Friday, September 16, 2005

Opportunity vs. Entitlement

The Hurricane Katrina situation has forced many of us to come to grips with the daily disaster of the poor, and their plight in this country. I include myself as someone who hasn't fully understood the scope of the problem. What's ordinarily out of out of the old saying goes. We generally aren't concerned with how the extremely poor in this country live from one day to the next. So, we don't have to be terribly concerned.

Being a part of the cycle of futility that exists below the poverty line is not a happy place to be. But, try as we might to help, some of the poor seem hell-bent on a pathetic existence. As Dickens so skillfully demonstrated in "A Christmas Carol", the poor will always be among us, and leaving their fate in their own hands, which was Scrooge's answer, is also not a solution. At the same time, their own spirit and self-determination must be at the source of anything that approaches a solution. The welfare system, which is a comfortable and compassionate approach to some in government, also robs our poor of the self-esteem needed to achieve and strive for a better life.

That brings me back to the hurricane. What is really disheartening, is the mindset that many of the affected people of New Orleans have displayed. We have seen, through their lack of action and comments to news cameras, individuals and families who have the expectation that someone else is in charge of their lives. They have submitted to futility. They assume no obligation to care for themselves, their families, or the places they live. They wait for someone to tell them where to go, what to do, and where their next meal is coming from. There can be no question that this attitude is a result of the welfare state, the way of life of the poor in this country for many years. The futility that is borne of being on the public dole has been exposed as the real human tragedy of this incredible natural disaster.

So how do our poor go from being those who simply exist on the leftovers of society to self-sufficient, self-sustaining and confident contributors to a better life for themselves and those around them? When and how do they discontinue the expectation of a better life based on what someone else allows them, to assuming the responsibility for their own future? I don't have the answers. But, it is obvious that these are questions that will need to be addressed in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. The welfare system, as we know it, doesn't appear to cut the mustard.

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