More about the autor

Furthermore! – President Obama Challenges GOP Social Darwinism

April 3, 2012


Furthermore! – President Obama Challenges GOP Social Darwinism

Regis was doing his biology homework last night. That was odd, because BPI doesn’t even have classes, let alone assign homework. They assign me away-from-home-work when they send me off on roving reporter duty, but that pays for my tuition that BPI also doesn’t charge. So I guess it all makes sense somehow. Anyway, Regis looked up from his book and asked if humans would be nicer had they evolved from squirrels. I told him I wasn’t sure if humans would be nicer, but they would be cuter. On the other hand, a fluffy tail would make riding a bicycle more awkward. Regis replied that some humans seem to like watching others fall.

Maybe that’s why House Republicans voted last week to replace Medicare with a private insurance voucher system and drastically cut funding for programs that help the poor. The budget bill’s author, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), said the social safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.”

Kinda like riding a tricycle, I guess. Better to put them on bicycles. To bring out the best in human potential, Republicans believe, any mistake must have severe consequences. As Nico Colchester wrote in 2001, “Crunchy systems are those in which small changes have big effects leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive.”

So no training wheels. No helmets either. Those that figure out how to ride will ride. Those that don’t – and many that seem to – will fall and should get badly hurt. The few that don’t fall and get badly hurt will by definition be the hardiest and most fit, and their offspring will make the U.S. a hardier nation. Caring for the rest makes us “soggy,” in Colchester’s terms.

Just thinking about it makes me reach for the macadamias.

So I was heartened to read that President Obama will directly challenge that theory today in a speech hosted by the Associated Press. According to excerpts provided by the White House, he’ll say:

This congressional Republican budget, however, is something different altogether. It’s a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit-reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism. It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it – a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last – education and training; research and development – it’s a prescription for decline.

I set the macadamia bowl aside. This is exactly the contrast President Obama and other Democrats need to highlight for 2012. Republicans believe life should be like a bicycle race. Those who excel will and should win. The rest will lose.

Cycling is an exciting sport, yet the riders cooperate as much as they compete. They don’t just leave fallen riders beside the road. If a rider can continue, his/her team car will have replacement wheels or even an entirely new bike. Teammates help fallen riders catch up to the group. The race caravan includes a medical car, with a doctor who treats minor injuries or calls for an ambulance if a rider is seriously injured. And if too many riders are caught up in a fluke crash, race officials or the riders themselves may slow down to let everyone catch up.

That doesn’t make professional cycling “soggy.” It makes the sport humane. Professional cyclists know all too well a fact that Republicans can’t bring themselves to admit: every rider falls sometimes. No matter how gifted, or how hard they train.

Life is difficult and dangerous enough without leaving the fallen beside the road. One of conservatives’ favorite historical figures told a story about exactly that topic: the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Two respected religious leaders left the injured man on the road. Maybe they, like Rep. Ryan, believed rescue would be “demeaning” for the injured man. Maybe they, like Colchester, thought life should be “crunchy.” They are not the heroes of that story.

The irony is that Republicans reject Darwinian evolution, claiming instead to embrace the Bible. Yet they reject the message of the Good Samaritan, and instead embrace Social Darwinism.

I’m glad President Obama will highlight that contrast. Now all he needs is a fluffy tail.

Good day and good nuts.

  • winterbanyan

    I’m so glad that President Obama is going to address this. There is no one among us, not even the very wealthy, who hasn’t needed some kind of help from another person at some time in his or her life. None.

    Those bits of help for the wealthy may not always be as obvious as financial support, but sometimes they are. Donald Trump has repeatedly filed bankruptcy, yet he remains wealthy in part because friends and others don’t lose faith in his acumen (although that surpasses my understanding).

    For the rest of us, much smaller hiccups, the natural hiccups of life, can leave us broken in the road. Sometimes we just need a friendly hand. Sometimes we need major assistance to get us through the crash.

    But all of those things happen to all of us. And when we don’t have a social safety net, we are in essence telling a man with a broken leg (or worse) to just get up by himself and walk.

    It sickens me. And it flies in the face of the teachings of the very book so many of these guys thump. Jesus didn’t even tell the Centurion he was on his own.

  • lockewasright

    This part of Randian ideology really chafes me:

    “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.”

    My belief is that this life is the only one that any of us has any rational reason to think a person gets. We each have a finite number of moments and, once it’s passed, each moment is irretrievably gone. We should be very careful how many of them we allow to pass in anger, or hate, or futility. In my view the most valuable thing that any person can do with their finite supply of time is to spend it sharing experiences with the people that they love and making sure that they know how much they mean. Pursuit of greater than solidly middle class comfort and security in exchange for our valuable time is the ultimate example of moments wasted in futility. It is failure to appreciate what an amazing and fleeting opportunity life is.

    I am not asking Paul Ryan to agree with me and I am a working professional who is far from need of government assistance. I understand that Ryan has different priorities than mine and that others, such as researchers who want to have a major positive impact for our species, also have different priorities. That is fine. In fact, it’s better than fine, but who the heck is Paul Ryan or Ayn Rand to tell me that “making the most of my life” means pursuit of fiscal wealth?! Who are they to tell me anything about what metric I should use to measure what is “making the most of my life”?! That, Mr. Ryan is what is demeaning.

  • addisnana

    I watched the President’s speech and he did a magnificent job. He was clear that we are talking about people’s lives and not just budget dollars.