Caring For The Caring: Who Cares
Of all the words in the English language that have come in for a beating in the last decade or so only sharing has been more misused or abused than caring. It has gotten so bad that in some circles for it to be known that you care is considered an insult. What could have happened that such a decent word developed so many different ways of being construed and come to be looked on with something akin to scorn
Okay sure you've got all sorts of strange new age people and talk show hosts who have given the word a bad name. I'm just as ready as the next person with a cynical comment about upper middle class people crying over starving people in Africa while living in gated communities that proudly boast a less then 1% black population as a selling point.
But does that mean we have to give up on an idea or a concept just because some people have given it a bad name? That's one of the worst instances of cutting our noses off to spite our faces. We have to learn how to reclaim the concepts and words that were taken away from decency and made into the empty gestures of selfish people. Show that not everyone who uses the word care is trying to justify the cost of their house easily feeding the average refugee camp for a year.
It's hard though, not to feel cynical when you see the conspicuousness of consumption and waste in our society. Being on the lower end of the earning scale might make it sound like I'm spewing sour grapes and envy because I live in a poor neighbourhood and a rundown apartment. But maybe that's the point too.
If someone like me who enjoys so many of the benefits of this society, like free medical care and inexpensive prescription drugs because of being disabled is cynical about the motivations of the wealthier individuals in North America; what must be the reaction of people living in refugee camps?
How many people make comments about the ungratefulness of those who we send foreign aid to? Do the words, "We send them food and medical supplies only to have them come back and kill our boys overseas" sound familiar to you?
Let me ask you this; how would you feel if somebody sitting down to a seven course banquet saw you standing hungry on the sidewalk and offered you a crust of bread? They then go back inside their air conditioned/heated house where their cook has prepared them an elaborate supper while you stand out side broiling in the heat or freezing in the cold.
You'll chew that crust of bread down and it will choke you because of the shame you feel for wanting more, and the anger you feel towards that person who made you feel so ashamed of who you are and your situation. How can they care about you really if they can so easily dismiss you from their conscience by handing out a crust of bread?
Of course our affluence isn't as great as parts of the rest of the world perceive it to be. It's a case of us being hoisted on our petard; having claimed to be the best society in the world for long enough now that people believe it and can easily be swayed into making us the focal point of resentment and anger.
We have so much and they have so little is how they see it no matter that large portions of our population are in actual fact not much better off than they are. Our refugee camps just happen to be housing projects in inner cities or reservations in the north woods or the bad lands of the Dakotas.
Perhaps if we spent more energy on telling the truth about how big a failure our system is and how few people really enjoy the standard of living they seem to assume that most of us do, we wouldn't be as universally despised by poor people around the globe. They might be more willing to believe we are sharing as much as we can and not feel like they are being bought off with token after thoughts.
Caring is a relative thing, the less you have and yet still be willing to share the more it is appreciated. How often do we read about the kid who has raised money from events she's organized for victims of something or other? What makes the story remarkable is that it was a kid without any resources who managed to do that, not just another movie star with a smile and grafted on sincerity donating a tax right off.
Care seems to be these days as much about who is doing the caring as the cause that is being cared about. When George Bush says he cares, there are many people who question his motivations and what he cares about no matter what the cause is and no matter how much money he's prepared to ask Congress to throw at it.
But if a Inuit tribe from up North sell off a collection of sculptures to raise money for those hit by famine as happened during the first Ethiopia crises back in the 1980's, everyone rushes to be the first to say how amazing it is. Why?
Both George and the Inuit have used what resources they have to help out, to express their caring for someone else, but one is looked upon as heroic and the other with cynicism. Mainly it's because given Bush's track record no one can believe that he will do anything without there being something in it for him in return. On the other hand the Inuit give the appearance of dong what they did it with no expectations of anything in return.
Unlike George of course they also have very little to begin with, so anything that they do is even more greatly appreciated. When you swagger into town and throw dollar bills to the natives and hand out trinkets and beads as trade goods acting like you not only own the place, but are also better then the people who live there, there is bound to be a little cynicism around you telling them how much you care.
Care should not be about motives or reciprocity. It's about caring. If you look closely enough at care, you can see how easily it could become caress; an act of love. Did I just make you uncomfortable? But there it is when you care you do so with love for another not for love of yourself, your reputation, or your taxes at the end of the year.
For too long now people have been claiming or acting like they care through their appearances on talk shows either as guests or emotional audiences, or by throwing money at something. But how can you be considered caring when your life is selfish by definition like most North Americans.
Let's say a couple buy a five-bedroom house for themselves. Aside from depriving a family that might actually need the space, they are also having to needlessly heat or cool hundreds if not thousands of square feet selfishly using energy. Over a year who knows how much they'll have wasted heating and cooling empty space just because they "own" it.
It's hard to believe that anybody who lives like that, and there are plenty of them still out there, care about anything at all beyond their own personal comfort and pleasure. These are the people who care though, who send in donations, and watch the telethons and get all weepy over the images of starving babies in Africa being broadcast on their fifty-two inch surround sound home theatre systems.
If we truly cared about each other, I hate to tell you, nobody would be living like that, nobody would be driving an SUV, nobody would be planting trees in a desert, or building artificial environments anywhere. If we truly cared about each other oil companies like Exxon wouldn't be allowed to make a cent of profit while their mess is still being cleaned up in Alaska (Exxon just posted a 40 million dollar profit and they are still cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez in Alaska) If we truly cared …if I keep going I'll just get depressed and you either get the picture or you think I'm full of it so it doesn't matter anyway.
Let's face it, none of us really care except for those people who are aid workers on the spot spoon feeding broth into a starving child's mouth, if we did would the world be in the shape it's in now? I really don’t think so, do you?