Giving Back My Middle Finger – A Blast From the Past Post From June 2012

*Blame Marina Fontaine for reminding me of this post.  I was going to write one on a similar theme, but hey, it’s already here.  (And yep, went looking at houses yesterday.  One was ALMOST doable for our admittedly eccentric needs, but it’s too early in the process to settle.*

Giving Back My Middle Finger – A Blast From the Past Post From June 2012

Yesterday in the comments someone mentioned giving back to the community.  That is one of those phrases that makes my eyes turn red and smoke come pouring out of my ears in loony-tunes style.

Don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not that I don’t believe in “community.”  Or rather, I hate the word community.  I prefer almost any other word including “group.”

But I believe in groups of people and I believe in the synergy of groups – not so much, mind, that the group is better than the sum of its parts, but that the group is the sum of its parts.  Or healthy individuals make healthy groups.  Or whatever you’d like to call it.

I’ve been a member of several groups that for a while made it easier for me to reach my goals, and I still am a member of groups that do.  I used to be a member of a largish (I think we were ten people at our greatest size) writers group that, while it lasted, made it easier for me to focus and work every week, despite having small kids and a schedule so full that any writing time came off sleep time.  I used to get up at five in the morning so I had two quiet hours of writing before the kids woke up.

I’m now a member of a much smaller writers group that is not quite so focused, but which talks me through snares and supports me when I’m in the dumps.  The same applies to the somewhat larger group of friends (some of whom are writers.)

Of course, looking further back, I was a member of an extended family.  In my case when I title something “me and my cousins” I’m not just talking about the Arab proverb.  By culture or design (I never knew which) though my family ran to small nuclear families, the cousin-group was raised more or less in and out of each other’s pockets.  I used to think of my cousins the way Americans think of their siblings.  In many ways, I still do.  If I managed to be a solitary kid at all, it was because I was so much younger than the rest of them, being almost ten years younger than my brother, who in turn was five years younger than the (female) cousin who was raised (even more so than our other cousins) as our sister, and who is four years older than him.  The other day I almost died watching this video, because that baby elephant was me, from trying to get involved in stuff that was well beyond him, to giving up, throwing himself to the floor and trying to become the center of attention.  Yes, I had a very happy childhood.  Idyllic in many ways.  Not “ideal” which is not the same thing, but good enough.

And of course I’m still a member of that family, even far away, and I’m a member of my nuclear family, and our family sometimes worries me that it might be too close.  We didn’t raise the boys to be our friends.  That was not our job.  Our job was to raise them to be adults and to trust them to find their own friends.  Of course they have done that.  But we seem to accidentally have become friends, somewhere along the way.  Not equals, but you don’t have to be equals to be friends.  I realized we were going the friend route when vacations with the boys were way more fun than vacations alone with Dan.  We might now be at the point – with them living in the house through college, and us wanting to reclaim our lives again – when we need to resume running away from them for some periods of time.  BUT it can’t be denied that the family is a group, and a functional group at that, which allows each of the members to excel.

Heck, this blog has become a group of regular commenters, a “blog community” (one of the few times this word is more appropriate than group) which adds to my own experience in writing the blog.  I know whatever I throw at you will be enlarged and deepened, or just made more fun by your takes on it.

So, why is community appropriate in this case and not in the others?

Because “community” is – at least in my mind – a more undefined and softer edged critter than “group.”  A group is me and Bob and Joe and Mary.  A community is “the group of people who comment on this blog” which, yes, has some core groups, but meanders and changes and defines itself differently moment to moment.  In that sense, community is a term out of sociology.  Take a mountain village.  It’s a community.  Is it the same group it was a year ago?  Maybe.  Depends on how many people moved in and out.  Is it the same it was 100 years ago?  Oh, h*ll no.  With bells on.  People have died and been born, and, if it’s in the States, moved in and out.  You’ll be lucky if there’s one person who is a direct descendant of someone who lived there 100 years ago.  Unlike a group, also, you’re not aware of everyone in the group and usually don’t have any say in who joins and who leaves.

This might not be true in communities where you have to be voted in, like country clubs, and in many groups – families – you might not have much of a say on who joins or leaves, either.  And of course some groups are too large for you to be aware of every member.

Now that I’ve made a big muddle out of those definitions, let me try to make some clarity: I view a group as more of an association of individuals.  You’re part of a group because you want to be, and your individuality matters to the group.  A community, on the other hand is a group of undefined faces.  “People” belong to communities, but it won’t be the same over time.  There can be groups within communities.  There is a definite group of core miscreants in the community of regular commenters on this blog, and I worry when one of them disappears too long and start wondering if I did something to offend him/her.  But there is a larger community around that group: people who come in now and then, in a way that’s statistically but not individually significant.  In the same way, when the Baen bar was healthy, I knew “mine” in Sarah’s Diner, which was definitely a group (at least at its core) but we existed within the community of the Baen Bar, from which a few stragglers would join us or stray out on a more or less random pattern.  To make it clearer: My writers group, but the writing community; my family, but the community we live in; my friends but the community of writers in the area.

So, now that we’re clear as mud, let’s talk about “giving back to the community.”  (Give me a minute.  Must control fist of doom.  Okay.  I think– Yeah.  I’m all right now.)

Why does that phrase annoy me?  Haven’t I said that various groups, starting with my family have helped me along the way?  Aren’t I prone to books that become group efforts?  Even in Darkship Thieves, with an individualistic narrator, told first person, would Thena have got anywhere without Kit and his family?

Yeah.  Okay.  I’m not advocating the lone wolf way of life.  I’m actually – particularly for a writer – highly social.  My profile can tip introverted or extroverted, depending on how I feel.  And though I recently had the first party we’ve held in 9 years, it wasn’t so much not wanting to do it, as the fact that my schedule has kept me in “h*ll on Earth” for about that long.  I love AIM and email because it allows me to get work done AND talk to my friends every day, on my own schedule.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: humans are social animals.  It is both our downfall in many ways, and one of our greatest advantages.

No, what gets on my nerves is two fold “community” and “giving back.”

First of all, let’s define community as it applies to any individual.  What communities am I a member of?  Well, I’m an American (Thank you, G-d, thank you, for allowing me to find my tribe.)  I’m a Coloradan.  I’m part of the science fiction community and the writer community.  I’m part of a community of libertarian (note small l, guys) thinkers community.  I’m part of the cat rescue community.

So, what am I complaining about?  Shouldn’t I be giving back to those communities?

These are my middle fingers.  See them?  They’re waving in the air.  Yes, it’s rude.  But it’s not as rude as telling me I need to “give back.”

I should give back what?  What have I STOLEN or TAKEN from anyone?

“But Sarah,” you’ll say, “doesn’t being an American give you the freedom and peace of mind to carry on your life?  Don’t you like the rights you have as an American, to make an example of a community?  How could you have anything or be anything if you were squatting in a dirt pile, clutching a spear to defend your food?”

Uh.  Right.  And every one of the other American citizens has decided, FOR MY SAKE to make sure that we live in an ordered and lawful society, have they?  All this effort has been expended to let little Sarah achieve her goals, is that it?

“Well, no” you say “that would be ridiculous.  But we have these laws and conventions and customs that allow each of us to develop and do our best.  It’s a community.  You got to give back.”

See middle finger?  We are a nation founded on laws.  Those laws allow each of us to do our best – that’s why we have these laws.  It’s called our constitution and to the extent it’s not ignored, it works better than any other organizing charter in the world.  BUT it doesn’t work because we each wake up in the morning, sing kumbaya and decide to abide by it.  It works because it functions well with human nature.

To hell with you and your giving back.  My duties as an American are to defend and uphold the Constitution that made me an American (yes, I took that oath when I got citizenship.)  That’s not giving back.  That’s my duty.

“Okay, okay,” you say.  “What about the writer community?  Are you going to deny you’ve had mentors along the way, people who put themselves out to teach you and help you become the writer you are today in both craft and career?”

I have no intention of denying that.  Yes, a lot of writers help me and have helped me.  Yes, some sacrificed time and earnings to do so, or risked displeasing their publishers.

So, shouldn’t you give back?  Well… no.  What I got was freely given.  This doesn’t mean I’m a monster of ingratitude.  Most of the people who helped me along the way have claims on me.  I’ll do anything for them when I can.  Some have tested this.  BUT it is not “giving back.”  I didn’t steal something from them that I’m scrupulously returning.  Rather, I’m under obligation to their kindness and their friendship FREELY given to me.  And they have the claims of kindness and friendship on me.  What is the difference?  Well, for one I don’t feel I owe them a finite amount.  Their claim on me is infinite.  I’ll do what I can when I can until one of us dies.

I also pay it forward.  Some of you I mentor, even if I’m the world’s worst mentor ever.  (I hope this will change as I’m more able to control my own schedule and perhaps as health stabilizes a little after this upcoming round of “consorting with doctors.”) And I teach a workshop in Bedford, TX, ever September (and no, the price doesn’t go to me.  It benefits the local library.)  And I try to advise people online.

Do I do this to give back?  Well, hell no.  I didn’t take anything away from the newbies coming in.  I do it because I’m human and I remember being where they are.  I needed help (and eventually got it, but not a for a while.  I didn’t KNOW anyone) and so I give help.  It’s a love offering, freely given.  It’s also, in a way, a self-interested act.  When my newbies develop nicely, I have new authors I love to read.  As a reader that’s a plus.  (And I’m eagerly waiting Kate Paulk’s next con book.)

“You call it love offering, we call it giving back.  Why are you arguing words?”

Because words matter.  When you give back something, you return what you took.  It’s an obligation – sometimes a legal obligation – and it puts you under a constraint to act a certain way.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I undertake work under an obligation, I feel like I’m lifting a very large rock, pushing and making an effort to get it where it needs to go.  I rarely fulfill an obligation, particularly while someone stands over me screaming “you owe me” with a light and happy heart. RES has made the point in the comments that it’s hard to do for money what you do for enjoyment, and the same thing applies.  I’ve found that I have an almost pathological distaste for editing – even though NRP is waiting for me to do some of it – if I’m obliged to do it by contract.  I will read/critique friends stories fine, but NOT if I’m the editor for an antho, say.  If I owe it, I keep blocking on doing it.  If I owe it, then I hate doing it, and will try to do it as quickly as possible.

Most of all I hate the idea of “giving back” because it presumes that the individual is nothing without the undefined, faceless community.  No one is going to dispute that people do best with rule of law and private property (well, the “community people” might dispute that last.  That’s all right.  They’re wrong) but the “community” doesn’t do that for the benefit of its members.  Rather, each of its members does that for his/her own benefit.

I also hate the (you knew we’d come to it, right) Marxist ethos at the back of that phrase.  In “giving back” is the idea that whatever you achieved was achieved at a cost to others.  Instead of a group, where we each do better because we have this charter that supports all of us (which is what the best writers groups I belonged to were) we end up with the idea that people did this FOR you and that whatever you have came at their expense.

It all comes back in the end to the idea of economics as a finite pie and a closed system.  This is completely insane (each of us now has more “wealth” than any king in the Middle Ages) but it is the only way Marx could define envy as a virtue, and, by gum, he was running with that.  Envy is only a virtue if anyone who does better is a thief.  Someone needs to “give back” only if he took more than his fair share.

This is my middle finger.  See my middle finger?

But I’m not a thief.  I didn’t steal.  And the faceless “community” can earn its own rewards as I have.  I will give, but I won’t “give back.”  I will volunteer, but I volunteer because I want to.  (A lot of my volunteering involves saving orphan and sick kittens, and much as the cats I’ve known have enriched my life, I don’t owe the “cat community” anything.)  VOLUNTEER should be just that.  Don’t get me started on the schools that “require” “volunteer hours.”  It strikes me as getting kids used to slavery, and I disapprove of slavery.

What I have is mine and I earned it.  I will pay back the debts I know I owe along the way – and the cornucopia of the retribution on those is infinite, mostly because what I was given was a free offering, and I return it as such.  There is no limit to what I can give in those cases.

For the others, the ones who want a piece of me because “you’re not squatting in the dirt and defending your possessions against all comers” can have my middle finger.

The end result of your envy and your belief anyone who achieves anything owes you something IS a society where we each squat in the dirt and fight off entitled little pests like you.  (Well, not really like you.  You’ll be long dead.)  I will fight to my last breath your attempts to make me “give back.”

Go and make your own.

93 responses to “Giving Back My Middle Finger – A Blast From the Past Post From June 2012

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Need more coffee. I had a thought but it wasn’t clear to me so how can it be clear to you? [Wink]

  2. when the Baen bar was healthy

    Dare I ask? Have things gone.. pear shaped, as the Brits are wont to say, or has it simply been a decline in activity? I’ve (rather obviously) not kept up.

    • Annoying software, followed by FB and other social media leaching it dry.

      • Facebook considered harmful, IMO. And sadly most software is annoying, just the degree varies. Let me guess, someone decided to “help” with an “upgrade” and $ILLNESS was less unpleasant?

        • The Other Sean

          There were several iterations of Bar software due to software becoming unsupported, or not coping with load. So there were at least two (maybe 3?) upgrades/replacements since 1997.

          The access requirements were somewhat unusual: web, mail, and NNTP (newsgroup) support. This was in part because many of the people accessing it had slow, unreliable connections. Many preferred the web. Jim Baen preferred e-mail. Some of the military deployed folks abroad preferred NNTP or e-mail.

          The current one is decent, IMHO- but that may just be because there are fewer participants/posts so the load is more manageable. It lacks one feature from earlier incarnations that I miss: auto-snipping the messages in the thread, so you don’t got hundreds of lines from 10 levels of replies. Another feature that would be nice, but was switched off because of the confusion it can cause with NNTP/e-mail usage, is editing posts.

      • Auch: Facebook delenda est!

        • For years I told my Father (now 85), ‘Facebook is evil’. Then he announced some company wanted him to ‘like’ them on Facebook. My Brother was going to show him the ropes, which apparently meant setting up his account and abandoning him.
          I guess it keeps him off the street and out of trouble, but he goes on twice a day and ‘likes’ practically everything he sees.

          • For many men, when they’re not near the girl they like they like the girl they’re near.

            Always I can’t refuse them
            Always my feet pursue them
            Long as they’ve got a bosom

            I woos ’em

      • Some bits are fairly active, but nothing like back in the old days. Sarah’s Diner on the bar hasn’t had a post in a month. Sarah’s Diner on FB has 50 or more per day.
        I try to check a short list of bar cubbies every day or so. Mad Mike, Kratskeller, Recon, Movies and TV, and of course Politics, but mostly anymore it’s FB and the blogs.

        • Dare I ask, how does one get on Sarah’s Diner on FB? I see the things Sarah, I think–maybe not all, but at least when she makes fun of spammers and the like. Is that what you are talking about?
          (I’m not sure I have time for anything else on facebook. But you should all like Cedar and follow her posts there because she puts up these amazing pictures that always make me happy.)

          • Easiest way would be to send a PM to one of the admins from your own FB page and ask to be added. Admins are:
            Sarah and Dan Hoyt
            Amanda Green
            Tedd Roberts
            David Pascoe
            Kate Paulk
            It is a private group with a set of rules that are pinned at the top, so if you get added read them first before going nuts. Nothing too onerous, no shameless self promotion, PG language, Jim Baen’s don’t be a butthead rule from the bar, stuff like that.

          • Holly, knock and I’ll let you in. Search Sarah’s Diner.

    • It hasn’t been fun since they bolted the tables down.

    • Reality Observer

      Well, the annoying software period is over and done with. (They are futzing around with it again, as I write – and I really do need to get back to beta testing once this annoying week is done with – but they appear to be making it better this time, not just “new.”)

      I think, though, that the easier path to having your own blog as an author (or anything else) is leaching a lot of the real value of “forums” for a writer. If you look in any of the Baen author’s forums these days, the majority of comments seem almost designed to annoy the author who supposedly “owns” that forum. Tom Kratman had to exit “his” forum for his own sanity and health, and before he hit the point where he clobbered some long time friends (which, if necessary, should not be a public affair).

      And I really don’t know what to do about that.

  3. And I am, technically, a Minnesotan- but that’s because my rump sits in Minnesota. My soul (wait, do I even have such a thing?) is elsewhere. Some might say it’s not even in Reality. So what? I’ve seen what passes for “normal” and it’s bloody stupid. And not even in the Bloody Stupid Johnson way which would at least be somewhat amusing. Perhaps sometime I will expound on my Theory of Drug Abuse and (banned) Treatment. It’s not what the media would expect. It’s not even what the media would expectorate – which is sadly about the same thing, really.

  4. Agreed, Sarah. My own family consists of my brother and sister, their kids and grandkids and those we’ve “adopted” over the years and those who’ve “adopted” US. There’s a family here in central OK that we didn’t even know 25 years ago who we treasure as much as our own kids and grandkids. They came here in the Navy and joined our church. Being from Mississippi, they had no local family and sort of adopted my wife and I to be surrogate grandparents to their two girls, ages 14 months and 6 years. They are now grown and the eldest is an RN, married with two boys of her own and the younger working as an aide at a heart rehab center. They are as treasured and loved as ANY of our own, blood relatives.

  5. Reality Observer

    One ALMOST on the first day is pretty impressive – you must have a good agent! Finding a place for someone with Fluffy and all those elves cannot be easy.

    • Yeah. It’s a lot easier just to keep the parties small until the current fire marshal and emergency response managers for the county retire, then have a huge party to break in the new guys.

  6. I have fought fires, but I’m not a fireman. I have carried stretchers and held pressure on wounds, but I’m not an EMT. I have repaired fences that were not our own, and helped pull people out of bogs. One person’s “giving back to the community” is another’s “paying it forward,” and I remember what my father said when I was still young and asked why we were doing something. “Because next time you might be the one to need help.” And we have been on the receiving end of that help, freely given, no strings attached, just as we’ve gave it the same way.

    Maybe that’s something unusual, or maybe that’s a rural thing, but that, to us, is “giving back to the community.” Out in the boonies, the community is literally all you’ve got. Like my father pointed out, one day it could be you on the receiving end. And he was right.

    Maybe that’s something different than what raised the digitus impudicus, but that’s what it means to us.

    • Having driven in.. dubious.. weather in North Dakota I quite understand that “They can wait for the next car” is nonsense, because, “Brother, you ARE the next car.”

    • For a lot of folks, it’s just an insignificant cultural evolution of a stereotypical phrase: I think what used to be “pass it on” became “pay it back” – and “to the community” was added just because you can’t always pay it back to the one who last helped you, so the target becomes diffuse. But the idea of staying in balance, metaphorical gifts and debts-wise, shows up in many iterations of culture, doesn’t it? [Karma, et al]

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    What I was thinking earlier about “Giving Back” had something to do with the idea that “You had to give back to the community because it was something you owed the community”.

    “Owing the community” sounds like some sort of obligation but who made it a rule that you were obligated to “pay back” something?

    • Traditionally, the concept of “giving back to the community” recognized a desire to enrich the ‘community’ in which one lived and worked, partly as an expression of the urge to improve one’s surroundings and partly as an expression of gratitude.

      The Proglodytes, being incapable of feeling gratitude, contort this natural human tendency into a duty, one which they seek to define the parameters of rather than allowing individual beneficiaries of the community to decide for themselves what they wish to “donate” to the community. In this way it is rather like those weddings at which the people hosting the ceremony carefully evaluate each attendee’s “gifts” and measure that against the cost of their consumption at the celebration.

      • Reminds me of the basis for Obamacare. If you are “lucky” enough to be able to afford decent insurance and health care we are going to take some of that from you and give it to those less “lucky.” This is fair because your good fortune is not due to your hard work, but rather to luck or because you stole it from the working class.
        Contrast that to a societal practice that we all agreed to when it was established that any hospital ER was obligated to give medical treatment to anyone who required it regardless of ability to pay. That I have always considered to be a pay it forward principle.
        Two concepts similar in effect but a world apart in intent.

        • There are five (three, sir), right, three actual reasons behind Obamacare, nested like russian dolls: The top level is the “Robin Hood” level, to take from the “lucky” and deliver to the “unlucky” as “communal” largess; The second level is the “Boss Hogg” level, using that largess to buy D votes forever and ever; The third level is the “Charge of the Light Brigade” level, where the attempt is so praiseworthy that when it inevitably fails, the only option is not to give up on centrally planned health care as a possibly well intentioned but fatally flawed idea, but instead to go full Commie, i.e. “Single Payer”.

          It should be noted that the only success seen in the current implementation at the top “Robin Hood” level is in two areas, in a modest expansion of the Medicaid rolls, and in the expanded risk pool for those with preexisting conditions. The rest of the bureaucratic nightmare that is O-care has accomplished exactly nothing positive, and continues to increase costs and thus premiums. This last goes right to the inside doll – the whole shebang is intended to fail spectacularly, enabling the great end game of a move to “everyone goes to the VA” single payer system, “just like England and Canada.”

          As more and more exchanges fail and more and more premiums increase, I expect the single payer drumbeat to get louder and more strident over the next few years.

          • The problem with one and two is that they left that huge gaping hole, where people are too poor for subsidies so they have to pay full price.
            I get there was some idea that this was intended to screw over people in states that didn’t expand medicaid, but the fact is, if you’re an adult and not pregnant, at least in my state, and you receive medicaid, the state creates a lien against your property. So the state is actually protecting lower income people from being screwed over by not expanding medicaid.
            But it sure didn’t win the democrats any friends here. According to the local rag (which might be making numbers up out of whole cloth, or possibly dreams and unicorn tails) we have both one of the highest poverty rates and the very highest rate of charitable giving of any state.
            So whatever. The good news here at our house is that my husband’s company changed benefit service providers and now I can have health insurance through his work that doesn’t cost half his pay!

          • They no longer control the media. I think they lose this one, but it will be close.

            • I think the nail in the coffin of Obamacare would be having a couple of widely, clearly articulated alternatives to single-payer that could be fairly quickly adopted when O’care finally fails.

      • Terry Sanders

        THIS. All the peepul who can’t distinguish between gratitude and obligation…

    • I listened to a college commencement speaker explain how the college graduates had “a debt to society” for the privilege of being allowed to go to school. This at an institution where over half the students were work-study and a goodly percentage also had part-time jobs. It was the graduates’ duty to go do community service and unpaid labor to “pay back” what they owed. As one of the new grads said after the ceremony ended “If I have a debt to society, I’d love to know what the guys in prison have.”

      Yes, the speaker later ran for office (D), served in the US House, and is now nuttier than a Corsicana fruitcake. No, I’m not 100% certain of the cause to effect sequence.

      • Hang on… “a debt to society” ?!
        Isn’t that what once said of criminals? Which makes sense in their case, as criminal actions do generally degrade society. But students? The acting on the decision to improve (hopefully) one self is a societal gain.

  8. A major part of the problem with this concept is that it employs what Thomas Sowell described as “arguments without arguments” — elisions of actual arguments to jump to a desired conclusion.

    A second part of the problem is that, as with so many other words deployed by Progressives, “community” and ‘giving back” are warped beyond their customary uses in order to achieve that short-circuiting of rational argumentation.

    Ultimately, the “giving back to the community” argument falls prey to the “If by whiskey” fallacy:

    My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

    If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

    But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

    This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.]

    From a 1952 speech by Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., a young lawmaker from the U.S. state of Mississippi, on the subject of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit … or finally legalize alcoholic beverages.

    If by “giving back to the community” you mean …,; I am against it on the other hand, if by “giving back to the community” you mean …, I am for it.

    • I’ve heard that one before; somehow thought maybe it was attributed to Harold Hill, a few years after the events in “Music Man”…

  9. “Oh, you are part of the [designation] community!” No, oh thou overly-perky individual with a clipboard, I am not. Nor can you slot me into this, that, or the other group on your ever-growing list. I will do what I can to help those in true need, those who are my friends, and when I know I can trust the people organizing a certain local or very tailored group (like Team Rubicon or a spaghetti dinner to help pay for someone’s kid’s medical bills.) But I will associate with those I choose to associate with, I will do my duties as a citizen and per my faith-system, and you, oh “organizer of all in the appropriate communitie” can go jump into Lake Superior in January without a dry-suit.

    • I aspire to the “presumed to be heavily armed” designated community when approached by perky clipboard wielders, in spite of the potential downsides.

      • [to the clipboard-wielder:] “You’re asking me for information, sir? Be aware that I am of a community that generates information, intellectual property, opinions, and the like, as my business. What price are you offering me for that information, at this time?”

        Yes, I actually said the like words to a shopping-mall survey-taker, once upon a time. More fun for me than her, I’m afraid.

  10. ”Is it the same group it was a year ago? Maybe. Depends on how many people moved in and out. Is it the same it was 100 years ago? Oh, h*ll no. With bells on. People have died and been born, and, if it’s in the States, moved in and out. You’ll be lucky if there’s one person who is a direct descendant of someone who lived there 100 years ago.” In my town, to which I and my children are newcomers (wife&sibs natives, parents newcomers), there are at least two families working on 6th/7th generations here. There is a large transient population, some of whom retire here, or come back to retire.

    • I was thinking how we were something of outsiders, moving there not many decades before my birth, and we came from a line of loners, and yet we were still part of the community if not part of any cliques.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      My great grandfather’s generation moved here from a nearby town near a hundred, I think ninety, years ago. Maybe eighty. There are very few things holding us here, and some incentives to get out.

  11. A-freaking-men, Sarah! A-freaking-men!

    It freakin’ grinds my gears when some “community” claims that I need to “give back” simply because I exist, or that I “owe them” because they have chosen to grace the world with their obnoxious presence.

    “Give back?” Why? What the [BLEEP!] has “the community” ever done for me? Usually (best case), they’ve done absolutely nothing, or else (worst case) they’ve actively gone out of their way to try and [BLEEP!] me over and/or destroy my life.

    If I do owe something, then I owe it to specific individuals who have already done for me, and I will gladly repay those debts. As for “the community,” it can shove a sriracha-covered cactus up its rectum for all I care.

  12. In my life I have been blessed by considerable good fortune. A small bit fell unbidden into my lap, but for the most part I had to drag it chewed and bloody from the jaws of adversity. And whether found or won, it’s mine not yours and I will determine to what use it is most appropriate to enroll it.
    We are a community, a society, of laws. I consider it a duty to myself to understand to the best of my ability the nature of those laws and their underlying rationale and to then decide which to obey and which to break, And for those I break, what price I must pay if caught.
    Giving back to the community is a sucker ploy used by those who would prey on your generosity, take your hard earned wealth through guilt and intimidation, and then skim a very healthy portion for themselves for their trouble. And claim sanctimonious credit for their good works while cashing a quite impressive payroll check to boot. For such it’s a tossup whether to extend the middle finger or go full bore and use the whole fist.
    I’m a big fan of pay it forward. My time or my wealth applied precisely where it will do the most good, and for the most part on an individual level. Takes more thought, a bit of care, and sometimes you get it wrong. But still better than some monolithic charity organization that spends fifty percent of their take on salaries and advertising.

    • In this context, “giving back to the community” is an attempt to instill the idea of charity without invoking religion. That said, i think another aspect is that there’s a huge cultural divide.

      Years ago, maybe decades now, there was a fire at a hotel in a Georgia town. No fatalities, but some guests were left with only the clothes on their backs. They were stunned when people donated clothes and even diapers and baby formula. That was completely outside their experience. In some parts of the country, pall bearers are requested from family and friends, and the idea of paying/tipping them is insulting; in another this is expected, and in still another the funeral home is expected to handle this part of it. All show different attitudes,

      I feel some of that here. Do I think that those with money should be shook down to fund some project? No. Yet opening some sort of industry not only as an investment but to provides jobs is good “paying it back.” And what do we make of those who, from nothing but the kindness of their heart, built hospitals and churches? Andrew Carnegie gave away 90% of his wealth. Was he a fool?

      • Nobody here is against charity or neighborliness. What is resented is people demanding gratitude and gifts in the name of some nebulous Marxist version of community, instead of asking or expecting good works to occur for various personal reasons.

        Sarah probably sees a lot more of this sort of pressure.

        The other annoyance is when people act like you are evil if you do not give to a specific charity, when the whole point is that different people tend to support different causes and have different financial situations. (And of course one may even be bound by conscience not to support certain causes, or groups with bad policies.)

        • The proglodytes have a habit of taking such concepts as “charity” and converting them into “obligation” — thus denaturing the former and making donor and recipient resentful of the latter (recipient is no longer grateful but is persuaded the largess ought be greater.)

          To paraphrase John Dickinson, they “have an annoying talent for making such delightful words as ‘giving back to the community’ sound quite distasteful.”

          Clothing extortion as charity does violence to both concepts. End the violence. it’s for the children.

        • What troubles me that it’s not whether the individual “owes” something to the community, but what is owed. Call it the “Who is my neighbor?” question, or Socrates’ Social Contract theory. Where I grew up, the unwritten social contract was that all members of the community helped each other during an emergency. There were limits to the social contract and it was applied equally. No one thought they had a “right” to another’s wealth, maybe because there was an understanding that all were already equal beneficiaries of the social contract. The moment he showed up to fight a wildfire, the wealthy man had “given back” to the community as much as the poor man who’d done the same. This, I think, our hostess addresses by stating she does not advocate a “lone wolf” approach.

          The troubling thing is the general opinion of not owing anything to the community. In the sense that the community didn’t make one wealthy, this is true. But I cannot say I owe nothing to the community, because to a point we do.

          As to people who invoke “giving back” to things that really aren’t in the social contract, the little word “no” has always worked for me.

      • In Christianity, good deeds are best done secretly and humbly.
        ‘Giving back’ can allow our betters to ostentatiously give (tax deductible) to the sounds of trumpets, while humble bragging on how well they are doing- and get praised by the usual suspects!

      • Kevin, I’m not saying you shouldn’t give or help when you see a need. I’m saying I don’t like when some tight-lipped person (whom I have nothing to do with, and who is usually WAY better off than I am) shakes me down for “you owe it to the community” — particularly when it’s not a community I really have anything to do with.

        • When a lynch mob arrives saying “You owe it to the community” all I reckon I owe is a warning shot, and that simply because I am such a generous person.

        • I tend to deal with calls for giving in one of two ways: “Send me some data on it and I’ll see what I feel I can do” or “I’ve already got a giving plan and it’s full-up, sorry.” There’s not much a salesman (that’s what they are, after all) can say to alter those two responses; and it’s rare that they want to go to the trouble of sending me data for my independent evaluation, for some reason.

    • For whatever reason, listening to proglodytes assert the virtues of “giving back to the community” always brings a certain poem to my mind.

      I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.’
      With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
      Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.

  13. I know whatever I throw at you will be enlarged and deepened

    Giant deepwater carp?

  14. Reality Observer

    You know, I never heard of “pay it forward” until I read RAH. And not of “giving back to the community” until I was fully grown (20s, maybe?)

    My mother stopped way out on Highway 60 once for a young out of state couple with a small child whose car had broken down. She made sure they got to the honest auto shop in town, made sure they got their car towed in, and when it couldn’t be fixed before the next day – she brought them home with her, fed them dinner, found bedding for them, and fed them breakfast the next day.

    That was a common thing for her (until it became too bloody dangerous for a single woman to trust anyone “broken down” along the highway.)

    She never called it “paying back” or “paying forward” – it was just what you do. That is what I have tried to live by – not even the “bread cast upon the waters” idea. It’s just what you do.

    One reason I never regretted marrying my wife – she has the same attitude. One afternoon I had no idea where she was for several hours. She came home and rather shamefacedly said she had gotten lost and ended up way out in the southwest part of town. Then she came across two Indian women whose car had broken down, and ran them all the way out to Sells – that’s over an hour each way, even with her lead foot…

    • I was exposed to RAH’s ‘pay it forward’ at a young age. It made perfect sense. Sometimes the pay forward goes to someone that has helped you in the past, so I suppose that part might be ‘giving back’. Sometimes, helping is a promissory note given. When I help someone, I only ask that they pay it forward themselves. Some of them, like the President of the local garden club that keeps flowers and plants at the toll booths into the county is already paying it forward through her deeds. Indeed, that may be the ‘community’.
      Progs of course, think government is what we all agree to do together, you didn’t build that, it takes a village to raise a child, the pie is fixed size, you already have enough money, Teacher Unions can’t teach but want more money, kids can’t add, more money, kids can’t read, more money. Indeed since the ‘State’ is over all, the joined ‘Community’ that we all ‘owe’ for our very existence, thus you are obligated to pay back. A good lesson would be to study the pioneers of this country, who built the nation with no help from the old ‘State’ of King George… but, all the history taught now is how the white man stole the land from the Indians.

      In a somewhat aside, what I noticed my first trip to Europe is that there is not an acre of land that someone is pissed at someone else over a battle that took it from one side to the other. Israel and Palestine come to mind as well. In America, we don’t have this attitude, even with the dread Civil War, which might be why Progs hate the battle flag so much. North and South should be like Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, mad and ‘othering’ the others. Nope, about all we get are the half jokes like when my Virginia Brother married his New York Wife. (The South will Rise tonight!) That is why Indians and Slavery are such important topics to Progs, we must be mad at each other, feel the others wronged us and now we ‘owe it back’. Call this BS what it is…. BS.

      • Oh, it was close, Donald. There were editorialists who were calling for every man woman and child in the South to be exterminated. We owe the Restoration and the gradual merging of the South into the US, and the Southerners who surprised the North by fighting in the Spanish American War to the great wisdom of several of the Northern leaders, Lincoln, Grant, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain are the first to come to my mind.

        • As I recall Andrew Johnson was impeached over that very issue. Congress, composed mainly of northern states immediately after the war, wanted to lay economic waste to the South, and Johnson resisted. There was a lot more to it than just that, but it did play a major factor.
          I believe he avoided removal by a single vote with a Senate vote of 35 guilty to 19 not guilty just short of the two thirds needed.

          • The Other Sean

            And Presidents have been getting too big for their britches ever since.

          • President Grant got fried for his efforts to minimize the burdens of Reconstruction:

            As president, Grant tried to foster a peaceful reconciliation between the North and South. He supported pardons for former Confederate leaders while also attempting to protect the civil rights of freed slaves. In 1870, the 15th Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote, was ratified. Grant signed legislation aimed at limiting the activities of white terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan that used violence to intimidate blacks and prevent them from voting. At various times, the president stationed federal troops throughout the South to maintain law and order. Critics charged that Grant’s actions violated states’ rights, while others contended that the president did not do enough to protect freedmen.


            Grant’s presidency occurred during an era dominated by machine politics and the patronage system of political appointments, in which politicians rewarded their supporters with government jobs and the employees, in turn, kicked back part of their salaries to the political party. In order to combat the corruption and inefficiency that resulted from this system, Grant established a civil service commission to develop more equitable methods for hiring and promoting government workers. However, civil service reform faced opposition from Congress and members of Grant’s administration, and by 1876 the commission’s funding was cut off and reform rules such as standardized exams were discontinued. Lasting reform did not take hold until 1883, when President Chester Arthur (1829-1886) signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act.

            Grant had served, at West Point and in the Mexican-American War* with many of the Confederacy’s leaders and was disinclined to see them as enemies. For this and other reasons those eager to loot the South and those eager to drive out the scalawags and carpetbaggers found common cause in undermining his policies.

            *For those interested parties, Martin Dugard has written an excellent book on the first experience of major forces combat of a generation of West Point graduates during this period: THE TRAINING GROUND: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848.

            • I liked John Waugh’s ‘The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomatox- Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan and Their Brothers’, too.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Johnson flat out reversed Sherman’s policy of handing out land and animals to freed slaves.

            If the war was a matter of Democrats being butthurt over losing an election, impoverishing the wealthy masterminds would have been a way to ensure it wouldn’t happened again right away. Wild west banditry included a fair amount of effort to restart the war.

            Considering how much of the southern economy had been agricultural exports before the war, a targeted effort to keep things from restarting would have looked an awful lot like revanchism to southern eyes.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Got a cite on Josh Chamberlain? Kratman goes in depth on how recent history has misrepresented him, and that sounds like the sort of thing he was talking about.

  15. sort of like granfallon and karass by the noted SciFi author

  16. “Give back to the community”- doesn’t this look like a modernized version of the labor services that serfs were required to perform for their Lords, or is it just me?

    • Obligatory volunteering and service hours are corvee labor, yup.

      • I think this is okay if it is a club membership requirement, such as “If you want to be in 4-H you will do an hour of community service once per year.” I think it’s okay as a private school requirement.
        When it’s something as mandatory as government schools, this I have a problem with–yes, people can pull their kids out, but it’s a burden on the parents to. The charter schools, they can go for it. Workplaces probably shouldn’t even be allowed to organize true volunteer events–too much risk of pressure to participate or be fired.
        So obligatory volunteering is okay in my book only if it’s a requirement for a non-obligatory activity.

        • Try to get that gummint skool to credit a kid’s volunteer work at Crisis Pregnancy or the like and see just how much they support volunteerism.

          • Depends on the school. Come down south and stay out of the inner cities and the blue ‘burbs, and they’ll sign off on that right quick. Won’t make the school paper, of course, but no administrator who wants to get that pension is going to deny that petition.

        • Reality Observer

          My previous workplace had a good policy – the only “company” things had to be anonymous fund drives. One was to bring in things for poor families before Christmas; but nobody ever knew whether you did or not (unless you said so, of course). Strictly banned for a manager to ever ask about it – that was in the harassment policy.

          We did, as various departments, do things, but they were our own ideas (and departments were really only half a dozen people, at most). We’d do a day at a Habitat for Humanity site (although my IT department was usually crowded out of that opportunity by the irrigation engineers). Or cook a meal at the local Ronald McDonald’s House (that one I loved doing – and was grateful that my boss took the initiative to putz around with setting it up, which I didn’t have the energy to do).

    • I recall a gradeschool teacher (sixth grade?) fond of a line something like, “Creeping Socialism doesn’t scare me, it’s when it gets up and walks!” which I recall (poorly?) as being (mis)attributed to Pres. Eisenhower. I’ve not found any such thing said by Eisenhower, nor a quotation on that order – though I might simply not have invoked the right magic wordssearch terms.

  17. I hate United Way with a passion. Worked industrial jobs for 15 years and each year someone from senior management would brace each of us and ask how much we would give. Not if, but how much. And always at least two levels of management above your immediate supervisor. I always told them “same as last year” and left before they realized that amount was zero. Don’t get me wrong, I gave considerable to charity, but directly to the charities I wanted to support. Did not surprise me in the least several years ago to see that UW was guilty of negating earmarked donations to charities they disliked by reducing general contributions by the exact amount of the earmarks. As I recall they also got a few folks fired from charities they worked for when they didn’t pony up the appropriate donation.

    • Reality Observer

      The theory of a “community chest” organization is a good one. Fewer expenses (in money and volunteer time) to run your fund raising, and a better response rate from people who aren’t being pestered seven or eight times during the year by different people. (There is the rule that a member agency cannot directly solicit anyone that is already solicited by the United Way.)

      That said – they went like the March of Dimes, like the Red Cross is beginning to go, and so many others. A piggy bank for “social” causes. They have been going that way for a very long time – which is why my small town community chest was organized exactly like the United Way, but never joined the national organization. (It may be a member now, I don’t know. It wasn’t as of when my mother finally retired from it late 90s.)

      BTW, it really irked a few of them when the designations exceeded, by far, the allocation to the Boy Scouts when they tried to dump them many years ago. By their organizing papers as a community chest, they have to give those funds to the designated agency, member or not, so long as it is organized as a charitable non-profit. I know people who gave to the local opera company, their non-member church, etc.

      • Did you know that BSA was one of the founding organizations of the UW? Little known fact. Shows how the SJW entryists have infiltrated and ruined it.

      • The theory of a “community chest” organization is a good one.

        Not sure you’re right; there’s a common expression about not putting all your begs in one ask-it.

    • I had a former employer who drank the United Way kool-aid and tried something similar… they wanted something like 20% of gross pay, and they put little cards in our pay envelopes that we were supposed to sign and turn back in to HR.

      A few weeks later I got a personal visit from one of the HR termites, who wanted to know why I hadn’t sent my card back. The idea that someone wouldn’t passively hand over 20% of their gross pay had obviously not occurred to her.

      That still wasn’t quite as bad as a different employer that would line everyone up outside to be bled by the Red Cross. There was much butthurt when I wouldn’t do that, either…

      They wanted to call it “contribution”, but it was extortion, pure and simple.

    • I detest the UW with a passion too. In 36 years as an engineer with various companies, I have NEVER given any money to them. Like you, I give directly to the groups I like, like my church, boy scouts (troop and local council only), and a local pregnancy crisis clinic.

      Some years I was the only guy in the entire organization who did not contribute and a lot of pressure was put on me to give, but I never buckled.

  18. “I am indeed spectacularly blessed by many talented and hardworking men and women throughout history who have formed the practices and discovered the knowledge that have enriched my life far beyond the dreams of any of our ancestors. I owe those guys (Isaac Newton, Edison, Salk, etc) a great deal.

    Now why do you have *your* hand out, pal, and why should I follow *your* orders?”

    Or as some people I know sometimes say:

    “Waitaminute – you want me to be grateful on command to *you* because roads were built? It wasn’t your money that built those roads (it was mine), and it wasn’t your labor that built those roads (you’ve never worked a day in your life, and wilt in revulsion when associating with the type of men who build roads). It wasn’t your planning that resulted in roads (civil engineers). But you want to hijack my gratitude?”

  19. But Sarah, you didn’t build that. /sarcasm

    • I am reminded of the quip that “Neurotics build castles in the air; psychotics move in; and shrinks collect the rent.”

      Well, in this case authors build worlds, readers move to them – and if things go right, the author collects the rent, as it were. There are “traditional publishers” but they seem to be “rent seekers” in derogatory sense.

  20. Finally I understand why I’ve always hated that phrase. Thanks!

    BTW: I’ve lived in downtown Denver (two blocks from the 0,0 address point) for 14 years. If you’re looking in this area, I’m happy to answer questions (parking sucks, off-street is required; bus system isn’t _that_ awful; etc…)You (should) have my email, as it is required to post.