Our Responsibilities to Each Other

“[Society] is a living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us, by our own efforts, is prepared to turn round and help those less fortunate.”

We need to get more balance in the discussion of rights and responsibilities. The two are like the yin and the yang. They need to be balanced in complex and interactive ways and often are different aspect of the same thing and don't prosper when artificially separated.

People like to assert rights and to expand them and some rights can be expanded w/o placing significant burdens on others. Most of our original rights are like that. My rights to speech, association or freedom of religion will rarely infringe on your legitimate rights. In fact, right such as freedom of speech & association are essential to seeking truth and excellence. Everybody can benefit.

Consider how even these basic rights work with responsibility. I have a nearly absolute right to free speech, but everybody has an absolute right not to believe me; they can disagree or even ridicule what I say. In fact, questioning is one of the responsibilities of free speech. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but not all opinions all created equal. We have a responsibility to judge and to improve our own opinions based on what we learn.

Rights become more controversial when the exercise of my rights implies or requires you to do something or give something to me. Some things should never become rights in the same way we have rights to speech or association. For example, we cannot make health, education, happiness or prosperity rights because reasonable people cannot agree on operational definitions. Worse, if we allow people themselves to define what they should get from others, they often become terrible tyrants. Most people think they deserve more than they get; most of the time they are wrong.

I have gotten more out of life than I reasonably expected as a young adult. I don't want to make the mistake of judging the game before it is finished, but as of now things are okay. I understand that this might be because my standards are low. Many people I know have more stuff than I do, but I just don't care.

One of the greatest gifts I have is the capacity to be grateful for what I have. I observe that unhappy people don't have this. They are always feeling put-upon or ripped off. They never get what they deserve, in their own opinions. Most have it wrong.

Happiness comes from self-respect and self-respect comes for believing that you do the right things and fulfill your responsibilities. This is not the same as the much abused concept of "self-esteem". Self-esteem comes from the outside, from the praise or value of others. It comes from believing you deserve to get things from society. Self-respect comes from believing you contribute.

Many years ago, I decide that I should serve the task, not the master. Sometimes my bosses don't appreciate this, at least not at first, but most came to respect the integrity that brings. I think we should pursue excellence in what we do, no matter what the task.*
I have the responsibly to find the things I am good at doing and do them well. There is no such thing as a well-rounded person. We all have different sets of skill and I learned long ago that I am more useful if I develop strengths and avoid weaknesses, rather than try to bring up the bottom. I also know that I have responsibility constantly to update and improve my skills as well as find new ways to use them. I cannot wait for others to this for me. All of us need to be proactive in seeking new knowledge and skills.

I do not tolerate in myself or others the idea that we need to wait to be given something to do. We are valuable to our employers and our communities to the extent that we create useful innovation and find good things to do. Whenever I hear someone say, "THEY never give me anything good to do" I know I am dealing with a loser. I inform him/her that the reason they are here is to make sure they are able to do useful things. Some listen; others continue to be losers.

It is also important to understand that it is usually not what happens to us that counts, but rather how we react to what happens to us. We cannot always control what happens to us but we are much more the masters of our fates than we like to admit.

Nobody can live up to these high standards; our value to ourselves & others is in the pursuit. When I fail to do the right thing, my subordinates, superiors and colleagues have the right and the duty to tell me. I have similar responsibilities to others. That is what the community means. We can only be responsible for what we do, but if we take that responsibility seriously we will be on the way to being good people.

When President Kennedy told us, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" he was taking to you and me. Demanding that others pay or do more does not make you a good citizen or a good person, nor does demanding rights at the expense of others. And if all you do is demand from others while not adding significant value to yourself and your community, you are a failure. Get up off your ass and start helping pulling the wagon instead of hopping on for that free ride.

BTW - the quote that leads was from Margret Thatcher.

*Last year I was between assignments for a couple of weeks. One of the offices needed help with some tasks, including delivering reports (I mean physically delivering them). It was below my skill level, but it needed to be done, so I volunteered and came in early mornings to do that for two weeks. The interns and secretaries were polite but didn't pay much attention to me until one of the bosses introduced me. Suddenly the demeanor changed.I told them that as far as they were concerned, I was the office assistant and I wanted to be a good one as long as I was doing it. I was serving the task. They hadn't disrespected me before and they should just carry on. We all should do our jobs.

We should remember to respect everyone's honest work. Honest work can demean nobody, but some people can demean their work and themselves with their poor attitudes. And some people refuse to do any useful work at all. Those are the only ones deserve disrespect.

Posted by Christine & John at December 17, 2011 9:06 AM
Comment #333165

Too bad you forgot to address the “is prepared to turn round and help those less fortunate” part. Such a one-sided rant, but not unexpected.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 17, 2011 10:57 AM
Comment #333166


“Happiness comes from self-respect and self-respect comes for believing that you do the right things and fulfill your responsibilities. This is not the same as the much abused concept of “self-esteem”. Self-esteem comes from the outside, from the praise or value of others. It comes from believing you deserve to get things from society. Self-respect comes from believing you contribute.”

Sorry, this is wrong, and it is just as wrong as those that abuse the term.

Self esteem comes from within. It comes from believing in yourself. Self respect comes from the ability to evaluate oneself, and the ability to accept your limitations.



“To esteem anything is to evaluate it positively and hold it in high regard, but evaluation gets us into trouble because while we sometimes win, we also sometimes lose. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it.”

On the other hand, much is made of “respect” in this culture. While we are required to respect the rights of others, we should not be required to respect each other.

Respect is earned, and generally the more someone demands my respect, the less I actually respect them.
Perhaps the need to demand respect is caused by too much self esteem.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 17, 2011 11:46 AM
Comment #333167


I though it was implied. Sorry. That’s what it means to “pull the wagon” or “adding value” to society, or “We are valuable to our employers and our communities to the extent that we create useful innovation and find good things to do.” or “Self-respect comes from believing you contribute”

Only productive people can be generous, since you cannot be generous with other people’s money.

I give significant amounts of my income to charity, volunteer to help, “mentor” others etc. That is part of being a good citizen.

I didn’t think it needed be said that explicitly. I guess you don’t understand those “good citizen” things. Not unexpected.

Beyond all that, if you think my rant is one-sided, why not bring up your own useful comment. It might start with something like, “In addition to what you wrote, I think responsibilities include the following specifics …”

Not up to it? Much easier to complain about others and attack than contribute? Sort of proved my point.

Posted by: C&J at December 17, 2011 11:50 AM
Comment #333168


I agree with most of what you wrote and the article. But I do not think that self-esteem, as we use the term today, is meant to come from within.

I googled building self esteem and low self esteem. Most of the articles - lots of self-help - talked about how you are seen in the social mirror. There are courses and programs to build self-esteem among particular groups or people. Obviously you could not do that if it comes from within.

But I am not tied to semantics. If we disagree on how the words are used let’s just go with a basic.

The thing I think is good and called self respect - is when you are trying to or believe you are doing the right thing - when your values are congruent with your actions. So if I do something thorough honest good work, I feel greater self respect, whether or not others know I did it.

The think I think is venial, what I called self-esteem - is believing you are well thought of in society. The parallel example is if you get something through chance or trickery and you get away with it, you may feel greater self-esteem.

We can call them different things if you want, but those are the concepts.

Anthropologists talk about the difference between shame and guilt cultures. A shame culture looks outward. If you do bad things, it is okay as long as you get away with it. A guilt culture requires you to be good when nobody is watching. Most cultures, American included, have aspects of both and we individuals often go between them.

Generally, however, I think you should try to do the right thing, even when nobody can find out, because it is better for your own character.

Posted by: C&J at December 17, 2011 12:06 PM
Comment #333170


“Most of the articles - lots of self-help - talked about how you are seen in the social mirror.”

Personally, I don’t really care about what people think about me. I do what I do because I believe it is the right thing to do. I was never one to seek out the approval of others because I believe that any recognition I might receive comes naturally as a part of doing the right thing.

That is not to say that I don’t have an ego, but it isn’t the driving force in my life, and I don’t need your approval to make me happy. Conversely, it is not my responsibility to make you happy either. If I am able to ease your way by my actions, then that goes hand in hand with doing the right thing.

“But I do not think that self-esteem, as we use the term today, is meant to come from within.”

Perhaps this is what is truly wrong with society. We feel the need to change the meanings of words to fit our circumstances.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 17, 2011 12:56 PM
Comment #333171


That is what I mean by self-respect - “Personally, I don’t really care about what people think about me. I do what I do because I believe it is the right thing to do. I was never one to seek out the approval of others because I believe that any recognition I might receive comes naturally as a part of doing the right thing.” You are doing what you should, IMO. I admire that.

Re the changing meaning of words - the language is in constant state of evolution. And English is one of the most dynamic language in world history.

I try to use my word precisely, but I understand that people don’t always hear what I am trying to say. I am also messed up by my foreign languages.

The terms in the social science are often bowdlerized on purpose. There is, as you know, a “self-esteem” industry. The idea is that we need to build self-esteem among disadvantaged or the new term (I think) is “undeserved.” I think it is mostly BS, but I have to live with the changes.

Posted by: C&J at December 17, 2011 1:23 PM
Comment #333181

Implied? Should have implied the rest too. It came out one-sided after the first paragraph. You certainly don’t need to call me out, but have at it. Had I the health and energy, I would. Chemo has taken most of my energy and some of my brain. I do what I can with what I have left. Huge responses to you and others is beyond my current energy level, which I save for making a living. Thanks, though.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 17, 2011 6:26 PM
Comment #333183


Sorry for your troubles. I respond to the comments. When you call something a “one sided rant” you should probably expect strong counter responses.

If you had been civil and written something more like, “I think you should have included more about helping the less fortunate”, you would have received a civil response.

Look at the difference in tone of my responses to Rocky.

I am sorry if you didn’t mean your comment to be unpleasant and aggressive. If so, my response was not appropriate.

Posted by: C&J at December 17, 2011 7:03 PM
Comment #333187

It is interesting that liberals want everyone to believe they are the ones who are concerned about the less fortunate; it turns out that this is a myth, unless liberals are using someone else’s money. A 2006 report from ABC’s 20/20 and a MSM outlet declares this:


“Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

Here is a report by Gerge Will from March 27, 2008:

“If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

— Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

— Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

— Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

— Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

— In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

— People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and “the values that lie beneath” liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

The single biggest predictor of someone’s altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks’ book says, “the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have ‘no religion’ has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s.” America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one — secular conservatives.”


Something else that is notable is the fact that conservative givers tend to be religious, while liberal non-givers tend to be liberal non-religious. I believe there is a direct relationship with the left’s constant denial that the founding fathers were religious and their lack of real compassion on humanity.

Posted by: Frank at December 17, 2011 8:30 PM
Comment #333190


I’ll get summations of any and all disputions you will get to this data out of the way.

1) What laughable drivel, these statistics, don’t bore me with facts.
2) Conservatives only give because it’s a tax write-off. Liberals give because they want to help.
3) The Kerry / Bush state thing is because Kerry carried populated cities where the poverty is rampant, and Bush carried the middle states where people are all rich and have lots of money to donate for a tax write-off.

My prediction is that all of the objections to your point will fall into one of these three categories. I couldn’t agree with your conclusion based on this data more, as it is simply a macrocausm of what I experience in my life.

The left incubates its voter base with our tax dollars VIA the government. “Vote for us, we’ll give you more money than conservatives.” Which many people laughably believe equates to caring… kind of like promising a man he’ll get a fish every day so long as he votes Democrat. Fast forward a few decades and now our “societal norm” is that poor people believe they are poor because “the man” is holding them down, and that their choices have no effect on their situation or station in life.

I forget who it was over on the blue side who predicted (before the smear machine got started) that Herman Cain never stood a chance because he had the audacity to claim that if you hadn’t found a job in a year that it was your own fault. I was in a Wasilla bar having a beer with a client during that debate and the cheer that went up when he said that was as surprising as it was liniment to my soul that hope for America is not lost.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at December 17, 2011 9:45 PM
Comment #333191


“According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html

Posted by: Rich at December 17, 2011 9:46 PM
Comment #333195

Why would you exclude donations to religious organizations, unless you are merely a bigot?

I am not a particularly religious person, but I give to charity and I respect the good works of religious people.

I give most of my charity dollars to environmental organizations. Among them last year was a Catholic organization that helps villagers in Kenya plant acacia trees, which hold and enrich (they are nitrogen fixers) the soils. Because it was a Catholic priest who originated and manages this subject, you would exclude it?

I have studied this charity gap. I understand that it is embarrassing to liberals, but there is no way around it.

I have an explanation for liberal behavior. It is only my observation, but I have found that the more people talk about things like charity, they less they do. In addition, I think that some liberals advocate “generous” government policies because they are not personally generous.

The Kristof article you cite is full of BS and polemic, but if you read the whole thing he is honest in admitting that all he has to counter the facts that conservatives are more generous is the spin that you quoted.

Particularly I am struck by the typical liberal fallacy and if I was religious what I would call a deadly sin. “Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad.” You cannot be generous with other people’s money. Kristof is just wrong to bring this up.

Giving government money is a matter of public policy. I would ask all our liberal friends to consider a well-paid CEO who gives little of his own money but directs his firm’s cash to charities he thinks should get them shareholder’s money. Then he sits on charity boards and accepts awards for his “good works” Is this a good man or just an ordinary crook.

Posted by: C&J at December 18, 2011 6:54 AM
Comment #333198

I have a simple definition of the word “charity”. Charity is love for another expressed by giving something of value or merit to one in need. People are capable of charitable love for their fellow man…governments, not so much.

Charity can be much more than just a monetary giving. I donate blood as often as I am allowed. I expect nothing in return. And, while hardly a sacrifice on my part, donating blood saves lives. I consider it a charitable act.

Let’s suppose that government demanded that all who qualify give blood on a regular basis. Under this scenario, would it still be considered charitable on my part to give blood?

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 18, 2011 1:10 PM
Comment #333273

Perfect except for one word:

Charity is love for another expressed by “freely” giving something of value or merit to one in need.

It has to be willing. Tax increases on the producers of society so government can redistribute as it sees fit doesn’t count as charity, and the same would be true for blood (though in all honesty, having read your posts for years, I’m pretty sure it was a rhetorical question ;)

Perhaps I was too quick to give you the benefit of the doubt in the freedom of church and state thread from last week. The notion that donations to religious organizations shouldn’t be counted as charity makes your second utterly ridiculous comment in as many weeks. What should it count as…? A business donation? A political contribution? Of course it’s charity. Churches and religious organizations are overwhelmingly responsible for ‘the work’ of charity in this country and everywhere else in the world.

Though for fun, I’ll play your game… you take out the religious organization contributions from the right, and I’ll take out the ‘environmental contributions’ from the left and then let’s see where the numbers land. That’s a perfect compromise since most on the left treat the environment and it’s protection with all the trappings (and man-made global warming dogma) of a deity, just without the Sunday service.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at December 19, 2011 10:16 PM
Comment #333302

Yukon Jake,

Charity is generally considered direct voluntary contributions in time or money to assist the less fortunate.

However, the term “charitable contributions” under our tax code has a much more expansive meaning including support of the arts, higher education, religious organizations, etc.

It seems fair then to ask how much of the technical “charitable contributions” are actually assisting the needy.

In a 2008 study, funded by Google and conducted by the University of Indiana, it was found that less than a third of charitable contributions actually goes to assisting the needy, either directly or indirectly. In terms of donations to religious organizations, which constitutes the majority of lower and middle income giving, less than 20 cents of every dollar funds programs for the economically disadvantaged. http://quidnimis.squarespace.com/the-charity-gap/

Posted by: Rich at December 20, 2011 8:20 AM
Comment #333304

Somehow I think Rich misses the concept of charitable giving. The point is not where the money goes once it is given; the point is that conservatives GIVE more to charities than liberals. I recently heard that only 10 cents out of every dollar given to a national animal shelter organization, actually does something for animals. I would say there are far more liberals giving to animal shelters than conservatives, because they care more for animals than they do people; but should we say that these liberals are not really donating to animal shelters because only 10% helps the animals?

Rich, why do you try to change the subject? The argument was “never where the money goes”, the point being made (with links to prove it) that conservatives give more to charity.

Regarding religious organizations: charitable donations given to churches pay for the building, electric, water bills, heat, pastors and staff salaries, and provide for those in the neighborhood plus missionary work. Churches provide for funeral services, weddings, holiday dinners and many other things for not only their membership, but for people of the community.

Posted by: Frank at December 20, 2011 10:29 AM
Comment #333309


“Regarding religious organizations: charitable donations given to churches pay for the building, electric, water bills, heat, pastors and staff salaries, and provide for those in the neighborhood plus missionary work.”

I thought that was what the “Tithe” was for. Is the tithe considered a “charitable” donation?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 20, 2011 12:18 PM
Comment #333310

I guess it is Rocky since it is TAX DEDUCTIBLE, but there are more then just the regular tithe offering. The Church I attend has offerings for missionary work, community help, youth work and many others that help the community, and beyond these offerings are 100% to what they are intended for.

Posted by: KAP at December 20, 2011 12:31 PM
Comment #333315


I get the fact that they are tax deductible, up to 10%, however, with the age of the looming edifices that are called churches (and BTW I worked on one of these monstrosities here in Phoenix), where does the money come from to pay for their construction, maintenance, and utilities.
Surely the Crystal Cathedral, for instance, which cost $18 million to build, wasn’t built, and supported purely by donation, and if it was, how can we truly call that a “charity”?

I mean really, when a “church” is so big it requires cameras and screens and a huge concert sound and lighting rig to get out the message, even to those in attendance, something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Oh, and BTW, the Crystal Cathedral recently declared bankruptcy.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 20, 2011 1:07 PM
Comment #333316

Rocky, Mega Churchs IMO are a shame. To bad all of them don’t declare Bankruptcy as the Chrystal Cathedral has. I am referring to the small neighborhood Churchs which actually do provide a service to the community as does the Church I attend. The ones that are just barley making it but still have the love of God and community, not the self serving Joel Ostine’s, Jim Bakers, Rex Humbards, and on and on with so called ministers who are making 6 figures.

Posted by: KAP at December 20, 2011 1:28 PM
Comment #333337

Rocky Marks, how can you argue the points of charitable contributions and not even know what they are?

Every donation given to a church, whether tithe or offering, is deductable. Now perhaps you don’t like this, but it doesn’t matter what you like. Again, the point being discussed is conservative donations compared to liberal donations. I see you are still trying to change the subject rather than admit conservatives give more…

Posted by: Frank at December 20, 2011 5:52 PM
Comment #333346


“I see you are still trying to change the subject rather than admit conservatives give more…”

It doesn’t matter to me that conservatives give more, because, um… frankly I don’t care.

Frank this isn’t some ego driven subject for me. I don’t care what the Jones’ do, or don’t do, with their money. I am curious though where the money actually goes, as in the Mega-Churches, and rich pastors.

And I think it’s freaking hysterical that a highly visible icon of “Christianity” such as the Crystal Cathedral was forced to declare bankruptcy.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 20, 2011 7:21 PM
Comment #333355

I am not trying to change the subject. Many on this blog have made the argument that conservatives contribute more to charity than liberals.

Charity is generally thought of as assisting the poor, the sick, the more unfortunate, etc. It is not generally thought of as altruism supporting a particular religion, ideology, fine arts, higher educational institution, etc.

I presented a comment by a journalist noting that when the data cited excludes “charitable” contributions to religion, liberals actually contribute more to charity.

Conservatives counter that religious institutions are a primary givers of support to the needy.

However, a detailed study cited demonstrates that the vast majority of religious, tax defined, “charitable” contributions (80%) are actually used for direct capital and operational expenses of the churches themselves. Only a small percentage results in any benefit to the needy in our society.

I am not trying to be critical of any person’s contribution to their religious affiliation. I am not being critical of anyone’s support of civic endeavors such as a performing arts center, etc.

However, to construe such contributions as true charity in the common sense use of the term as benefiting the poor, the sick, etc., is highly misleading. The Google sponsored study clearly shows that less than 1/3rd of all “charitable” contributions actually benefit the needy in our society.

Posted by: Rich at December 20, 2011 9:41 PM
Comment #333359

Rockyb, It’s funny how you bring up the Crystal Cathedral and leave the Catholic Church alone when they are closeing Churchs left and right, at least in my area anyway, and the Catholic Church is one of the most charitable of all of them. IMO the economy has a big play in it. People just don’t have the money to support the Mega Churchs especially when most of those SO CALLED ministers are making 6+ figure incomes.

Posted by: KAP at December 20, 2011 10:17 PM
Comment #333364


The Catholic church my mother goes to isn’t a gaudy edifice. It is the same church associated with the Catholic school I went to when I was a child. I don’t remember the Parish being particularly rich.

The Catholic church collectively is probably the richest church on the planet. The officials, even though they theoretically don’t possess any worldly goods, get to live better than most of their adherents.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 20, 2011 11:14 PM
Comment #333365

Rocky, I was raised Catholic at a time when services were held from 6am to noon and peek times 3 services at one time in different locations of the church. Some of the Churchs were decked out and large with a capacity of over 1000 people now they are lucky to have 3 services on a Sunday morning and each of them not even 1/4 filled. Yes they are the richest Church on the planet but even they are feeling the economic pinch beautiful older churchs closing for lack of support so even the rich churchs can’t avoid the economical crunch.

Posted by: KAP at December 20, 2011 11:49 PM
Comment #333458


In order to avoid some glaring intellectual dishonesty, please share with us your theory of how much the contributions to environmental groups and animal rights organizations “help the needy.”

You are taking away the apples and then commenting on the oranges.

Google is a profoundly left leaning organization, and though the information may be accurate, the premise behind the study is completely retarded.

Prove how much of the money your leftist chums donate to PETA or the Sierra Club (and write off) goes to help the needy. The seeming goal of disallowing the contributions to religious organizations (in your comparison) is to show that even though on paper conservatives give more, more of liberal donations go to help the needy.

So sayeth Rich via the almighty Google.

However, in order for that to be a relevant comparison, a thinking man must apply the same filter to donations in the largest sector of liberal giving, which I believe would be environmental groups like the Sierra Club.

Fair? Of course it’s fair, but whether or not you will own the truth is another matter entirely.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at December 23, 2011 5:55 PM
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