Friday, June 24, 2016

The Argument from Design
A friend linked to this story today, gushing:
When I think of Love and Compassion... this is what i imagine. These are the good folks and the Christians who SHOULD be getting media time.
I'm not going to let Christians claim the copyright on helpfulness and compassion. They're universal human traits and practices.

In fact, now that I've read the story, I don't see a notable amount of "love and compassion" in it. The kid, a sixteen-year-old in Memphis, Tennessee, offered to help out in exchange for some food -- which is a perfectly legitimate thing for him to do. The man he offered to work for bought Chauncy a bunch of groceries and drove him home, where he got a look at the conditions he and his disabled mother were living in; that's a good thing, and fits "love and compassion."  He then started a crowdfund for them, which was nice, but it wasn't a gift: the idea was to buy him a lawnmower so he could mow lawns and earn money.  Again, perfectly legit, but not a shining example of love and compassion. I just looked at the GoFundMe page, which is up to more than $74,000 now. And that's very encouraging, and I wish Chauncy well.

Still, a loving and compassionate (not to mention cranky and tired) person might ask: why should any kid be living in poverty? Why should a sixteen-year-old have to support his family? (Yes, that often happens, but is it an ideal to strive and work for?) Does focusing on a story like this to make oneself feel good distract from all the other children and families and single adults who are living in poverty, thanks to an economic and political system that is meant to create large numbers of people at the bottom?  Or does it just make you feel different from all those Christians you disapprove of?

Just before I saw this post I was reading Richard Seymour's blog, and he had this to say about the mindset of those who believe in competition:
If competition is to be the law of all social life, if there are to be winners and losers, if we are to scorn and diminish losers, if we need an 'underclass', a lower-down onto whom to pile the humiliations that are visited on us - well, then, at least let Britain come first. And if we are going to be punished for all our minor transgressions during the boom, for having a little bit of debt, for not saving enough, for not buying enough, for not having a better job, for not working harder, then at least punish them more.
Remember, as a young, poor, black male, Chauncy is just an eye-blink away from being demonized as a superpredator by our respectable leaders and many of the nice older white people I know on Facebook.  It's easy to celebrate an exemplary, hard-working, straight-A student like Chauncy, but you shouldn't have to be a paragon to have a roof over your head or enough to eat.

Even worse, on the GoFundMe page the guy who started the page writes: "last week, by God's beautiful design, he met me." So, all the other kids in poverty who didn't luck out are going hungry "by God's beautiful design." (Remember, Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, so slather on that ointment, baby, for great is your reward in heaven.)

He goes on: "I've never felt so overwhelmed with compassion and faith and joy. I've never felt so good as this moment... What followed was perhaps one of the most cherished experiences of my life." See, it's all about him. And God. Chauncy is just a pawn in the game. Love and compassion? Not by my standards, but I'm an atheist. That's why I get all pissy when people talk about "karma" and "you're in my prayers and thoughts."  If Chauncy and his mother were poor and hungry, that was their karma; who are we mere mortals to judge the Universe?

I really should consider taking a sabbatical from Facebook; it's not good for me.  And it's all about me.