Thursday, January 20, 2011

Listening to People's Conversations

I'm taking 18th Century Philosophy this semester, which means even if I don't partake in pre-class conversations, just listening is usually mentally stimulating to some degree. While in many cases I don't agree with people have to say, it will get me thinking about what I would say if I was a part of the conversation. I actually pretty sure I listen more attentively when I disagree with people; I just find it more interesting.

Today was no exception. I was sitting waiting for class to start and I heard a girl mention how she hates it when people say they don't have the ability, resources, or money to be able to do things like go to college, get a job, or anything like that. She claims she got to college and is doing everything that college entails, including the financial stuff, all by herself. I find it entirely unlikely that this is the case.  People are not these beings in vacuums that can just do whatever as long as they have enough willpower.  My guess is it's unlikely she is doing everything it takes to get through college by herself. She seemed to be around my age so it's probable she enrolled in college immediately after finishing high school, meaning she probably isn't paying for it out of her own pocket.  Even if she got loans, she had to have gotten a co-signer with good credit, be it her parents or whoever.  This means she had to have had a guardian who could have done so.  Not everyone has access to these sorts of things. Unless you're going to take less than 12 credits in a semester, college is going to cost you about $6000/year, which isn't cheap, much less affordable, to someone who has just finished high school. If you attend college, paying for it completely out of pocket, and take less than 12 credits per semester it's going to take you forever to graduate.  There's nothing wrong with taking your time getting through college, but I'm sure most people don't want to remain in college forever.

My guess is the reason she believes in this sort of "ultimate responsibility" for the situation in which you find yourself comes down to a couple of things. One, is this major American capitalist ideal that you can make anything you want of your future with enough hard work (the other is the idea of the "soul", but I'm not going to get in to that in this post because I don't think it's as major of a contributor as the other) and due to the fact that I live in a highly conservative area, someone having this attitude here is not a surprise.  Yes, I believe in personal responsibility, but I think the majority of people, at least in this country, disregard environment as a strong contributing factor to one's ability to "make their dreams a reality".  An analogy that I think is fitting is an leg amputee who really wants to play football.  Sure they may be able to keep themselves in shape, even without legs, but they could never make their dreams a reality without money, which would allow them to get legs that may make it able for them to play football.  This is something that is an imposition upon their will that is not up to them.  One's environment can do exactly the same thing.  This is why people in poor areas of America tend not to be as educated.  Kids who grow up in these areas end up working more hours at earlier ages than people who can afford to go to college and have a nice standard of living.  They can't spend the time in order to better themselves or go to college, because they have to spend their time helping to feed and house their family.  They can't just make themselves able to educate themselves, go to college, and free themselves from the burden of poverty, just like the amputee can just give themselves legs or the money to get new legs; it's the same type of imposition on their freedom.

This attitude of responsibility for not just actions, but for your entire situation/environment, is one of the main reasons why the conservative element of our society is so against entitlement programs like welfare, social security, and even progressive taxation and public education.  Now it's universal health care.  Sure, we have to have people be responsible for contributing to society but I think people acknowledge that they don't just make who they are out of nothing, and they certainly don't do it without any help.

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1 comment:

  1. "I agree. If you can guess who this is, you wouldn't be surprised why I agree. Humankind is formed through social learning, so our livelihood as human beings depends on other...well...human beings. It's odd that people would reject humanism for individualism. Humanism in itself contains both the qualities of individualism and socialism, because those are both aspects of human life.

    I think, however, that most of the people who oppose socialist programs do so because they feel simply robbed. It presents a sort of Robinhood imagery. (Is Robinhood a proto-communist? :O)
    Are they robbed, though? We could ask if the money they "possessed" truly belonged to them in the first place,but I really want to not go on a socialist tirade, so let's just assume that the money was, in principle, under their possession. Going off of that you could say they were robbed, but it's really sad to see it that way.

    There are people who do leech off of the system, I admit that. The whole idea of welfare is to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. So it really is a parasitic relationship. I'm not saying that leeching is a bad thing entirely, but it certainly can lead to a weaker society if the person being provided for remains in poverty permanently. Could this be prevented? I think so. This is where personal responsibility comes into the picture.

    We always have options, and we should always analyze those options. Do I take welfare or not? That's the first crossroad. Most people, I would think, if offered would say yes; so moving on. What can I do and what should I do with this money? Those questions I am really unable to answer because they are very dependent on the situation. Though, I've seen people purchase 3 20 liter Mountain Dews with their "allowance", which I think is really irresponsible, I can't generalize it to the point where I can say everyone is spending it on unneeded things.

    I think the main reason welfare fails to solve the problem is because it's really just a temporary solution for poverty. I can give them all the money they want; they can use it to help support themselves, but it's not pulling them out of their situation. So really welfare is in essence a supplementary treatment for poverty which is best used with educational programs and job services. (Universal Health Care system is probably more beneficial to a society than welfare is, since it is providing aid directly. That's a whole other story though.)
    Really, I'm not an expert in this area so it's difficult to know exactly what goes on, but this seems to be a decent enough model of social programs. "