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Friday, April 12, 2013

Complexity’s Lament

If you were writing a lament for your city, what items might appear in the verses? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1188).

My country embodies a bifurcation of compassion based upon a sense of what is appropriate. On a face-to-face person-to-person basis Americans are one of the most compassionate people on earth. This is based upon a sense of what is appropriate for this level of intercourse. The other day my brother and I were riding down 34th street and noticed that someone had collapsed on the sidewalk. We parked and ran across the street. By the time we got there, people were already calling in to 911 and several people surrounded the person, one had their hand under the person’s head and was talking to the victim in an attempt to bring her out of unconsciousness. In such situations no one seems to question whether it is appropriate or not to express compassion or indeed how to express it.

Once this intimacy is lost, however, Americans tend to fear the exercise of compassion and see it as inappropriate and even dangerous as an influencer and determiner of public policy, finding it fraught with difficulties. Public policy, it is deemed, should not be based upon intimately sourced compassion, but upon individual responsibility and a desire to underwrite it rather than indulge in public largess. Here compassion, it is held, still exists; but in a different form—one appropriate for the occasion. This form holds that it uncompassionate for public policy to encourage inordinate dependency which can lead directly to abject subservience. Thus American politics is often conflicted as compassion is employed to encourage self-sufficiency—a stance that on the surface can appear contradictory due to short-term necessity vis-à-vis long-term objectives. An inordinate amount of debate regarding public policy centers on whether or not a certain policy is truly compassionate in the end-–whether it tends to build self-sufficiency or subservience--an action ending in independence and health or leading to a form of slavery.

My lament is that life is not simpler and more direct, more intimate and less complex and less fraught with unintended consequences, and much less ripe for rationalization.

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