At the time of Columbus, Europeans were beginning to outstrip their land and so thus began to find a way to do things more efficiently by pooling their resources for the common good. Even in the early days of the American colonies, entire settlements would band together to build churches, barns, and family homes. It was the correct, civilized, and neighborly thing to do, and our ancestors did it. This banding together, this community spirit, was a good and healthy thing. It added to the community as a whole, and the country grew and prospered. As time progressed, individuality and anonymity seeped into our culture. Individual fortunes were made through individual effort and entrepreneurial endeavors. That, too, was a good thing, and still is. But the rise of individualism has made a victim of that once-prevalent community spirit, and that has not been necessarily good.
Some time ago I came upon an old grade school classmate. He was scalping event tickets, as I knew he had been doing and prospering handsomely with for many years on the side. We chatted for a bit and he soon began to complain about freeloaders on welfare and his hatred for do-gooder liberals ("f___ing socialists", as he so venomously put it). He even called the chief of staff for a former Minnesota moderate Republican governor a "f___ing socialist" on another occasion, and then it dawned on me. My ex-classmate had obviously forgotten and/or rejected all of what had been covered in religion class, especially concern and aid for the poor as Jesus Himself had advised. Regrettably, he had today become an extreme product of our current individualistic mindset. My acquaintance despises paying taxes (he's told me so), so I'm relatively certain he pockets all of his scalping money for himself, substantial income though it is, and only pays taxes on income derived from the various "legitimate" jobs he has held over the years. I admire him for his entrepreneurial drive and work ethic, but his current outlook saddened me. This mindset of individuality I have described may best be illustrated by the slogan "I've got mine, now you go get yours and to hell with you." It was abundantly clear to me that his concerns were only for HIS wants, HIS family, HIS city, HIS country---basically, all extensions of HIM. This wasn't the same guy I knew years ago.
I just came back from a visit to see an old friend who is now in a nursing home. Years and years ago, he had been a well-known successful media personality. He moved away from our area long ago and became involved in sales, but a few years back he returned here. Then began his downhill slide. He developed some very expensive and crippling health issues which left him unable to work, no longer able to walk, and nearly destitute. This once proud, vibrant, and vigorous man, who in previous times made good money and routinely did charity events, was now nearly penniless and a charity recipient. He was now miserable, gaunt, and forced to reside in a county-assisted nursing home. I felt terrible seeing him in his present condition, yet he was far better off than many sick and elderly living in poverty. Much as he'd love to, he can no longer "go get his." Were it not for government aid, he would surely die, unnecessarily early.
As I left him, I began thinking of the millionaires and billionaires who have become even wealthier through reduced income and corporate taxes under Bush and his conservative allies. The past 7 years have been VERY kind to these people, yet few have done much with this new, increased wealth to build up our infrastructure, or improve our inner cities, or ease the plight of the poor, elderly, and afflicted. Many of them used their new, enhanced wealth to ship American jobs overseas or buy up other companies and lay people off. These filthy rich are obviously believers in the "I've got mine, now you go get yours and to hell with you" philosophy. But they, like my ex-classmate, are dead wrong with that self-centered and morally bankrupt mindset.
I recently came across a fabulous website I would encourage you to check out. It is found at http://www.pickensplan.com. It is a site set up by a wealthy Texas oilman named T. Boone Pickens, who, unlike many of his peers, has a benevolent eye on the future and who apparently shares the vision and clarity of Ross Perot when it comes to economic issues. Mr. Pickens is urging us to band together again as a nation for the common good to solve our energy problems and stop sending so much of our wealth overseas.
The times DEMAND that we Americans get off our overly-individualistic high horses and start adopting anew the community spirit we once had. With our standard of living dropping, 1 in 7 of us not covered by health insurance (or unable to afford it), and our self-centered and wasteful habits of consumption, it is abundantly clear we cannot continue with our current mindset! A visit to Mr. Pickens' website might be a good start on the return to a more healthy community spirit. And for all of you narrow-minded, hardcore neo-conservatives out there, please notice I advocate a return to COMMUNITY spirit, NOT a "Communist" or "Socialist" one. Some of you ideologues just don't get the difference, and that difference is HUGE.