Monday, March 16, 2015

The Road to Hell...

Has anyone else noticed that the 21st Century has apparently brought a new order for making life decisions?  It used to be: 1) get a job, 2) get married, 3) start a family.  Many recent articles, often appearing as front-page news, show us a new order has emerged:  1) start a family (marriage optional), 2) get a job, 3) realize the income is not sufficient to raise a family, 4) get a second job or get help from the government or both, 5) complain about it.  This is not the prescription for a happy life, but no one seems to care enough about the situation or the people involved to look for a change.

Stories of people struggling to make ends meet are popular in the press and filled with anecdotes.  The news provides a forum for those complaints and endorses the common idea that society is failing these people.  The press is eager to report the situation, but refuses to investigate or especially challenge the decisions that led up to that bad situation.  (These are prime examples that behavior has consequences.)

This story about local teachers having to work a second job is typical.  “In his first year of teaching, [the teacher] made $34,000 annually. But with three children and a wife in school full time, he took a job waiting tables.”  Another teacher with one child and a wife is in nursing school full time, “found he needed to work a few nights each week to make some extra money.”  The same people who get themselves into theses financial situations are teaching our children!

The SNAP (food stamp) challenge is another common stunt for politicians and reporters to raise awareness.  I call it a stunt because it is usually done individually and only for a week, which precludes the purchase of anything in bulk (even a gallon of milk or a full box of breakfast cereal).  Furthermore, it is done with a preordained outcome in the interest of “educating the public.”  One recent example to supplement the reporter's experience tells the story of a single mother with “four children to feed — all of whom soon will be teenagers. She gets $184 in SNAP benefits each month for herself and close to $1,000 for her children. (Do they also get free school lunches?) Still she struggles.”  No mention is made of the father and why he is not responsible enough to contribute to feeding his children.  There is no interest in what decisions led to these circumstances and how others could avoid them.  That could be very useful educationally, raising the awareness of others about how to avoid this difficulty.

The concept of behavior having consequences is undermined daily when we, as a society, favor bailing out our fellow citizens while failing to question the decisions that set up the situation in the first place.  This leads to no learning, either by the decision makers or by those about to follow in their footsteps.  We are so compassionate and so concerned with people’s self-esteem that we support laws and programs to minimize consequences, and we are afraid to confront or criticize self-destructive behavior for fear of being labeled insensitive, prejudiced or as bullies.  Instead of telling them not to touch the hot stove, we anesthetize them and buy them gloves so they can continue making unwise decisions with no opportunity to learn.

We hear about fast food workers struggling to raise a family.  We hear of single mothers with multiple children, sometimes from multiple fathers; fathers who manage to disappear without meeting their financial obligations, and who likely can’t be forced to meet those financial obligations, because they don’t have the resources to do so.  The children suffer and society is at a loss about what to do, so the government becomes the surrogate father through programs and legislation.  We will readily prosecute parents who leave a child in a hot car, but give benefits and sympathy to parents who continue to have children without the ability to feed the ones they already have!

Everyone is afraid to point out that their problems are a direct result of their own irresponsible behavior.  That is seen as uncaring and unfeeling, but if we really cared about these people and our country, we would work seriously to change these dynamics instead of finding ways to indirectly condone them.

Behavior has consequences for a reason.  It’s not because the world is basically cruel or unfeeling.  It is how anyone learns from experience.  To endorse (by our silence) and reward (with benefits) this behavior is only to ask for more of it.

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