Nothing Brings Greater Happiness in Life
Than Serving a Cause Greater Than Yourself
-Senator McCain and his acceptance speech for nomination for President
Just leave this earth a better place than
when you got here
Cindy McCain's father to his daughter
You are not a black hole that needs to be filled; you
are a light that
needs to be shined.
-Alan Cohen, Author of "The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
Greed is Good
Quotation from the movie Wall Street
He who tends everybody else's garden....gets
weeds in his own
Arlene Peck, in Charity Begins at Home, Freeman Center Broadcast 1/10/05
The quotes above may seem to be contradictory. The first one encourages you to help others while the other two encourage you to help yourself. Yet by helping yourself you may become more able to help others. The movie Wall Street that told about a businessman who gave a speech in which he said "Greed is Good". I think there is truth to that statement. Lets consider Bill Gates. By acting in his own self interest he built up enormous wealth from which enormous amounts of taxes which in theory at least benefit many people come from. In addition he spends enormous amounts of money on charitable causes money that he wouldn't have if he hadn't devoted his life to his own self interest. How many people who devote their lives to helping others have given even a small fraction of the charity that he has been able to give? His company has produced excellent products (well there are some bugs) but in general these products have been of value to the general population as a whole. If we devote ourselves to our own self interest we also may rise to a position of power from which we can accomplish something. People who rise in the movies have the power to create movies with good influences that influence the masses in a good way such as Schindler's list or the Hunchback of Notre Dame for example. I once tried to influence Mel Gibson's movie company not to make an antisemitic version of the Passion play into a movie and of course I was ignored. I then tried to influence another movie company to produce a historical version of the death of Jesus instead of a religious one and got back a letter that said something to the effect that they don't read unsolicited suggestions because they want to avoid being sued by people who think their ideas were stolen. I was powerless to do anything. Yet the people who pursued their self interest and became powerful figures in the movie industry can have an impact.
Helping others can help your mood. According to an article in Healthystyle 9/2008 p16, studies show that performing five good deeds a week can significantly elevate your mood.
Lets say that like me you operate under the delusion that you have helpful advice to give. Why should anyone else believe that you know what you're talking about. Why should you believe that you know what you're talking about? If you're a success, if you've amassed wealth then they'll believe. As Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof
When you're rich they think you really know.
There's a German Proverb
Never give advice unless asked.
It has been my experience that most advice I've given has been ignored even when I was asked for it.
I have learned the hard way that sometimes people are in bad straits because they have bad traits and that when you get involved in helping them you become a victim of those bad traits. I had the experience of going out of my way to help someone get jobs who had become paranoid of people, perhaps as a result of having trouble holding on to jobs. He blamed his supervisors for his lack of success instead of recognizing that either he wasn't capable or he wasn't trying hard enough. He became paranoid of them. After years of trying to help him find jobs, he one day told me that I had prevented him from getting jobs all these years and he retaliated against me.
The ultimate lesson about the danger of helping people was learned by Lois Smart. She met a homeless man who called himself Emmanuel in downtown Salt Lake City when he asked for money. She gave him $5 and hired him to help her husband work on the roof of their home in November 2001. He worked for about five hours and the family didn't see him again, she said. Then one day Emmanuel who was really Brian Mitchell kidnapped Lois's daughter Elizabeth Smart. It was not till March 2003 that Brian Mitchell was arrested and Elizabeth returned to her family. What Lois did was very kind, and very compassionate, but not too smart.
There is a saying:
Never trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.
A lot of time when we try and help others, we trouble trouble because we are getting involved in someone's problems.
My experience and the experience of some of my friends has been that sometimes when I try and help others I make things worse. One can divide situations in which friends need help into those in which they ask for help and those in which they don't. Even if they ask specifically for a certain kind of help by giving that help one may make things worse. For example, I have a friend who couldn't afford a downpayment on a car. I lent her a thousand dollars toward the downpayment. Now she has insurance and car payments that she can't afford. She has a collection agency going after her for money she owes for medical bills which she can't afford to pay. If she had not bought a car and found a job which she could get to with public transportation she would not have this problem. If I had not lent her the money for the car she might have been forced to do this. Now she's begging me to give her money to pay off the collection agency.
This same person married an abusive man. She would call her friends in tears about the latest abuse he committed against her. We all advised her to leave him. One day after particularly bad abuse she filed charges against him. Now he's gone and she blames me and the rest of her friends for advising her to leave him and for causing her to be alone.
I wrote that he was an abusive man. The only reason I believed that is because of what my friend told me. I didn't have an inkling of his side of the story when I gave her the advice to leave him. Later on I found out that she used to go on shopping sprees with his credit cards and spend enormous amounts of his money. Now I can understand why he was enraged at her. That information she left out because it made her look bad. The problem with giving people advice who tell you only part of the story is that you unwittingly can become a person who encourages them to do the immoral thing that they want to do. If her friends kept telling her that the man she was married to was bad that would encourage her to spend more on his credit cards since he "deserved" it.
I was engaged to a woman who was looking for an excuse to leave me for a wealthier man. She told her friends her version of our problems which left out certain crucial details and made me look bad so her friends naturally were very critical of me. The lesson I've learned is to if I feel compelled to give advice to avoid doing so until I have heard both sides of the story.
I helped an acquaintance who had a leak in her house. I fixed the leak but in order to do so had to temporarily shut off a valve in her basement. The valve was ancient and rusted and the act of turning it caused it to start dripping. I then became, from my friend's point of view, the guilty party who created the leak in her basement and responsible to fix it.
Mayor Koch one said something to the effect that if we put a coin in an outstretched hand the next day there will be more outstretched hands.
Should we give money to beggars if they plan to use that money for alcohol or drugs or prostitutes?
Helping people when they don't ask for help is even riskier than helping them when they do ask. Often there are good reasons why they don't take certain actions to help themselves that one is not aware of and if one butts in and takes those actions one can make things a lot worse. I speak from personal experience. In one case two women who had been friends with each other and who I was friendly with were not speaking to each other. When one of them told me I asked her why. After she told her story I told her I'd speak with her friend. When I broached the subject with her friend her friend became hostile to me.
Many people assume that giving charity is the right thing to do and in certain situations it is. However, lets consider what happened in Somalia. Then-President George Bush ordered U.S. troops into Somalia in December 1992 to help rescue the country from famine and civil war. The U.S. left after an American soldier was dragged through the streets by a rope. Three years later there was dancing in the streets of Mogadishu by Somalis to celebrate the death of the U.S. soldiers. Is feeding hostile Somalis the right thing to do?
What happens if we feed a population and as a result the population grows and there are more mouths to feed. If we don't feed them then there will be more suffering than if we had stayed out of the situation. The best alternative might be to feed these people and then give them the tools to feed themselves if that is possible.
The classic example of what goes wrong when one helps people are horror tales from welfare spending. The Readers Digest is a magazine that has had excellent articles about this subject. For one thing, it creates an incentive not to work. In an article called the "True Faces of Welfare", that appeared in March 1995 in the Readers Digest, Denise a welfare recipient is quoted as saying that she'd like to work but she'd have to earn a lot for it to be a better deal than welfare. "You've got to look at the medical the food and everything else". Besides, to get a good job, she would first have to go to school, then earn her way up to a high salary. "That's going to take time," she says. "It's a lot of work, and I ain't guaranteed to get nothing." Denise became pregnant at the age of 15 and so went on welfare. Welfare gave her money for each child and soon she had several. It became more and more impractical for her to get a job. Welfare made her dependent on welfare. She moved into a housing project and ended up in jail for shoplifting. Often mothers on welfare do not provide good homes for their children. Authorities took away two of Denise's youngest children and her husbands mother gained custody of the others.
Martin Durkin has discussed how welfare has been devastating for Britain and is creating documentaries about it. In an interview he explained:
The growth of welfare benefits has been huge since that time. And within that system a pregnant girl gets special treatment (top of the state housing list etc). The fear has gone. The old idea, “Don’t, for heaven’s sake, get pregnant. It would be a disaster” has gone. For many girls, getting pregnant is a ticket to get out of the parental home. This has been the subject of detailed studies. A ten percent increase in benefits, one of them finds, tends to increase the prevalence of single mothers by 17 percent...A child of a single parent is 15 times more likely to be abused than a child brought up by two natural parents. A child brought up by their natural mother and a cohabite (non natural father) is at even greater risk – 19 times more likely to suffer violence and 74 times more likely to be killed...
The Welfare State, pioneered in Britain of course, has corrupted this country to its core. It has transformed the country caricatured by Noel Coward and others – essentially pretty decent, self-reliant, and plucky – into a country which is thuggish, selfish, mindless, dispirited and lost. Gone is the British stiff upper lip. Modern Britons are moaning, self-pitying inadequates. The welfare state has bred a generation of obnoxious, drug-addled criminals and ne’er-do-wells. It has also, incidentally, burdened what was once the world’s biggest, most dynamic economy with the dead weight of an obstructive and vastly expensive state machine.
I’m sorry to sound cross about this, but I don’t think people fully realise what’s happened. Britain has, I think, the highest crime rate of any industrialised country in the world. It is twice as high as the US. The violent crime rate is higher in London than New York. Britain has the highest rate of drug abuse, the highest teenage pregnancy rate and the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease in the modern industrial world.
Welfare fuels the population explosion of Muslims in the West. Money is provided to support Muslim babies. Daniel Greenfield wrote that:
Ahmed imports Wife No. 2, passes her off as a cousin or niece, she gets pregnant, is on the books as a single mother, collects every benefit there is, meanwhile she's bringing along every family member. The men import their own wives and the cycle continues.
In another interview Durkin also discussed how Foreign Aid has harmed Africa. Aid sent to Africa is siphoned off by the leadership which creates a tremendous incentive to destroy all opposition. It also creates incentive to the opposition to take over and get the wealth for themselves.
SSI (Supplementary Security Income) is a welfare program aimed at providing life's necessities for poor adults too old, ill or handicapped to work. According to a Readers Digest article that appeared in May 1995 "Welfare Gone Haywire" its 6.3 million recipients include alcoholics and drug addicts who stoke their habits with the cash.. and nearly 900,000 children, 67 percent of whom get checks for mental retardation. According to Willie Lee Bell, principal of Southside Elementary School parents are encouraging --some say coaching-- their children to perform poorly and misbehave in school to get SSI checks. "The children don't want to fail," he says. "They are doing what Mamma wants."
Welfare actually creates dependence on welfare. Addicts support their drug habits and become more dependent on drugs. Mothers have more children until it becomes impractical to support them by working. The time they could have spent getting schooling so they could get a good income working is wasted. A vicious cycle is created which makes it more and more difficult to get off of welfare.
There are times when we may find ourselves in a situation where we feel the need to console a friend, or advise a friend how to deal with problems in his personal life, or to persuade a friend to stop what we perceive to be a self destructive course of action. In these instances we may be playing the role of an amateur therapist. Sometimes but not always being a good listener who does not give advice is the best way to be supportive to a friend. If we want to advise a friend it's important to remember that our advice may be bad and that the person to whom we are giving the advice is likely to know a lot more about their situation than we do. There is a section about persuasion on this web site which might be of interest to those who wish to persuade others to change their actions but before we try and persuade others we should be sure that we're right.
The argument could be made that we should leave therapy to the professionals. On the other hand sometimes professionals are worse than amateurs, especially in the therapy business. A good experienced professional may be the best answer but often people who need them won't go see them.
Often, even if people should go to therapy they resist going. Many men feel that they should be able to handle their problems themselves. It's part of masculine pride. I think women are less likely to put that kind of the barrier in the way of getting help. Also people may be afraid of revealing their intimate problems to total strangers even if they are trained strangers. This is one of the main concerns of patients. There are laws prohibiting therapists from releasing confidential patient information except in cases of child abuse and communicable diseases which they are obligated to report. Part of the problem is that the information one gives ones therapists is recorded and can become available for others to see without the therapist breaking the law. Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez are two of the more prominent politicians whose psychiatric records circulated without their permission during election campaigns in the last decade. They were victims of a black market in which almost any patient's records can be bought for about $250, according to private investigators. That is how Arthur Ashe's AIDS diagnosis got out, and those of other celebrities as well.
c o p y r i g h t ( c ) 1999 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises. All rights reserved
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