Saturday, September 12, 2009
Milk of Human Kindness
No, not that kind of milk, you filthy-minded louts.
I'm talking about charity and its cousin, compassion.
Much as I can be a right-royal asshole, I can just as easily be a bleeding-heart teddy bear. Mental, but Mentos. Hard on the outside, chewy on the inside.
I had always been a selfish child, but children by their nature are selfish. Sharing is a concept that is taught and, hopefully, learned.
For what it's worth, over the years I have been blessed with the kindness of strangers. The guidance of mentors, the generosity of my betters. And somewhere along the way the importance of "doing the right thing" was imprinted upon me.
"Noblesse oblige" comes to mind. As Wiki defines it :
"Noblesse oblige" is generally used to imply that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities. The phrase is sometimes used derisively, in the sense of condescending or hypocritical social responsibility. In American English especially, the term has also been applied more broadly to those who are capable of simple acts to help another, usually one who is less fortunate.
In ethical discussion, it is sometimes used to summarize a moral economy wherein privilege must be balanced by duty towards those who lack such privilege or who cannot perform such duty. Finally, it has been used recently primarily to refer to public responsibilities of the rich, famous and powerful, notably to provide good examples of behaviour or to exceed minimal standards of decency.
In short, to whom much has been given, much is also expected.
Ah, expectations. Great expectations.
Being neither rich, famous, nor powerful - much less from any noble lineage - this should be the least of my concerns. So perhaps it is a variation of the infamous "liberal guilt"*that is at work here. But whatever it is, I cannot help but be moved by the plight of others, and usually - though by no means always - when I am in a position to help, I do so. Not out of any Christian piety nor self-righteousness, but simply because it is the right thing to do. The same way spitting on a politician is the right and decent thing to do. But I digress.
Nothing ever comes free in this world, however. Not even charity. People do expect things in return for their generosity.
I, for instance, expect some measure of gratitude. Not groveling. Gratitude. A simple "Thank you" would do.
I also expect not to be lied to, and I expect people not to abuse my kindness.
Expectation, as we know, is the mother of disappointment.
Common sense should dictate when enough is enough. The caveat about charity, however, is that there is never enough. It is a bottomless pit of needs and wants. It is Oliver Twist holding out his soup bowl and pleading "Please, sir, can I have some more?"
Compassion, alas, can grow thin. And so can charity.
I have no Messianic Complex and harbor no illusions about saving the world. After all, "God helps those who help themselves." Well, I am obviously not God, and people do tend to help themselves - to other people's kindnesses.
I've shunned people whom I've helped in the past when it became clear that they were either not doing anything to improve their situation or were simply content to coast along on free rides. I feel no guilt over that - I'm not Mother Teresa. And I'm sure even she would've browbeaten a beggar or two if she found out they were just taking her for a ride.
I know that if you teach a man to fish , you feed him for life. What's riling me at the moment is the time it's taking for certain people to learn something other than baiting their hooks.
Whenever we open our hearts, we open ourselves to abuse. It's been said that you must give until it hurts. In my case, it's not so much that it hurts, as much as it irks. In my giving, something's gotta give.
What is it again that we pave the road to hell with?
I'm just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh, Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.
*Liberal guilt is a perfectly natural phenomenon exclusive to homosexuals and Grungefags by which people feel guilty for being born and/or raised in more culturally, economically , socially or genetically favorable circumstances. Basically, it's taking for granted that being a white, wealthy, healthy, straight man makes you more lucky than everybody else, and therefore that you should feel guilty for existing, since it is common knowledge that you are responsible for people's shit when they are less lucky than you. Therefore, people affected by liberal guilt are responsible for the problems of the entire universe. From Encyclopedia Dramatica