who have failed if we expect anyone other than ourselves in the local community to meet the needs of those truly in need. Personally, a good percentage of my charitable contributions go to the Orange County Rescue Mission, which among other free health services provides transitional housing and job training to the homeless, helping them to get back on their feet and become productive, self-sufficient citizens without government welfare programs. So I ask the Occupy movement to stop complaining about what politicians are doing and act at the local level wherever they may live, and get all of their other progressive liberal friends who complain about “income inequality” to accept responsibility and follow suit. As for those of us of a conservative bent, we know better and have no excuse for not volunteering or supporting churches and charities in our own communities monetarily.