Brass Tacks #2: Pity The Fool?

The second in a series of articles intended to boil down some of the problems we’re facing to their essential, skeletal, sometimes rancid core.

In the first installment of this series, I was inspired to question the intelligence of those who’s first instinct (especially when facing hardship of their own making), is to put their hands out, not begging, mind you, but expecting either institutional rescue and/or societal compliance with their demands. 

I went so far as to consider the strong possibility that whenever we facilitate such unreasonable expectations, it may be our own intelligence that’s suffering.  After all, “fool me once….”

Today, unfortunately, I’m forced to ponder the character of those who’s next instinct, when denied what – clearly – is considered to be an entitlement, is to take the object of their desire by force.  You see, the “potential renter” described in the last article, has – after being denied the opportunity to rent my neighbor’s house – actually taken possession of it, breaking in and laying claim to it.

Now, my first instinct, when considering this most recent installment in the series, was to entitle the article “No, Seriously, You Really Can’t Fix Stupid“.  Afterall, from a “life strategy” perspective, this particular move is going to end rather badly for the young family in question, something akin to “going from the frying pan to the fire“. 

Perhaps, in time, we’ll discover a long history of this sort of behavior; frankly, at this point, nothing would really surprise me.  However, if this turns out to be their first eviction experience, imagine what response their next rental application will likely evince.  In the end, this move is simply “not that smart”.

But, today, I’m not that interested in the question of intelligence, either theirs or ours.  No, I’m more interested in the question of character, especially in desperate times.

Our M. Ragazzo, rightfully, if maybe unnecessarily, wondered just how desperate these folks might be.  And, to be sure, they are clearly desperate.  There’s no other way to describe such an act, an appellation that might be used to describe the motives behind almost any act, criminal or otherwise.  

But, then, rationalization is not the same thing as justification.  To paraphrase one notable quote, we might consider that “hardship doesn’t build character, it reveals it“.

Can “the desperate act”, especially when it will undoubtedly harm one’s self, one’s family, and many others, truly be a principled act?  I must suppose that, quite possibly, it might depend on the circumstances.  But, more precisely, “do we forgive the starving man his theft of bread?” 

There are, of course, many – especially those with socialistic leanings who’s first instinct is the categorical forgiveness of such an act, with little or no regard to either the circumstances or, of course, to the appropriate remedy.   Of course, it costs them very little to place those burdens on someone else’s shoulders (or wallet).

In this particular circumstance, of course, the people in question had (and have) other options, notably simply choosing to live somewhere else.  Unless they’ve left a long string of burned bridges behind them, they have other options.  Of course, those options will, undoubtedly, be less desirable.  They might have to move to another town.  They might have to accept a smaller or older home. 

If, having burned every bridge, however, they find themselves confronted with no other recourse, then, whose fault is that, exactly?  And what should be done about it?  Inevitably, we are forced to ponder whether or not the “starving man” first turned work away or, worse still, never bothered to even consider that option. 

“No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thus, while I might, in fact, sympathize with, even pity, such a fool as would, through defect of character, compound every bad decision in life with yet another bad decision, I feel little cause to empathize with (or personalize) their plight. 

Stated another way, I might well have a (Christian) duty to charitably address a genuine need in my community, but with that duty comes an equal responsibility to understand exactly what that need might be and respond accordingly.   

For the record, we are, in my opinion, now entering the early stages of mankind’s recurring nightmare:  desperate times.  And, by that, I implicitly mean: desperate times of our own making.  It matters very little that the blame for this isn’t universally (or collectively) shared; to one extent or another, the consequences will be. 

I also believe that most of us will be tested in the days ahead – in matters of character, of will, of faith.  In reality, that’s simply a matter of life, maybe with deferred interest.  Only in America, it seems, have we been so eager to forget or ignore the simplest challenges of living.  Our success, unfortunately, has increasingly bred a culture of entitlement.  Now, perhaps, our “eyes” have simply become bigger than our “stomachs”.  

You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence. – Abraham Lincoln

Sadly, it seems we’ve been doing just that.  However we might pity the fool, perhaps we ought not continue to reward him.  After all,  “fool me twice….”

Harry Tuttle



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