Kind To Be Cruel

So, part of the issue with closing off Noah’s Boy is that, as you guys know if you read the second book Gentleman Takes A Chance, I have to deal with issues of kindness and lack of kindness, and when it’s right and just to be soft, and when being soft might cause more problems than being harsh.

Tom, my main characters (with his gf Kyrie) is, for reasons that will become obvious in the third book, sort of a “natural and universal daddy.”  He’s always trying to help people and be nice to them in the second book.  The big issue, of course, is that he doesn’t get the other side of the father thing: being firm and being a protector… until the third book.

In the second book and at the beginning of the third, Tom is having issues with this, and Kyrie has to be the “heavy” – who prevents his charitable impulses from biting them in the fleshy part of the behind.

This is something that took me forever to learn, and something that is, by and large, not taught in our schools.  You are taught it is good and kind to help everyone, and that you shouldn’t judge those who come in search of help, and that you should give to all regardless of deserts.  In fact the whole point of governmental charity (known as redistribution.  We’re not talking here about short and self-funded safety net, but extended, long term help) is that because we all “belong to the government” as they kept saying at the Democratic convention, no one needs feel bad about asking it for largesse.

The problem of that kind of impersonal largesse – or what I would call the dopy largesse that “we must not judge and we must give to all, and if they’re worse off than you they ‘deserve’ it” – is that it often does more harm than good.

We won’t go into how it harms those who might need a lot less help, but for whom there are no resources left.  That’s been covered in another post.

Instead, let’s talk about how it harms the “victims” of largesse.

Somewhere in my archives I have an article about Africa in which an African pleaded with the West to stop helping Africa.  His point was that when a man with a physics degree can make better money driving some international charity mukety muck around, then Africa is not going to develop its native talent or stand on its own two feet.  (And that’s before considering the fact that much of the money sent to Africa end up in the hands of war lords and despots, thereby not allowing Africa to develop a bottom-up political system.)  I’m not sure I agree 100 percent, but I do agree most of the aid is counterproductive or worse, and it should be targeted at things like children, pure drinking water, and such.  (And even that will cause distortions.)

Also somewhere in the archives is the story of when my youth group decided to help a poor family in the village. They lived in a horrible place, had a lot of children, and well, we wanted to help.  So we collected a bunch of money and gave it to the father…

Only to be told by my mother that the adults in the village had been feeding the kids and giving the kids stuff forever, but tried not to give anything to the parents, because it all went to drink, and then the kids got beaten and were worse off.  In fact, when feeding the kids you had to do it at your place.  If you sent them back with groceries, the mom sold it for drink money.  Ditto with clothes you gave the kids, which is why they went about in dirty rags.

Then there is the soup kitchen downtown in my city, which has such great and no questions asked services that bus-fulls of “homeless” come from Denver for them.

We’ll forget for a moment that it’s destroying downtown business (in cheerful collaboration with the city-council’s ridiculous parking policies.) because it’s really hard to run a bookstore – one of the businesses that closed – when vagrants come in and pee on the floor, or the books, while your patrons are browsing.  Instead, let’s talk about my walking past a group of these and hearing a relatively young woman – around my kids’ age – say she could back to her parents, but they’d make her go to school and stop doing drugs, and why should she?  She can get food, clothing and medical care at the soup kitchen, and she is “free” and no one can tell her what to do.

Looking at the wrecks of older derelicts around her, I couldn’t help but think that the “cruel” solution of making her go home and submit to rules she hates would be kinder to her in twenty years if she lives that long.

Cruel to be kind.  Kind to be cruel.  For a while now, the rule of thumb of my charitable giving has been “First do no harm.” We still give a lot, but most of it isn’t even deductible because it’s to people we know well who’ve hit a rough spot.  For the “impersonal” charity I tend to go with the same things that we spend our money on: stuff that privileges the education of the young and the ability of families to earn a living.  Or, occasionally, charities that help those who genuinely can’t help themselves.

Well, in this book (and for the next few) Tom has to learn to be a protector, which means occasional violence, but not unreasoning, not untargeted.  Showing him learning that without turning into a “bad” guy is difficult and has to be very carefully negotiated.

I’m working on it.

And our whole society needs to work on it too, because kindness and giving without controls only encourages the vices that bring about destitution and need in the first place.

This being Wednesday, there’s a different post over at Mad Genius Club.

152 thoughts on “Kind To Be Cruel

  1. ah, but they *mean* well. And as long as they have good intentions, what actually happens isn’t really their fault, is it? Same mindset that places equality of results over equality of opportunity – they’ve a blind spot when it comes to how human nature actually works, and as a result, everything they try to do fails, whether it’s helping that guy on the street, or creating a communist utopia. But hey, they meant well. It just wasn’t done right. *Next* time, it’ll work. Honest…

  2. Food aid to Africa, Haiti and other dysfunctional states has been demonstrated to be destructive of native economies. Local farmers have their earnings undermined by all of the free food and are unable to cover their costs. There was a book about it, and several articles (IIRC) at Forbes a few years ago. [SEARCHENGINE] Stop Helping Africa and you will find such things as this AEI article:

    Africans to Bono: ‘For God’s sake please stop!’
    [SNIP] Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a World Bank economist, returned to her native Ethiopia to start a commodities exchange to prevent future famines. Daniel Annerose invented software in Senegal that allows farmers to track market prices via SMS text messaging. Alieu Conteh built the first cellular network in the Congo, Florence Seriki, Nigeria’s first computer manufacturing company.

    Their are effective ways to provide real assistance to such countries, but they typically involve significant personal involvement and thus are not as amenable to drive-by charitable giving. They also involve establishment of the fundamental elements of Free Market capitalism, such as property rights, markets and the like, so of course the UN ain’t doin’ a thang to help that.

    1. But if we fixed their actual problems or let them fix their own, we wouldn’t have them any more to exploit to make ourselves feel good.

    2. Remember those cops that were killed in a coffee shop before their shift? The place is called BlueSteele Coffee Company, now, and when they were getting their new supply lines they hooked up with a couple that do a helpful version of that “fair trade” thing. They do loops of all their suppliers and teach them to apply western farming techniques. Like crop rotation, and setting up the place so that one pest won’t wipe out the entire harvest. Basically what my dad has been wishing he could do since I was a kid! (Plus, their counter ‘girls’ are all delights who actually are interested in this stuff, and willing to chat with the drive-through customers. And they tease my babies. The former cop that owns the place does good hiring.)

  3. I just recently read Machiavelli on my Kindle and he is not the monster he is made out to be. His main thrust was the unanticipated consequences of policies by the state and that years of governance and diplomacy were in place and could now predict the shortcomings.

    His maxim Evil will come from Good and Good from Evil should be the starting point of anyone wanting to think through public policy.

  4. It makes me grind my teeth when I hear one of the justifications for the Government taking over the role of charity being, “These private charities make people feel bad for taking their handouts, and that’s wrong. We want government to do it so people don’t have to feel bad about it.”

    Feeling bad about it is a feature, not a bug. It gives people incentive to do something for themselves.

  5. An acquaintance of mine is the descendent of missionaries (grew up mostly stateside) and was urged to come back to the mission station because of her family connection. Several government people in [country] also asked her to come back as an advisor to their government. She duly applied with her church’s mission board for the position and came to me for a recommendation. I told the mission board that she was a faithful believer, that she was a hard worker, and that she’d be run over like a turtle on the interstate because she was (and is) so well meaning and kind. For whatever reason, she did not get the position. She’s not stupid but she really believes that all will be well and that you shouldn’t judge people.

    1. I tried to think that way for years, in spite of a niggling feeling that there was something wrong with it. But it was what I was taught in school, and Sunday school, and what seemed to be the way a lot of people around me thought, and what I read in magazines and saw on TV and, well, I grew up during the 60’s and 70’s. Be nice (especially since you are a girl) to everybody and they will be nice to you, don’t judge because you can’t know and perhaps that person has a perfect excuse to act like that (like bullies probably have horrid home lives and all they need are friends and so on), and give. So I tried, even if it didn’t always seem to work all that well.

      One result has been that I have never quite learned how to handle confrontations – I try to discuss and be reasonable but I don’t know how to do that in a way even resembling forceful and so let most people walk all over me, until I perhaps get angry enough to go full berserk (which I haven’t done more than a couple of times in my life because I usually leave the situation well before that – screaming incoherently, throwing things and possibly punching somebody or trying to strangle them rarely wins an argument, at least not when you are the one who starts doing it first, and I can get angry enough to scare myself too which isn’t a good feeling). I didn’t get bullied in school, much, not by other kids anyway, presumably because most of the few times I have hit people happened when I was young, but in adult world that tends to be frowned upon even more (back then I managed to do those without adult witnesses, and I guess the kids who had teased me were a bit embarrassed… so no problems with adults then, but I still felt pretty damn bad afterwards because it was BAD BEHAVIOR and nice girls weren’t supposed to act like that).

  6. I was already hardened from the cry “it’s for the children” at a young age because I have a father who gave everything away and I have a sister who would beg money from her sisters and brothers so that she could “feed” her booming five. After I realized that when I gave her money it went to her “travel” expenses and not for food and clothing, I began to say no. The last time we fought about it, I told her that if she felt I was responsible for her children that we would go to court and she would give them to me. It was the last time she asked me for money.

    It was at that time that I resolved not to give money away free. I will give money to a busker or to someone who is doing something (say in SA the street kids would watch my car so I would give them 50 cents), but beggars? I don’t give them money.

    Plus my father was a giver to everyone but his family. He was very charitable so charitable that we went hungry while he fed others. I am still against giving away anything for free. I guess because much of the responsibility to feed and clothe the family fell on my shoulders (oldest child.) When I finally started working, my parents considered the money I made as their money. When I finally left– my mother had to get a job. So I am cruel because I am tired of the kindness that is causing a dysfunctional society. If you can’t afford it, then don’t buy it. If you don’t want to play by their rules, then make dang sure you can support yourself.

    Sorry for the rant– this is another of one of my hot buttons.

    1. This is, in a way, the counterpart of the “Drunk Uncle At The Wedding” problem: a problem is recognized and addressed, but nobody wants to take on the hard challenge of addressing it effectively. Thus, rather than exercise judgment and discernment, ensuring that the efforts to help do no harm, people will give “unconditionally.” Among other things, this enables scammers, people willing to exploit the charitable rather than engage in productive activity.

      It is why parks and the like have up signs telling people to not feed the animals; it breeds dependency and discourages acquiring the skill sets necessary for independent survival. It also leads to bears climbing into your car.

      1. Feeding the cute animals can also lead to the bubonic plague, depending on where you are. There’s a cosmic lesson in that somewhere, I think.

  7. Agree with everything.

    One of the things I hate most about being sensible, fact-driven person is that these so-called well-meaning people force me to be the mean one, the one who says No.

    1. I had someone try to get me to sign a petition to add another .025 percent tax to our sales tax “for the children.” When the guy asked me why I said no, I gave him my reasons. “I can’t persuade you?” he asked me. I said no. One of my reasons is that there was no oversight to make sure that the schools used the money as promised. We were just giving them money “for the children.” What the heck was that. Unfortunately I was probably the only one who said no because it went to a vote and was voted in.

      1. There is ample analysis showing that when funds (such as lottery proceeds) become devoted “to the schools” the rise in funding for the schools from the dedicated source is quickly offset by reduction of support from the General Fund. Money is fungible, and there is no group prone to having fun with it than politicians and bureaucrats.

        1. Which then makes it harder for the schools to raise money by taxes, bonds, etc, because people then say “But you have all that lottery/Riverboat gambling money . . .” (Missouri has riverboat gambling, a riverboat being defined as a building with a moat around it.)

          On Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 12:29 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > ** > RES commented: “There is ample analysis showing that when funds (such > as lottery proceeds) become devoted “to the schools” the rise in funding > for the schools from the dedicated source is quickly offset by reduction of > support from the General Fund. Money is fungible, a” >

      2. I would have said “No” as well, but another part of this comment brought up one of my pet peeves. The “oversight to make sure it’s used as promised”. That sounds all well and good, but one of the problems plaguing schools today (besides the curriculum) is that schools have no discretion on how to use the money they receive. It’s all earmarked to specific purposes, so that if they need money in one area, they can’t take money from somewhere that they have more than they need to fill in the gap.

        1. Well– unfortunately for our honorable system, but we have folks here (and in other places) who put that lovely money into their personal pockets. That is why I advocate making schools and community type activities under the thumb of the small communities instead of the FEDS. I think that those small communities should be the ones hiring and firing those teachers and checking those buildings and checking the curriculum. –that is where the oversight should be coming from instead of another person hired to handle the money and put it in their pocket too. So we might be in agreement Wayne. 😉

          1. I hadn’t even considered the theft (or whatever the legal term is) issue, but it probably happens around here, too. What I was thinking about, though, is things like a local high school being built to such a fancy high standard (just as one example: an arched hallway, instead of flat, functioning also as a balcony overlooking the cafeteria, which is atrium-like, taking up two floors of open space, and a 20-foot high outside wall made of glass), that I’m afraid to even think of how much it cost, while the district complains about the cost of books.

            1. We have that two– plus the first– and then the teachers are being paid 1/3 more than the normal salary of a normal worker… And then the buildings that were not up to code are torn down– then and then… there are so many things wrong with the school system– that I can’t remember then all–

              1. Oh I haven’t gotten to the school curriculum or that more students leave school around sixteen or seventeen than other States. Or that they can barely read and write even when they graduate– ugh

              2. “And then the buildings that were not up to code are torn down– ”

                Hey that’s not all bad, all my dogs have nice new houses built out of plywood salvaged from a torn down school. It was the old high quality, waterproof, flooring plywood that you just can’t get anymore. I also have a bunch of shop cabinets built out of it, better quality than anything I can find in the stores now days.

                  1. We had a friend who got her license as a building inspector for home buyers. She told us that she inspected houses built in Winston-Salem, NC circa 1910 and discovered they had tongue & groove subflooring.

                    There is also the matter that the quality of wood that was once available for framing and joists — long, straight* and strong — is no longer available for construction. In many cases they are using wood that hasn’t been fully cured and tends to warp once in place in the structure.

                    *N.B., this is not an opinion regarding the sexual orientation of the studs. Just so we’re clear.

                    1. My dad would say that tongue & groove subflooring was normal.

                      Then again, he’ll be 90 in March.

                    2. To quote a song popular in my youth: Little boxes made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

                      To be fair, during the post-WWII era there was a terrible housing shortage, and Abraham Levitt figured out how to take logistics and mass construction techniques developed by the military and apply them to home construction. So many residents of Levittown made various alterations, customizing their houses, that there has been a real effort by historical preservationists to find one unaltered.

                    3. Well, my dad is talking in Portugal, and what he refers to is the WALLS materials.

                      When he had the house built — took us three years, I think and gave mom several heart attacks — he insisted on having the EXTERIOR walls made of granite, three feet deep, because… because castle were. He allowed mom to have the interior walls made of brick. But he stalked salvage auctions, so the window and door sills are mahogany of a type that was extinct (I think.)

                      He’s the most amiable man in the world. Until he gets something in his mind…

                    4. To quote a song popular in my youth: Little boxes made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

                      Oh, gad, I had the misfortune to be around my grandmother when that line came up!

                      She grew up being fortunate enough to sleep in the barn, with her sisters– there simply wasn’t room in the little cabin their parents lived in. (In spite of being quite well off– they got that way because money went to improving the sheep operation.)

                      A lot of the kids she grew up did not have that luxury. Some of them lived in “traditional” Pit river Indian housing, which I’m sure was miserable in the winter. Most lived in sheep camp type shacks.

                      What’s that old line on mechanization? Automating silk stockings manufacturing didn’t mean that queens had more of them, it meant shop girls could afford them. Sure, the machine made stuff aren’t quite as nice as the handmade, but you can have them.

                      I can’t quite remember how she managed to be utterly scathing, but I definitely got the point that the scorn of “little houses made of ticky-tack” was a sign that the author was a spoiled, ignorant brat, not that there was a moral failing to making houses that anybody could afford that were actually livable.

                    5. LOL – the author of that song was Pete Seeger, venerated folk singer and dyed-in-the-rule Marxist. Ol’ Pete is so red that he only recently acknowledged that Uncle Joe Stalin had been a bad man.

                      But Seeger is a terrific banjo player, you’ve got to grant him that. And, as Ron Radosh reports, he enjoys having a Republican mayor,

                      The New York Sun
                      Seeger Speaks — and Sings — Against Stalin
                      By RON RADOSH, Special to the Sun | August 31, 2007

                    6. I had so much fun when we bought a stud finder (so you know where to drill — STOP GIGGLING.) I used to point it at Dan and press the test button so it beeped. I have a LOW sense of humor.

                    7. I was three or four when my parents built the first half of their house (I was I think ten when the second half was built and old enough to actually help) I was given a block of wood, a hammer, and nails to pound in it to keep me occupied while the worked on building it. The hammer came from my very own ‘daddy’s helper’ tool set, and I STILL hear about the fact I sawed of the handle on the wheelbarrow with the handsaw that came in that set 🙂

                    8. Pete Seeger, venerated folk singer and dyed-in-the-rule Marxist.

                      So…Grandma’s Analysis Is Right Again? (I hadn’t thought of it before, but Marxism does assume that there IS enough to go around, along with their well known “what’s here right now is all there is” thing; there being enough for everyone has been unusual for most of human history. Thus, spoiled and ignorant, though a bit more forgivable than some…well, before the bodycounts, anyways. “They mean well” doesn’t do much if they keep “meaning well” the same way when other people die from it.)

                    9. My mom grew up in a shotgun-style apartment, one bedroom, three girls, two boys, and a girl cousin raised with them. The kitchen was dirt floor and didn’t have running water. The worst part? They were well off for the neighborhood. One of Mom’s best childhood friends (who later married my uncle, then divorced him. Long story) started walking the streets to avoid starving when they were under 18. Mom was lucky, because her parents could afford to have her decently apprenticed. And she married someone from upper middle class (so did both her sisters.) BUT seriously — even the dinkiest apartments here in town (and there are some fairly horrible ones. We went into one a couple of months ago. I mean, the building seems to be decaying, and people with menacing-looking dogs roam the halls) are better, larger and more sanitary than the place mom grew up in. And as it was, it was solid and out of the weather, and the girls shared a bed, and the boys slept either on the floor or next door at their grandma’s depending.

                    10. My hubby talks about living in Washington state and sleeping on the front porch in the summer and the barn in the winter. He was a foster child and was happy with what ever he got. I didn’t have much– but he had even less growing up.

          2. If we leave it to the recipient communities’ oversight some of that money might be misapplied or wasted. By letting the Feds have oversight we can be sure all of it will be.

  8. This strikes very close to home. We have a son who has no concept of planning. It’s not that he hasn’t been taught, it’s because his brain just doesn’t work that way, and with his brain damage, it’s something he can’t learn. As a result, he HAS to have someone else manage his money for him. We’ve learned from experience it cannot be us (if it is, he makes our life hell. It’s not worth it).

    I also saw this with my parents. Dad’s side was ruthlessly independent. Mom’s side was half-and-half — some that were strong, independent people, others that were moochers. Mom and Dad helped where they could, but refused to give too much, and usually only when there was a truly compelling reason. Mom and Dad helped raise at least five of my cousins for a part of their lives, and frequently a significant part of their early lives.

    1. G. K. Chesterton, shortly after his marriage, ordered the bank to honor only his wife’s signature, not his. She would give him an allowance, and he could ask for more if he had special reasons.

      1. That is awesome and I am totally sending it to my husband.

        He did a similar thing with our finances, though mostly in the form of not having a debit card and asking me for cash if he needs it. Just too tempting to piece-meal it to death.

        1. This much like how my parents always did their finances (what I thought was normal, growing up) not that Dad didn’t have access to the bank account, he did, he just didn’t use it for so long that the bank wouldn’t accept his signature, because it differed from the one they had been getting for years (Mom always signed the checks when she took them to the bank). He made the money, handed his paycheck to mom and she put it in the bank, paid the bills and handled the rest of the finances, and gave him so much for gas money. If he wanted something he asked her and she either gave him the money, bought what he wanted, or told him they couldn’t afford it.

          1. Sounds like my folks.
            Which went over REALLY well when my Nasty Feminist teacher insisted that women have to have jobs because men control the money…..

              1. Mine, too. Half of it she even got paid for. (ranch work; it’s a LOT easier if you can have someone drive to pick you up, but hard to get the boss to pay for your wife and kids to drive from B to Q each day.)

                1. Mom started as a seamstress. At the peak of her career, she designed wardrobes for star-soccer players’ wives and other rich women and had seamstresses working for her. She also re-designed couture models into stuff the local factories could make (and sell) to people in Portugal.

                  She made about ten times more than dad, the first 15 years of their marriage. After that he caught up. Also, because she was chronically late on deadlines and gave herself multiple heart attacks, she retired at around 22 years of marriage. And then dad took over. Weirdly, Dan and I had planned this and hoped my career would allow me to support us after our 25th anniversary. I’m late.

  9. This is a theme Thomas Sowell has explored over the years, the degree to which your charitable efforts are a means to make you feel better about yourself being more important than whether it seriously addresses the problem and helps the (supposed) beneficiaries.

    There is now a building body of evidence, for example, that Affirmative Action in college admissions is counter productive, sending promising students to higher level schools than they are prepared for, causing them to flare out and lose confidence in their abilities.

  10. C.S. Lewis argued (I want to say it was in Mere Christianity, but it’s been a while) that a Christian had an obligation to charity, but also an obligation to try to ascertain that any good works you donated to were genuine (I paraphrase).

    I’ve reached a point where where I no longer trust most of the well-known national and international charities. Most of my giving is done locally, on the level of a county or church parish. At least this way I know where the chairman of the charity lives.

  11. Somewhere in my archives I have an article about Africa in which an African pleaded with the West to stop helping Africa.

    Was that Kim du Toit’s article “Let Africa Sink”?

    I only spent a year in Africa (in Niamey, Niger), which wasn’t long enough to see even a fraction of the problems. Besides, I was in the capital. Still, I caught enough glimpses to know that the problems were serious and not easily solved — certainly not by throwing aid money at the problem. People committed to working there long-term* and doing smart things to improve the situation, maybe, if they were both lucky and wise. Government money? Not a chance.

    * And the problem with such people was that most of them burned out. I was there for only a single year and I almost became one of the burnout cases, but my organization’s director saw me approaching burnout and ordered me back to the States. She caught it in time and I didn’t actually burn out completely, but it took me at least six months to get back on an even keel.

  12. I recommend “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” to learn what *really* makes a difference in Africa. Besides some harrowing descriptions of what it is like to live in a time of famine, I was greatly amused that what helped this young Malawian boy was a) being able to read English, b) access to an amazing junk pile, and c) a library. No NGOs or white SUVs involved. The next thing you know he’s powering his father’s farm with electricity-generating windmills and they can grow twice the crops they had previously. Really cool story.

    1. But how would you go about feeling good about yourself because of his initiative? If good happens and an NGO can’t take credit for it, is it really good?

      1. Indeed: the story is an obviously lie of those mean (MEAN!!) conservatarians. Who ever heard of an oppressed minority capable of helping themselves? Everybody who’s anybody who works for the UN or in DC or is a journalist or runs a NGO knows that our little br- ahhh, our cousins in the global village are being kept down by the eeeeevil Dead White Male Conspiracy, and require our living white persons’ coalition to reach out to them and ensure they’re provided for. Forever. How else will our tax-funded pensions be justified? It’s not like they’re even human, really. If they were, they’d be us!
        . . .
        . . .
        Too much?

  13. We were just having this same conversation, Sarah. My husband and I would like to help but believe in “first, do no harm”. Most of the charities I have seen don’t follow that. I worked on the board of a non-profit in my community, and was not impressed with the work, not because they didn’t mean well, they did, but because it never really changed anyone’s circumstances. Just enabled the people to circulate through the system. We decided that the thing to do was support small businesses in our community and tip well for good service. And donate only if you get a service of some sort in return (for example a great book that I wish would get finished!!)
    There was a TED talk by an African talking about how charity is destroying Africa. Is that what you are thinking of?

        1. Where did you find “Noah’s Boy” available for pre-order? I’ve been watching Baen for it, but haven’t seen it yet (and I just checked yesterday.)

    1. The only NGO I give money to is the Salvation Army. I give material goods generously to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I’ve seen both do good work, and turn away the truly greedy who live off the hard work of others. I don’t HAVE to “feel good” by taking care of people who could take care of themselves. I spent 26 years taking care of everyone by serving in our military, quite frequently in places most Americans have never heard of. I feel good about that. That was meaningful. Giving a dollar or two to a bum so he can buy cheap liquor isn’t anything I would feel good about.

      1. And you take care of children no one else wants. And they are precious to you.

        If there really is that final day and that final call, with its resounding poetry “Come to me, beloved of the Father, for I was thirsty–” I only pray I’m good enough to be on the same side you are.

        I doubt it, but it gives me something to aim for. It’s an honor to know you.

  14. I like the way Moshe Feldenkrais said it: “constraints suppport; supports constrain.”

    I’d prefer not to accidentally constrain my offspring.

  15. I believe that the classic Austrian economic theory (von Mises) is that government aid/subsidies cause misallocation of assets; stuff gets funded that normally would not get funded because it is going to where the goverment wants it, not because it is needed or profitable. This deforms an economy and causes ripples that cause greater problems. In Haiti, after the earthquake, at one point the Haitian government started that the US stop sending food aid since the farmers were going broke because they couldn’t sell their produce, the aid was going for free and flooding the market.

    (if you are interested at all in Austrian economic theory, try the von Mises Institute online. If you don’t like it, well, you are not alone.I have never heard of an economic theory that is so virulently hated on internet forums, and for no apparent cause)

    Part of the feeling that you have to help people, especially kids, comes from the idea that failure is so traumatizing and hurtful. The problem is a) the sad truth in life is that you learn more from failure than success. All success shows you is to do it the same way next time, and if you don’t really know why you succeeded in the first place you have not learned anything. Failure teaches you to keep looking.
    b) preventing people from failing also takes away any possibility of real success. It turns even games into pointless excercise if everyone is “helped” over the finish line or no-one is allowed to keep score. Life turns into formless, pointless mush because you can’t do anything without someone coming by to even things out so no one feels left out. What is the point of practicing 4 days a week if you don’t keep score, what is the point of working 13 hour days if you can’t keep your money, what is the point of…finding a new way to package aerosol cheese if no benefit comes to you?

    I have this quote on my desk that says in part: “I’ve met a lot of successful people and in every case I’ve found them to be colossal failures. They have failed their way to the top. The gleaming mountain of success is actually a pile of garbage that we are standing on instead of lying under”

    1. if you are interested at all in Austrian economic theory, try the von Mises Institute online. If you don’t like it, well, you are not alone.I have never heard of an economic theory that is so virulently hated on internet forums, and for no apparent cause

      No apparent cause? Other than its insistence that there is no free lunch, unicorns don’t exist and government “stimulus” ensures rent-seeking and corruption and thus harms economies?

      1. And there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Yep.

        And have you read “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” by Kipling? ( lots of people don’t like Kipling, they aren’t sure how it is done)

        1. Kipling should always be done with both hands and full-throatedly. It can be done alone or in the company of others. It is dangerous to do it in front of Progressives as they a) won’t understand it b) have been conditioned to reflexively dislike poetry that has meter, rhythm and rhyme (unless it contains scatological wording) and c) when they do recognize it and understand it they tend to become violently intolerant in their insistence on not performing poetry they deem intolerant and imperialist (intolerance and imperialism being what they do.)

          1. Oh, gads, I ran into Kipling in my high school library trying to find that poem about “the woods are lovely, dark and deep/ but I have promises to keep” from only that snippet from the back of a tea bag baggy. The school was so ghastly that I didn’t even consider asking a teacher, just went to look myself since I knew the old poetry section was tiny.

            Got hooked hard! It’s poetry! That’s poetic!

              1. I should mention, the grand total response I remember when I did read Frost was the English teacher praising it…because it’s all about suicide, which is apparently the personification of what every teenager is supposed to focus on.

                W. T. F.

                And they wonder why folks hate English class….

                1. What I recall about Frost is that everybody automatically thinks I should like him because a) I read, and b) I’m an outdoors type. To me he is like boiled rice, alright if you add plenty of liquid flavoring ( in Frost’s case preferably corn squeezin’s not soy sauce) but otherwise pretty bland.

                  1. I like some Frost, but it seems that there is only one of his poems that anyone knows… I get tired of it. But, Frost did have some poems that were about death and life.

                    1. Oh yea– and if someone says Frost wrote about suicide– don’t believe them. They are living in a lala world– Sylvia Platt wrote about suicide– I don’t like her poetry.

                    2. I would argue that depression itself is highly overrated.

                      Further, I would argue that being crazy in general is also highly overrated. I’ve found in the real world it actually does very little for one’s creativity, and otherwise sucks in general.

                      Creativity correlates more with bad memory than it does with crazy. When combined with post-it notes, you can have all of the fun of being highly creative, and less of the suckiness of not being able to remember what you were doing yesterday.

                  2. Subject matter isn’t anything to write home about, but I like the way the words fit together.

                    Think of it like a painting of a meadow with some mountains in the background, the sort of thing you’d find as generic wall-hangings, but done in a lovely way.

                2. Yes, I was told on a panel with older writers, that they taught middle schoolers dystopia, because “that’s what kids like” — the handmaiden’s tale. 1984… YEAH.

                    1. Some of what we read in English class, back in the dark ages before the current crop of well-educated “intellectuals” took over, was good enough that I went looking for more. I don’t think I’d have ever read “Death Comes to the Archbishop” if I hadn’t gotten stuck with reading the opening chapter aloud in school. Most of the Hemingway we read was ghastly, but “The Old Man and the Sea” was something I still remember. We had an English teacher that was also a Shakespearian scholar, and gave us some amusing tidbits about some of the errors in “Julius Caesar” and “The Tempest”. NONE of my teachers liked Rudyard Kipling, which only spurred me to check him out. Dickens in English class was dismal, but when I plowed through several of his books when I was in Vietnam, I liked them. They were still far over-written, but that was the style at the time.

                    2. Shakespeare. Austen. Some crazy Germans. Dumas. Some of the Victorian novelists in Portugal (G-d, they couldn’t carry a plot in a basket.) Fernando Pessoa. Jorge Luis Borges. I LIKED 1984, but Animal Farm was passed around under the desks, like Gulag Archipelago. Not illegal, but it wouldn’t go well with us if the teachers found it. Samizadt light…

                    3. I had a Shakespearean English professor in one of my college classes. It was fun and a hoot. I learned so much about the lingo of the time. The phrases in my humble opinion were more colorful. I enjoyed it. Dickenson– not so much. Hemingway– he was definitely suicidal after WWI– you can see it in the writing after the war.

                      One of my English professors tried to turn the Scarlet Letter to something it wasn’t. (interpret the text with a modern meaning.) I had already read it once when I was in my teens so I had a much different interpretation. I was a pain in my English professors butts because I was an older student (late 38, 39) and I wasn’t into believing everything they said.

                    4. I shocked living life out of my German lit teacher, when I wrote a paper on the impotence of Effie Briest’s husband because “if he could perform, she wouldn’t be awake at night listening to ghosts.” To get the full impact, you must get that I was this neat woman with one of those faces that look innocent no matter what is going on behind the eyes. She gave me an A on the paper (there was other stuff, like they spent their honeymoon looking at statues, etc.) but kept saying “I can’t believe you said that.” This, from the woman who found sexual meaning in things that couldn’t POSSIBLY be sexual was kind of my private triumph…

                    5. Plus I am going to say something hideous– for an English major. I don’t like Faulkner. Many of my professors wanted us to read the Southern writers and especially the black women writers. When I asked about Western writers, they were snobbish and said that regional writers didn’t write literature. It was then that I realized I wanted to write genre and regional fiction. 😉

                    6. To be fair– my favorite professor pulled me aside one day and told me that I should look into creative writing because even though I could be an English teacher, it would be a real shame if I didn’t write. I took her advice. I wasn’t ready to write fiction then though. I had a lot of ideas to overcome and change (the fiction of being a writer).

                    7. Oh that is funny Sarah. For a bunch of repressed feminists, the English Lit professors I met (there was one man in the group who was funny as heck– but the rest) really went on and on about sex in the literature. Emily Dickensen– She was a spinster– but my professors kept pointing to her snake poem and others. I mean what?

                    8. Yep. I should add that this was my final paper, and I’d been married (and living in the US) for six months, and went back for my finals. 😉 So I was feeling all grown up and stuff…

                    9. I took a class on the American novel in college. Fortunately, my prof had kept his family afloat at one point by writing romances, and so had zero contempt for genre fiction. When he realized I wasn’t really as jazzed by As I Lay Dying and Ethan Frome as my classmates, he called me down to his office and handed me The Anubis Gate, and half a dozen others. Vic is great. When I got side-tracked in my writing assignments, he asked if I had anything else, and was happy to take a – not terribly good – chapter of a YA superhero (didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time) novel I started once upon a time.

                    10. Cyn, I don’t like Faulkner either. I tried, I really did, even going back and reading “The Sound and the Fury” and “Absalom, Absalom” on my own as an adult. But over-wrought Southern gothic just leaves me cold.

                    11. Yea– he leaves me cold too– I was much happier digging into the Hopi and Navajo literature, but then I had a Navajo foster sister for a few years. Now she could tell stories that could scare your socks off–

                    12. I hated it when English teachers assigned books that I liked. It would take years for the bad taste to wash away so I could appreciate them again. (Except Shakespeare. He was still good just after reading him in English. But expecting every writer to pull that off is too much.)

                    13. Aren’t Southern writers regional? How do they qualify as literature if regional writers aren’t literature?

                    14. There is also a New England writers … oh, wait: they are the model for literaray in this country, with the exception of their genre writers: Lovecraft, King …

                    15. Overwrought Southern Gothic is a great description of Faulkner. I even read some of his nonfic, how somebody makes a nonfic hunting story Gothic still boggles my mind, but that is the most accurate description of it I have heard.

                  1. “Catcher in the Rye” — one of the most dismal books I’ve ever had to read. The plot was so contorted you needed a map to follow it. And this replaced “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn”?

                  2. I HATED handmaiden’s tale. Didn’t like 1984 much either. My sons started a movement to teach Ender’s Game in school.

                    1. I … appreciated 1984. I much prefered Brave New World to 1984, and Animal Hou- er, Farm to both of those. As far as thinly veiled polemics go, I actually reread Oh, John Ringo, No!’s Last Centurion on a regular basis, as I think there’s a lot more to learn from it. And, y’know, relatively happy ending. And Ender’s Game, for that matter.

                    2. I really like the rare “wife edits” in Last Centurion.

                      The rest of the story is good, but those are just little gems of hilariousness.

                    3. I didn’t really like The Last Centurion to much the first time I read it, but I’ve reread at least twice as many times as any of John Ringo’s other books, it grows on you. I also liked 1984, Animal Farm I should reread, I hated it when I first read it. I thought it was stupid and only and imbecile would listen to the pigs, but I was in like 2nd or 3rd grade, and found it in a box of my moms old books, at that time I could recognize the stupidity and utter insanity of the communism, but not relate it to real life and the fact that there are a lot of imbiceles out there that will listen to anyone who claims to know better than them.

            1. Quote from

              The “copybook headings” to which the title refers were proverbs or maxims, extolling virtues such as honesty or fair dealing that were printed at the top of the pages of 19th-century British students’ special notebook pages, called copybooks. The school-children had to write them by hand repeatedly down the page.

              End Quote

            2. I believe the purpose was handwriting practice, but you might as well make it of improving stuff, while you’re at it.

              1. I’ve actually been doing this. My typing software lets me set the text for my practice sessions, so I pasted in the text of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. It’s been great, and actually makes me look forward to my practice time.

          1. Kipling happens to be the ONLY poetry I read. Proving there is an exception to every rule, including that I don’t like poetry. Interestingly enough I like to read song lyrics which reason tells me should be like reading poetry, but for some reason isn’t.

            1. Song lyrics are more direct and less obscure than what is generally known as poetry. I haven’t read Kipling widely, but the things I have read, I have enjoyed. Robert Frost is another that I can read and enjoy, but a lot of poetry makes me want to rip my brain out with a rusty coathanger.

              1. Possibly because that’s the subject of a significant number, and a good visual representation of the damage they do to the language for more?

                1. Well, I couldn’t say, because I can’t unravel them enough to figure out what the ARE about. I can’t process the obscure emotional cues that are involved and get anything but gibberish. I know other people can, but for me, it’s kind of like erasing two out of three words in a text and trying to interpret it. In a second language, not the one you grew up with.

                  1. This is how I managed do okay at writing poetry in school. If it was obscure enough that I couldn’t understand what I had written, the English teacher certainly wouldn’t, and would think it was deep (it was, just the kind needing hipboots, not profound) and would be unwilling to admit that they didn’t have a clue what I just wrote. 🙂

                    1. ONCE turned in a poet with “The fast dreams slept furiously” — thank you, thank you. You may hold your applause. It’s a pity I never got a Phd, because I SURE piled it high and deep.

                    2. What I enjoyed about writing poetry is layering– It almost like punning. Most English teachers touched the first layer, a rare few touched the second layer. But, it was the rare person that found the sarcasm in the third layer. 😉

                2. When I was a child, well before Raffi or Sharon, Lois & Bram there were Golden Records, specializing in children’s records, such as their Introduction to Poetry album (or whatever the title of it was.) The first cut was a superb reading of Gunga Din, and the last cut on that first side was a poem by Alfred Lord Noyes, The Highwayman. Years later, while a senior in high school, I was delighted to discover the poem had been set to music by Phil Ochs:

                    1. Finally, for those whose lives are suddenly incomplete upon the discovery that they never heard Christopher Hitchens read Jabberwocky, from C SPAN in January 2005:

                      Selections from works by Ogden Nash, Alfred Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Shel Silverstein, Mattie Stepanek,Joseph Bottum, and others were read in front of an invited audience.

                      Joseph Bottum was book and arts editor at the Weekly Standard and scheduled to become the editor of the journal First Things. He was the author of The Fall and Other Poems. William Kristol was editor of the Weekly Standard and is the co-author of The War over Iraq. Dana Gioia assumed the role of NEA chairman in 2003. He has authored and edited several books, including Can Poetry Matter? and Interrogations at Noon. Christopher Hitchens’ latest books were Love, Poverty, and War, Blood, Class and Empire, and Why Orwell Matters. Tim Kelleher has appeared in over two dozen movies, including Matchstick Men and Thirteen Days. Mary Eberstadt, consulting editor at Policy Review and a researcher at the Hoover Institution, was the author of Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs and Other Parent Substitutes.

                      One hour and twenty-two minutes. Be warned, once you start this it is awfully hard to stoop. The impatient should skip to 13:30 …

                    2. Ah, ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’.

                      Utterly Trivial Bit of Trivia for the day: I live less than 50 miles (by road) from the place where Sam McGee is buried. He had a bit of a time in later life, I understand — world-famous for being burned alive, which he wasn’t, yet hardly anybody believed he was a real person, which he was.

                      My father gave me Robert W. Service, Kipling, and Ogden Nash to read when I began to grow out of A. A. Milne. I branched out into other poets more or less on my own. This, I am convinced, is just about the best way to get a kid to enjoy poetry. As a bonus, it equipped me to properly appreciate Frank Jacobs’s verse parodies in MAD Magazine, back in the Upper Pleistocene when MAD was still funny.

            2. A lot of Kipling’s poetry was meant to be set to music, and several bards like Leslie Fish, Michael Longcor, and Joe Bethancourt have turned out entire albums proving it.

          2. Thank you.
            One of my prized books is a pirated US edition of Kipling’s work that incorporates his American Notes, a book in which he states he came to the US, in part, to review problems he was having with American publishers pirating his books.

          3. Kipling, Robert Service, and A. B. “Banjo” Patterson are among my “turn to” books. Some of the neo-Classical German poets, too, but I have to be in the right mood. *grins* I managed to astonish a small herd of grad students by reciting all of “The Man From Snowy River” from memory at a party one night. Followed by most of Kipling’s “Lichtenberg.”

            1. Those who have listened to Hugh Hewitt’s show will recognize the voice of contemporary poet Tarzana Joe:

              Utopia by Tarzana Joe

              That notion, so delectable
              That mankind is perfectible
              Is once again respectable
              And seems our current goal

              We used to think divinity
              Was out there past infinity
              Perhaps in the vicinity
              Of your immortal soul

              But now we’re told perfection
              For those who’re so inclined
              Is nearer than it’s ever been
              For it’s been redefined

              We’re scolded to be perfect
              By cries of the Incessants
              We owe it to our neighbors
              To use compact fluorescents

              We owe this new utopia
              To exercise for hours
              We owe it to the planet
              To all take shorter showers

              Forget exploring oceans
              Or some day visit Mars
              The challenge of our lifetime
              Is to all get hybrid cars

              If we, in our obedience
              Put out the selfish flame
              We’ll turn our backs to heaven
              And all will think the same

              Is this the end of ice cream?
              And vices that we treasure…
              Is this the end of sparkling?
              Is this the end of pleasure?

              So down with your defiance
              I recommend compliance
              Join in the new alliance
              And grasp the greater good

              Forget what you’re pursuin’
              It’s been your life’s undoin’
              The past is but a ruin
              See there, where it once stood.


  16. Q4 2012 GDP went negative … so dumping trillions of dollars of “qualitative easing” was an ineffective kindness in the US …

      1. I noticed every headline reporting it in the major news media (NY Times, Washington Post, even the WSJ) declared the downturn was … “unexpected.”

        Compared to that economic downturn, Sol “rising” in the East was unexpected.

          1. January net jobs added was still less than that needed to meet pop growth and unemployment went up – and this is heralded as “good news”.

  17. Afraid I’m not even skimming the other comments today. There was a big storm which necessitated me unplugging all my electronics, “just in case”, which involved me getting my mom involved to move heavy furniture to do it, which ultimately involved lots of dust being stirred up. And I haven’t yet got to take an allergy pill to compensate. (So apologies in advance for meandering thoughts.)

    I make a good “second in command”. I can fill in temporarily as a “leader”, but it’s not my nature to enjoy it. I like presenting solutions, idea bouncing, and doing the sorts of things that help keep situations clean and tidy and running smoothly. This is why I tend to get recruited in moderator positions online.

    I’m going somewhere with this.

    A friend of mine liked that about me and she had this neat idea of a combination art challenge group and roleplaying group. Members would create characters for the superhero group the “story” part was centered around and draw pieces for challenges (like, “Your character is fighting A Certain Badguy! Use dynamic perspective for higher points!”) and earn points with which to buy things like more powers for your character, alternate costumes, extra characters, and so on.

    The way the dynamic worked was she provided the overall idea for the “game” and since it was her idea, she had final say over everything. But she knew I was better at putting stuff together. So I was to take the elements of the game she wanted and piece it all together, write up the rules, write up setting information and other world-building, and we’d go point by point until it was a coherent whole she approved of. And then, because she had the spine of a wet dishrag, she asked me to be the “Enforcer”. If someone was breaking rules (like using super powers they hadn’t earned the points for), I’d talk to them and tell them “no”.

    You can probably see where this is going.

    It was a really fun idea and for awhile it worked pretty well. The players for the most part well-behaved and most of them were already friends, since the fandom this was born from was fairly small and most of the artists in the fandom knew each other. But then that very closeness became a problem. Because they were friends with us, or because they were better roleplayers than the others, or whatever their justification was, a few of the players would start asking for things they hadn’t earned yet – or expected to be given authority in the game.

    No big deal to me. I try not to play favorites. I wasn’t as good at it then as I am now, because I was young and inexperienced enough to not really know the dangers of it. But my friend of the dishrag spine, the one who had “final say” over everything, was not so good at saying “no” to people. Especially saying “no” to friends. So we eventually got into situations where she’d tell someone “yes” even though it went against the rules set out for everyone to follow (even us as much as was possible). Sometimes she’d even say “yes” and ask me to “take it back” and tell them “no”. She loved saying “yes” and getting all the praise and good karma for it. She asked me to tell people “no” as much as she could get away with. She even would ask me to hold off on telling people “yes” so she could be the one to say it to people.

    It’s not really surprising that before long I was the “bad guy”. I lost friends over it. Hell, one of my closest friends became a big enough enemy of mine she still stalks me. (I’ve mentioned her before.) I’m pretty sure the dishrag spined “friend” went behind my back to say things like, “Well, *I* wanted to say yes, but *she* wouldn’t back off, so…”

    So I took time off to sort of sort myself out because the game became no fun to me anymore. Without a word to me, I was eventually removed from my position. The game went quickly to merry hell without me, because you know that the problem with the game was really that people were told “no”, right? So everyone was allowed to do whatever they wanted… sort of. And the people who wanted the respect of authority were given it, so my dishrag spine friend could continue to not to have to say “no” and the others could say “no” to the people they didn’t like and “yes” to their friends. And no character was special. Nothing they did was amazing, because everyone could do anything they wanted at any time – even if it contradicted previously established facts. And those people who weren’t “friends” with the authority-taking types or useful pawns to them were bullied into submission or retreat.

    That’s what people who like to say “yes” can do to a group. That’s what happens to people who are forced into the position of always saying “no”.

    I’m sure your characters aren’t exactly like that dynamic. It’s probably far from it. I’m just showing an extreme example of what that behavior can lead to. Even if the people involved are “good friends”.

  18. Personally, I stick to ‘charities’ that aren’t handouts

    Things like the Boy Scouts (or in my case, Civil Air Patrol), organizations where the emphisis is on teaching, not handouts.

  19. Having read through all the comments now, It occures to me that the right way to help the poor areas is the plain old fashioned missionary approach. Take someone (or a family) with skills that the locals respect and pay for their costs to go and live in the community, teaching (if only by example in some areas) and let things take the natural course over a long time.

    Results aren’t fast, but they happen

  20. I am reminded of a line from the infamous _MST3K_ appearance of the short “Mr. B Natural”. Mr. B (the Spirit of Music — think Sandy Duncan’s Peter Pan with a ’50s vibe) appears to a kid. At one point, the kid gets mopey and self-doubting — the moment he does, Mr. B immediately snaps at him: “Now, now — none of *that*! Now, I’m here to help you — *not to help you feel sorry for yourself*!” [Emphasis added.]

    That’s the problem with these programs to “help people” — they don’t “help people”, they “help people feel sorry for themselves”.

    (Is a physical fight over whether to teach _A Few Figs From Thistles_ an “Edna St. Vincent Melee”? 😉 )

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