Sunday, April 13, 2008

When did "care" become a four-letter word?

We consider ourselves a good people. We consider caring for others the very essence of goodness. This concept is central to all our religions, our definition of a civil society and our proof of humanity. We care about our families, our loved ones, our friends and our communities. Yet over the last couple of decades or so, caring has fallen out of favor as a policy. Indeed, some leaders of government, business and philosophy view caring with open contempt. How did this happen? Is this really what we are?

Our government was built and rebuilt on the concept that everyone is equal. This concept makes no sense if one doen't care about others. Our government once cared enough to right injustices, provide a safety net to the less fortunate among us, to fund research that didn't have an immediate payoff, preserve our nation's natural treasures for their own sake and to help people in war-torn and poverty-sticken countries get on their feet. Now our current Vice President, when asked if he cares, flatly says "no."

Our religious leaders, whose entire reason for existing is to care, do not care about the rights of people who believe differently. They do not care anymore about the poor, unless they can control the giving and skim a little for themselves in the process. They do not care whether they interpret their scriptures the way their God intended them to, only that others cannot tell the difference.

Our business leaders are no longer concerned with making a quality product, providing good jobs and being a pillar of the community. Now they only care about how much profit they can wring out for this quarter and how much gold they can pack in their parachutes before their incompetence is found out.

The press once considered itself the fourth branch of govenment. It was their purpose to make sure the truth was told and eveyone knew what was really going on. Now they just care about being invited to the right parties and whether Britney has OD'ed yet.

Even our sports heroes no longer care about the game, their families or even their own health. Winning is the only thing.

The thing that everyone forgets about caring is that it's not just for bleeding-heart do-gooders, it's practical. We suffer the consequences from our lack of care. We can see it all around us. We stopped caring about our planet, now our crops are wilting, our forests are burning, icecaps are melting and we're all slowly being poisoned. We stopped caring about our children, now they're undereducated, overmedicated and on their way to prison. We stopped caring about a just wage rather than shareholder profit and now our jobs are disappearing.

Are we that bad? I don't think so. You see, we really do care, as much as we ever have. It's just that life is complicated, high-maintenance and requires constant attention. Our immediate needs caused us to lose sight of the big picture. And that's when the people who really don't care made their move.

When I say we care, I mean the vast majority of us. There are those of us who care only about their own immediate personal gain. These sociopaths of the spirit, from the habitual criminal to the corrupt head of state lack the ability and inclination to care about others. The advantage they get from that is that they are single-minded in their pursuit and never give up. While we were too busy they took power. But we outnumber them and we can take it back. We'll have to do the jobs they're supposed to do. We'll have to let our floors get a little dusty and our grass grow long to attend to these issues but we can do it. We all know people who genuinely care and are experts in their fields, and we can remove the socipaths from their positions and install some of our own. We've done it before and we can do it again.

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