Monday, April 20, 2015

Perspective = Gratitude and Moderation

Here is a good illustration of how to categorize behavior into dimensions.  What do a man stuck in the cargo hold of an airliner, a welfare recipient at the arcade, and a man with kidney failure have in common?  The answer is perspective problems.

First is the story of the baggage handler working for Alaska Airlines, who called 911 to report being trapped in the cargo hold of an airplane in flight.  He apparently had either crawled in to take a nap or had fallen asleep while loading the airplane.  With no help from the emergency operator, he eventually pounded and shouted loudly enough to alert the passengers and the flight was diverted to rescue him.  (I could not find a print copy to confirm it, but heard a radio report of this incident saying that such napping by airline ground workers was not that unusual.)  The point here is that falling asleep or napping on the job, especially with our continued high unemployment rate, shows a lack of appreciation of having a good job.  Many people take their jobs for granted, looking for ways to cut corners or game the system.  They are not totally to blame, often defended by unions more interested in dues than member welfare or the financial sustainability of the company and provoked by management more interested in short-term profits than in proper training, supervision and treatment of employees.  Nonetheless, in a still shaky economy, such behavior shows a lack of gratitude.  As one supervisor used to remind his staff, “This is the best job you can get, because if you could find a better one, you’d be a fool to stay here; and I know none of you are fools.”

Many sources announced last week that a new Kansas law “tells poor families that they can't use cash assistance from the state to attend concerts, get tattoos, see a psychic or buy lingerie. The list of don'ts runs to several dozen items,” but except for nail salons, arcades and pool passes, no more of the additional  restrictions were listed in any news articles.  The point is that restrictions in Kansas go well beyond the standard list of alcohol, tobacco, gambling and adult-oriented businesses.  Critics contend that these bans are punitive, highly judgmental and mean-spirited.

Apparently the critics (and some recipients) conveniently forget that free money from the government, whether it be in the form of welfare or unemployment compensation checks, already comes with expectations, the expectation that it will be used for necessities while the citizen recovers financially.  That seems reasonable and neither punitive nor mean.  By analogy if an adult child got behind on rent and asked his parents for help and the parents later found out that it was instead spent on psychics, movies and a tattoo, they would rightly feel taken advantage of.  Neighbors and relatives would advise them not to give more money to the prodigal, ungrateful son further enabling his poor choices.  In the Kansas case, however, attempts by lawmakers to limit frivolous expenditures are mocked and condemned.  The real problem is that it has come to a point where welfare payments must be so specifically restricted to avoid misuse by those who are unappreciative and believe they have a right to spend them as they please.

Finally, comes the story of the Arkansas man whose kidneys failed due to drinking too much iced tea.  This is a perspective issue not from lack of gratitude but from lack of moderation.  More is not always better.  The truth is too much of anything is dangerous.  Even drinking too much water can kill a person.

This illustrates how seemingly unrelated stories each reflect some aspect of perspective.  Those who experience the problems and those who sympathize with or excuse them seem to forget that behavior has consequences, that shielding people from those lessons is often the most unkind action and that having perspective minimizes problems.

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