Friday, August 8, 2008

The Natural Man

I should be asleep right now, but there are too many thoughts in my head. So allow me to ramble.

I've been listening to a lot of NPR on the way to and from work these days, or about twenty minutes a day. Back last month or whenever the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac crisis happened, they played a recording of a politician's reaction to the government response, as follows:

"I woke up this morning and thought, 'Am I in FRANCE? Is this SOCIALISM!?'"


What the heck?

What does France have to do with it? What are you doing, sir, but employing an emotionally-charged logical fallacy and playing off of aged, uninformed fears?

I realize I'm completely missing the heart of the matter (namely the economics and the politics of it) but ... so is he.

Andy showed me an article about the I Am Rich application that was available for a short time for $999.99 (the highest price allowed) at the iPhone App store and does nothing but display a "glowing red gem." It's a status symbol for people who want to pay a thousand dollars for a digital piece of jewelry. Eight people bought it (two of those were by accident, and they were both refunded). Half of me thinks, "That creator is genius," half of me thinks, "Holy stinking cows, give that money to a charity right now."

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments after the article. And there it is, more of the "Am I in FRANCE?" syndrome. Maybe I'm still missing the point - the point that this I Am Rich thing is a brilliant and dismal commentary, a sadly and comically telling artifact. But all I'm seeing is people being ugly to each other. Take one of the comments (and there were many more that said the same thing in other words) for example: 

"mac users are stupid. point proven." 

Well. I'm a devoted Mac user, but that's not really the problem. The problem is the mindset. Aren't we way past this? Not that this is exactly akin to racism, but it's a parallel perspective, isn't it? Where is the progress, the respect, the charity, or at least the decency to say nothing?

Or, in summary ... what the heck?

C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters: One of my favorite letters is the one on charity in which Wormwood explains to Screwtape that the trick is to keep your human's charity focused distantly. Make him feel good about himself for feeling and acting charitable toward those in far places and with demonstrable need; encourage cold, hard, proud feelings toward his daily interactions and the people close to him. Or you could be like me and judge those far away from you while still feeling cold and hard toward those near (say, for example, real estate agents with silly requests). I think about this passage a lot.

Time I practice it.


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