Thursday, September 09, 2010

My Brother's Keeper - The Precarious Line Between Being A Protector And Becoming A Prison Guard

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My Brother's Keeper -- The Precarious Line Between Being A Protector and Becoming a Prison Guard

Dear Friends:

I have been told that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I remember being taught in elementary school that freedom is being "able to swing your arms as far and wide as you'd like, provided that you don't hit anybody else."

I was a kid in the 1960s, and I cried when I heard the song by the Hollies, "He Ain't Heavy -
He's My Brother." The sentiment, philosophically, in its purest form is beautiful -- if each of us, without exception, treated each other with respect, patience, acceptance...offering help, going out of our way to be giving and not looking for payment with interest, we would live in a utopia. We could truly be the proverbial global family.

Human Nature is such, however, that families constantly fight. When we say that we are offering help, we are too often actually seeking to control. It's a paradox -- like the notion of "protective custody." When we carry our own subjective idea of "protection" or "caring" too far, it invariably results in the deprivation of someone else's freedom.

I like the quaint notions of "live and let live," and "I have a right, if provoked, to protect myself by any means appropriate to meet the threat as I perceive it." I am willing to make my own decisions and live with the consequences; to take responsibility for my own actions, and let other people do the same. I don't want to be constrained by someone else's mandate or agenda, and I do not wish to impose my ideas or rules on anybody else.

Sadly, real freedom requires a great burden of self-sufficiency and responsibility. It requires that we sometimes intervene when others request us to intervene. And while we should be respectful of each other, one of us cannot truly set another free if it involves imposing our will upon them. You cannot spread freedom at the point of a sword or by an act of war.

I am empathetic, but I don't want to institutionalize every fellow Human I feel sorry for. I get very suspicious when someone wants to protect me from myself, or from others.

The bottom line: I believe that too many fearful people have come to equate protection or security with freedom .

The paradox: How can you protect me and keep me secure without depriving me of my freedom? Am I truly still free if I am living under your protection?

Freedom, to my mind, means protecting myself and not initiating hostilities against others. It does not involve living in a concrete bunker, or in a police state. It also does not preclude me from being empathetic or kind if I choose to be.

Here are some other notable quotes on the same subject:

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government. - Thomas Jefferson, Writings, 1743-1826

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of the people. - Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1802

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it. - Ronald Reagan, 1961

You know, there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us - the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this - when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers - it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help. - Barack Obama, Xavier University Commencement Speech, 2006

It is that fundamental belief, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. - Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention Speech, 2004 ... and LASTLY...

If I do not ask for your help, please do not be offended if I refuse your unsolicited offer of help. And if you insist, and you corner me, please do not be offended if I perceive your offer of "help," as a threat, and act accordingly. - Douglas Castle

Please give this some thought. It doesn't mean that we can't be friends, or that we can't collaborate and cooperate. It means that each of us is ultimately responsible for his or her own decisions and outcomes, and that we have a chance to kick ourselves for failing, or to rejoice in our success.


Douglas Castle

Labels, Tags and Key Words: freedom, control issues, defending rights, responsibility, cooperation does not entail coercion, Articles by Douglas Castle, TNNWC Group LLC,

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