The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


You had a hard week at work.  Everything that could go wrong did and at the worst possible moment.  But that’s done with and you’re driving home, looking forward to spending a pleasant weekend with your family.

A few miles from your home the traffic turns into a jam.  You think to yourself, “Well, that’s kind of typical of the way this week went.”  And then you see the reason for the stall.  There is a dark cloud of smoke ahead – and it’s coming from the neighborhood where your home is located.

“Oh please, God –  please don’t let that be my house that’s on fire,” you exclaim out loud.

Your anxiety builds as the traffic crawls forward in the thirty minutes it takes to move one half way to the billowing smoke.  Even with the air conditioner running at full throttle you can feel the perspiration dripping down the side of your body from your underarms.  In the distance you can see the fire equipment which has been deployed to combat the blaze.

Another half hour passes.  The police and a fireman are directing traffic on the street that feeds into your street.  At that point you breathe a sigh of relief because you can see that the source of the fire is a house that is two blocks away from yours.  Perhaps the week didn’t turn out as badly as it might have.

Most of us who found ourselves in this situation would probably, almost involuntarily, react the same way.  “Oh please, God – please don’t let that be my house that’s on fire.”  But what are we really saying in making that plea?  Simply that we are perfectly content for this tragedy to have befallen one of our friends or neighbors – just as long as we remain unscathed by it.

We have asserted our moral superiority to prosper at the expense of someone else who is not as fortunate, gifted or entitled as we are.  We have passed judgment that our interests are more important than the interests of others.

After the  tragedy of this event we might find it in our hearts to make a small donation to the family who’s lives were affected or perhaps put together a bag of canned goods for them to eat.  And in these ways we assuage our consciences and tell ourselves that we really are “good people.”

I offer this lesson in “situation ethics” as a prelude to a discussion about which there has been much and will be more conversation.  That topic is outsourcing jobs.

As I see it, there are three categories of people who are involved in this conversation.

The first are those people who really don’t want to make the effort to get a job and find this a convenient excuse for their own idleness.  As far as I am concerned, they are a part of the problem and in no way contribute to a solution.

The second are those people who have a job and are breathing a sigh of relief that their employment does not appear to be in jeopardy.  They may have a view on outsourcing and indeed be empathetic to a co-worker who’s position was outsourced – but in their hearts they’re saying, “Oh thank you, God for letting me keep my position.”

The third are those people who are actively seeking work but cannot find it.  They are bitter that a potential job has been shipped overseas.  We hear a lot of this from OWS.  They also have made the moral judgment that they have a greater right to life and prosperity than some other worker who happens to live in another country.

Now the facts are that many of these outsourced positions are low-level and low-paying.  A large contingent of OWS protestors are frustrated people who are college educated and are unable to find work using their degrees.  I suspect that none of them spent four years in college so that they could get a minimum wage job working in a fast food restaurant or in a customer service call center.

In fact, I doubt that if offered that kind of position so that they could support themselves until things got better they would even consider accepting it.  I say this based on several conversations I have had with OWS members.  The people with whom I spoke considered that type of work as being “beneath them.”  Personally, if I were in their position, I would humbly accept the work and be grateful for it while I continued to look for something better.

So is outsourcing immoral?  Let me introduce a fourth group that carries the most weight in this discussion.  That group consists of our President and the Congress.  You see, if they had the sense to understand the nature of the recession and to work proactively at fixing it – rather than spending two years going off on tangents and bickering, we might not be having this discussion at all.

As bad as the June Jobs Report was with an overall unemployment rate continuing at 8.2%, things got worse for the very people whom President Obama counts as his core constituency – blacks and Latinos.  The rate of unemployment for blacks increased to 13.6% from 13.0% and for Latinos to 11.0% from 10.3%.

It is truly difficult for me to understand how these unemployed minorities can support a man who has done so very little to assist them – and, in fact, who has by omission,  done so much to prevent them from entering the work force.

This fourth group, our politicians needs to tend to their knitting – rather than trying to blind each other with their knitting needles.  They need to be honest with themselves and with us – and if they are incapable of that, they need to be replaced with thoughtful people who will work toward finding solutions.  The blame game is not only not productive – it is counter-productive.

We have seen what happens when a people learn to distrust their politicians’ ability or willingness to address problems in a serious manner.  That life study comes to us from a country called Greece.  We saw the fires that raged in the streets of Athens – and those streets are only a few thousand miles and a couple of years away.

If we don’t take the responsibility to elect people of quality and vision this November I predict that it won’t be long before we’re all saying, “Oh my God, our country’s on fire.”

Comments on: "THE FIRE" (18)

  1. Superbly analysed, nothing to add.

    except this which was attached to an e-mail.

    “A final thought -“ Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC.”

  2. Reblogged this on A Heapin' Plate of Conservative Politics & Religion and commented:
    Good thoughts on outsourcing.

  3. Good piece. Just wanted to remind folks that usually the kind of outsourcing we decry is maybe better described as off-shoring. There is a tremendous amount of outsourcing taking place right here in the U.S., But, of course, the difference is that at least the outsourced jobs STAY in the U.S. And we actually WANT the government to outsource (if not eliminate) many of its functions (schools, prisons, road maintenance, utilities, etc., etc.) in order to increase competition and quality, and decrease price. There is nothing inherently, or universally, bad about outsourcing.

    • You are quite correct in your description. I would be willing to bet that as recently as a year ago, the vast majority of Americans had never heard the term – or if they had didn’t know what it meant. But it has become a focal point in a negative campaign run by an individual who cannot run on his own record and must discredit his opponent. I will have more to say on this subject (as you might have guessed) shortly.

      Thanks for taking your time to comment.

  4. Some good questions raised here. We do try to manipulate God to give us what we want at the expense of others don’t we? Fortunately He’s a wake up to our manipulations. He’s interested in everybody not a select few and would like us to change our perspectives.

    • Remembering the phrase that, “God is no respecter of persons,” makes that ploy seem somewhat ludicrous.

      My main thrust is that we are often philosophical and espouse noble things – until we realize that we may be adversely afffected by our concepts. And then we make an immediate about turn.

  5. I’d just like to play devil’s advocate on the analogy for a second here. The judgment on our hypothetical person (let’s call him Mr. X) hoping his house isn’t on fire as being guilty of some ethical failing seems unfair. Let’s think about the situation more deeply. There’s already a fire. I’m sure Mr. X didn’t wish a fire on anybody — but the reality is it’s there. What’s the alternative to hoping it’s someone else’s house? Hoping that it’s HIS house — that his own loved ones have been stricken by this disaster? Now there’s an ethical failing! Of COURSE the natural reaction is to hope that it isn’t your own house.

    Additionally, I don’t see that there’s any incompatibility between simultaneously hoping it’s not your house, and having sympathy for whomever has been stricken by the fire. Honestly, hoping for the safety of your loved ones while also being committed to helping whichever neighbor (if you’re lucky and it’s not you) had their house burn down seems to me like about the most ethical reaction you could have.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      The original of the ethics of this situation was posed by and has been debated by Rabbinical scholars for millenia.

      Your points about Mr. X’s not wanting his family to be at risk are certainly valid and germaine. However, that implies that the family who’s house is on fire is also at risk. This is a pardox – and as we know, paradoxes generally offer us two equally undesirable outcomes.

      When push comes to shove, most of us would choose that misfortune happen to someone else rather than us. That’s what the Rabbis thought – and I would suggest that the empirical evidence supporting their argument is pretty strong.

      Again, thank you for taking your time to analyze this and respond.

      • tsedednt1 said:

        Still, J expresses my own thoughts well. It is a natural reaction to wish safety upon your own. To me, this is not the same as wishing ill upon your neighbor. And several shades of gray apply. For example, suppose your family owns acreage, upon which you, your son’s family, your daughter’s family, and your parents all have homes. It appears certain that the observed fire is coming from this land. What is your instinctive prayer at that moment? That YOUR home is not on fire? I’m thinking maybe not. Then you start stepping away from blood relatives — suppose all the homes in the area belonged to intimate friends. What would our instinctive prayer be then? And on and on, until you get to the example where you hate all your neighbors — at that point, we are probably praying that the fire is burning at the home of the most hated (a bit of tongue-in-cheek kere). I can see why the Rabbis would have fun with this..

      • Thank you for taking your time to comment. I appreciate that.

        You are, of course, correct that we look to our own self-interest first and to that of others secondarily (if at alll). As I said, virtually all of us would have had the same reaction.

        Perhaps the crux of the problem is found in the parenthetical statement (if at all). A quick example is that after a crime has been committed it is so difficult for the police to get witnesses to come forward and testify. They weren’t personally affected by the event and they don’t want to be affected by it either by taking the time to tell what they saw – or perhaps because they might be endangering themselves in making a statement. These people are not actively displaying any ill-will toward the victim. But then neither are they doing anything positive for him.

        Silence can imply consent. Consider the attrocities that occured in Stalinist Russia and in the Third Reich because so many sat by silently as others were persecuted. We could add Laos and countless other countries to that ever-growing list. If we are unmindful of others (I like to term it self-absorbed) we need to realize that while we may, for the moment maintain a sense of relative safety, it is quite possible that we may be next on the list.

        And I am sure that the Rabbis have had hours of discussion on this matter – as we all should.

  6. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  7. Don’t know much, but doubt outsourcing is a moral issue at all. Reducing cost of product is basic economics in a competitive world. Economies exposed to each other equalize costs as the world is seeing. Having been at the high end of costs when the equalization started, we don’t like it. Aw, shucks! We need to learn to compete again…

    Hiding behind politicians, expecting them to somehow shield us from reality, is a mug’s game that reaps what it sows: politicians’ promises. Elect the King promising to hold back the tide; he’ll save us! Yeah, right!

    Agreed we’d best dump the scrofulous shysters we’ve put in charge…don’t see any qualified, willing adults available for election though…

    • Thank you for taking your time to read this post and to comment on it.

      I suspect that outsourcing is a rallying cry intended to divert our attention from the real issues. Just another bit of political prestidigitation and sadly the uninformed and mis-informed are eager to buy into it.

      Yes, American businesses need to stand up and be counted because I believe that we have the innovative abilities to regain our footing once again on the global stage. However, a little bit of encouragement, combined with intelligent legislation and regulation, would go a long way to achieving that end.

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