“The common good will not be attained by excluding people. We can’t enrich the common good of our country by driving out those we don’t care for. We have to try to bring out all that is good in each person and try to develop an atmosphere of trust, not with physical force, as though dealing with irrational beings, but with a moral force that draws out the good that is in everyone, especially in concerned young people.”—Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love
“Take a walk through any big city. Do you see anything that needs improvement? There are huge amounts of work to be done, and lots of idle hands. People would be delighted to do the work, but the economic system is such a catastrophe it can't put them to work. The country's awash in capital. Corporations have so much money they don't know what to do with it - it's coming out of their ears. There's no scarcity in funds - these aren't "lean and mean" times. That's just a fraud.”—
Noam Chomsky in an interview with David Barsamian. From the book The Common Good.
One thing I would add to this: Not only would idle hands be delighted to do the work, but also the countless people performing useless operations that just keep the wheel of profit turning; all the while there are tons of things that need to be done, and are much more fulfilling to perform.
Last night I sat in my room watching live streaming video of the OccupyBoston movement at the Kennedy Greenway. Why I was sitting in my room and not standing in solidarity at the Greenway is a separate issue; however, the coverage on live stream, Twitter, and Facebook sparked thoughts and energy in my mind.
I have written in the past on my ideas of dissipating national unity in my home state of Kansas. Now, I want to comment on that idea as a larger issue that I see as a nationwide problem.
Last night while watching this coverage I was chatting with a friend who is a self-proclaimed Socialist. When I met this friend a little over a year ago he explained how he was known in his high school for these Socialist ideas. At that time I sensed the desire and enthusiasm for social change in America. Last night, what I sensed was a total loss of hope for change. Instead, my friend admitted that, although he wished it wasn’t so, he had to buy into the existing system. He used language such as “for my success I need to do this.”
That is when it hit me. American’s often use language such as “I, my, mine.” And that language is what will lead to the failure of our nation. It takes away from our collective identity as Americans and instead focuses solely on individual success.
For our success as a united nation, ideas such as “we, us, and ours” seem more fitting. Together, we must turn to civic engagement to determine our collective common good. We are a nation full of farmers, businessmen, musicians, teachers … achievers, believers, humanitarians, pragmatists, and innovators — yes, each an individual, but each also capable of making this nation something exceptional if we work together for our collective success.
It is all very complex, but at the end of the day we are all humans. We are real people with friends, families, and neighbors. And, I believe in us.
“The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kinds of social relations we seek, what relations to nature we cherish, what style of life we desire, what aesthetic values we hold. The right to the city, therefore, far more than a right of individual or group access to the resources that the city embodies: it is a right to change and reinvent the city more after our hearts' desire. It is, moreover, a collective rather than an individual right, since reinventing the city inevitable depends upon the exercise of a collective power over the processes of urbanisation. The freedom to make and remake ourselves and our cities is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.”—David Harvey, “Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution”, p.4
“The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe's 'conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action'; in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one's individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter. Action is for mass salvation and not for the individual's personal salvation. He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of 'personal salvation'; he doesn't care enough for people to be 'corrupted' for them.”—
Saul D. Alinsky
I guess he’s seeing it as selfish. But if you can never act in accordance with your conscience, then what’s the use of having one in the first place? And if you don’t have an active conscience…who the hell are you? And why are your conscience and the mass salvation so far removed from each other in the first place?
“Solidarity… is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and each individual, because we are all really responsible for all…”—On Social Concern
Property Taxes To Schools: Who Needs Them?
“You know what bothered me?” a friend asked. She went on to declare, “It bothered me that I some of my property taxes went to funding the local school district! Why did I have to pay school taxes when I didn’t even have children in school?”
I (usually) don’t like to set up straw men when constructing an argument, so despite being aghast that she would ask such a question, I was in a way glad that she, a real person, held the issue as a real grievance. Addressing this question of school taxes could fill up a volume, but being the concise writer that I am, I’ll do it in just a few paragraphs.
Most people (if not all) dislike taxes, but enough of us recognize taxes to be a necessary evil; if people who don’t like to pay them know that they must for at least a few reasons. For one, if you don’t, the central power (i.e, the government) will seek to prosecute you for tax evasion. Everybody who is able to pay taxes must; it’s not an option: it’s the law.
Another reason that people pay taxes, however begrudgingly, is that taxes are instituted to serve the common good. Despite the informal appraisals of some individuals who have lost faith in humanity, people are generally altruistic, social creatures, not dastardly misanthropes. And despite the consensus that government is necessarily evil, governments do serve the governed, at least ostensibly. We call the institutions and structures that this public money goes towards public works.
The third, and perhaps most important reason people pay taxes, is because individuals themselves benefit from doing so. This is tied in with the second point (in the above paragraph). An individual pays taxes, and the taxes go towards building roads, social welfare programs, schools, etc. The individual tax payer uses such public works, so he benefits directly, and being the social animal that he is, he benefits by others’ benefiting. That’s kind of how civilizations work; people help each other out, even if they do so indirectly by pursuing their own apparently selfish interests.
I’ve established that people must pay taxes, as they’ve done for about as long civilizations have existed. Why, then, must people pay taxes from which revenue goes towards public schools? Historically, Americans have had a high valuation of an educated citizenry. Education, we tend to believe, is virtuous for various reasons. Two examples among many that maybe pointed out is that education is correlated with technologies and knowledge that have economic benefits and lead to upward social mobility, and an educated population is presumed to be more informed and interested in participating in democratic processes.
Furthermore, schools serve two apparently paradoxical functions: They get students to think in much the same way as their peers and other community members, preserving a common culture, while simultaneously encouraging independent thinking.
By 1918, every state had instituted compulsory education. Some time later, to ensure (supposedly) high educational standards, accrediting agents were recognized by the Department of Education, with most of the schools being publicly funded. Public schools have to be paid for somehow, so, at least in Iowa, funding comes from property taxes which you must pay if you own property in a school district, even if you have no children in the school district.
Just because the government makes you pay school taxes, that doesn’t mean you ought to. So why should you? I hinted at this above, but you don’t want to be surrounded by ignorant folks, do you? You don’t want the economy to stagnate, do you? You don’t want to spend all your time arguing with idiots, do you? You want to benefit from the achievements of science, don’t you? I could go on and on, but you get the point, don’t you? You should if you received a quality education. Even if you don’t have kids who are being educated at the local school, you benefit from living in an educated community.
Metaphors for statism.
So in season 1, episode 11 of Supernatural, the girl’s like, “Why are you doing this?” and the woman who’s sacrificing them to this demon thing is like, “It’s for the common good.”
EDIT: I’m not claiming that’s the intentional message or anything and I don’t look for antistatism messaging everywhere, but I always love some good ol’ rhetoric.