Monday, September 23, 2013

Individually Collective, Collectively Individual....

Blog-buddy mike, some time ago, recommended Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead as a good introduction to her writing style, and an easier read than Atlas Shrugged. I got me a used copy of The Fountainhed, advertised as trade paperback but turned out to be a mass market paperback. Small tight print in a bulky volume. I did read a couple of chapters, but if I'm ever to get much further I shall have to find a hardback copy. In the meantime I acquired a DVD of the 1949 film version of the novel.
We watched it on Friday evening.

The film is badly dated in syle. Well - 1949 - it would be wouldn't it? Gary Cooper, never a favourite of mine, did his best with what was in the script, as did Raymond Massey. Patricia Neal, though, as love interest, was almost comical in her hamminess at times. Dialogue (also screenwritten by Ayn Rand ) was uncomfortably stilted, characters were cardboard cut-outs used only to drive home, with a sledgehammer, Ayn Rand's belief that what she saw as individualism is more important than what she saw as collectivism. Key words: "what she saw as"!

Basic plot: An architect who has avant garde ideas on design and construction, refuses to compromise his designs to make them more acceptable to the public; rather than do so he opts to go manual and work in a quarry for a spell. (The quote in the illustration, by the way, relates to his designs, not to his woman!) His bloody-mindedness wins through. He also, eventually, gets the gal. The end.

The book is likely to be far more nuanced than the almost 2-hour film. The novel's long enough, if it's not more nuanced, then what on earth is the rest of it about? The bare storyline could be told as a novella or short story.

Individualism versus collectivism? Why does it have to be one versus t'other. They could, and should, quite happily complement and compliment one another in my view. I admire individuals - those with vision, inventiveness, foresight, not of the crowd, marching to their own drummer. I also admire those who aspire to make life better for the rest of humanity, those who consider others equal to themselves, those who think of themselves as part of a whole. Why did Ayn Rand decide the two could never relate, never complete the picture together? Because she had a mind-block, possibly brought on by whatever it was she endured in early life. Because she had no tolerance, no sensitivity, no empathy. Perhaps it had been knocked out of her. It isn't for me to judge her, but that's the picture I'm getting thus far.


mike said...

I've not viewed the film, so I have no opinion of the big-screen adaptation. Regarding individualism vs the collective, that is a main theme of her writing style. I don't have any problem with that comparison and how she presents it in her written tomes.

I would like to think that the collective is a charming, well behaved, socially conscientious, and respectful group, but I've had to accept the fact that those qualities belong more to a distinct and much smaller subset of individuals. Rand's writings tend to center on individuals who have morals and ethics and don't play the good-ol-boy rules, which excludes them from the collective. Rand's works identify the collective as antagonistic to an individual's right to perform, produce, and sustain themselves in a positive fashion.

I see examples of Rand's protagonists all the time in my current, every-day life. Heroes that dare to think for themselves and go forward with fresh innovation regardless of reprisal, eg Edward Snowden and other whistle blowers. And the news is constant with Rand's antagonists, individuals that ride on the coat-tails of others, middle-men, and leaders that have no ethics...too numerous to mention here! The antagonists manipulate the general public (collective) to behave in an antagonistic fashion, eg gun control, health care, etc.

A collective-gone-bad had a prime example this weekend with the Apple's release of their new iPhone. Thousands took-up positions days prior and thousands more the day of the release...all to be the proud owners of a newly released $600 cell phone...they even got into brawls while waiting. I suspect most of these people had the previous release and simply wanted the latest. How much nicer if those same individuals had donated their $600 to their nearest-dearest food bank. Better yet, if they had gathered to protest the NSA for spying on their cell phones.

One of the reasons this country is in the mess it's in - pick any number of messes - is that the greater portion of the collective thinks things are fine. You've seen the polls, Twilight, the majority of Americans think drones keep them safer...guns don't kill, people do...racism is history now, so move on...God's will is my will, defined by MY interpretation...etc.

Twilight, you ask, "Why did Ayn Rand decide the two could never relate, never complete the picture together?" Well, I get it! The individual vs the collective is an age-old theme. Their coming together is a "New Age" concept. I see no evidence that anything is different since Rand wrote "Fountainhead". Although, I did see another Rand...Rand Paul...finally concede that Obamacare probably can't be voted-out for the 42nd time, as congress has tried...maybe the collective will finally accept that much of "socialist health care".

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Perhaps I, like my fellow American collective, see myself as "exceptional".

Twilight said...

mike ~ This conversation will be a bit unbalanced, because you know far more about Ayn Rand's writings than do I - I know very little, only what I gleaned from the film mentioned in the post and another I saw some time ago, adaptation of "Atlas Shrugged Part 1" (haven't seen any sign of a Part 2 yet).

I see Rand's depiction of the collective as you put it: "antagonistic to an individual's right to perform, produce and sustain themselves in a positive fashion" as a wild exaggeration of the truth, making the individual into some kind of heroic figure, and the collective into a big bad meanie preventing the individual from doing his thing. It just ain't so, and has never been so, or we wouldn't have all the techno, medical, engineering etc.progress we've seen just in my lifetime, never mind in the era before that. the collective was never against the inventors and discoverers and doers of derring-do. They honour them.

Rand sounds to me like a petulant child, stamping her foot to get her way.

I take your points about parts of what we, or she, termed as the collective. The collective isn't capable of being defined as just one thing though - is it? The collective has many facets.

What would life have been like if the individual, figures like Howard Roark, had been more common? It wouldn't have been better, of that I'm certain. I could find no admiration for him whatsoever - he destroyed a housing project for the less-well-off just because it offended his egotistical artistic sensibilities. Nice, eh? A few more like him and we'd be back in a much worse place than we are now. It's only because of a few who tried to serve the collective needs that we're not.

Most of these were stopped in their tracks by others of the Howard Roark template, but in politics rather than architecture.

I do get what you're saying, mike - re Edward Snowden and that part of the collective who are misguided, manipulated and downright stooopid, but part of the reason they are as they are is because of people like Howard Roark and Ayn Rand.

Twilight said...

mike- your PS ~~ We're all, all humans, all nationalities exceptional, in different ways, not only Americans - that's where that silly myth is mistaken.

In the USA that mantra has been part of a big, longtime brain-wash.

LB said...

mike ~ I share your concerns about the popularity of the new iPhone and also of our need to constantly replace things every year or two. There's not much I can add, other than to say our short-sighted view is terribly sad and dangerous. I also wonder how many of us realize what it takes to produce our precious technology - the industrial waste and environmental consequences, slave-labor and generally abusive conditions. In this global economy, what we consume is often produced in countries and by systems and people we can't see, let alone regulate or protect.

Twilight ~ I'm no expert, but when I think of Ayn Rand, the term, "unfettered capitalism" comes to mind. I'm also reminded of the philosopher Martin Buber and his thoughts on "I-Thou" versus "I-It" relationships.

According to Wikipedia, "Ich‑Du ("I‑Thou" or "I‑You") is a relationship that stresses the mutual, holistic existence of two beings. It is a concrete encounter, because these beings meet one another in their authentic existence, without any qualification or objectification of one another."

Basically, it's about recognizing the humanity of *everyone* and of treating others as we'd want to be treated. mike brought up healthcare, which is a good example. Implementing a form of truly Universal health care in this country (HR676) would be a huge collective step forward. Instead, we're arguing over a health *insurance* mandate, one originally proposed by the same political players who are now fighting against it and which will put more money in the hands of the profit-driven corporations who make money by *not* providing health care.

LB said...

In the IChing (or Book of Changes), hexagram 38 addresses the ways in which we can find common ground between opposing ideas or interests. It asks us to consider whether in encountering differences between individual needs and goals, these various needs must be mutually exclusive or if there's a way to maintain our individuality without harming others or losing the integrity of the whole.

Imagine what the world would be like if, instead of focusing on how much we all have to lose, we shifted our focus to how much we all could gain, collectively and as individuals.

mike (again) said...

Well, Twilight, I'll do as LB suggests with ich-du, we can agree that we disagree with our interpretation of Rand's writings. I do suggest reading her prior to criticizing, but I think you've concluded.

I do want to respond to your comment, "It just ain't so, and has never been so, or we wouldn't have all the techno, medical, engineering etc.progress we've seen just in my lifetime, never mind in the era before that. the collective was never against the inventors and discoverers and doers of derring-do."

Relatively few great scientists and inventors receive much for their efforts. Most are subjugated by the company they work for or they receive start-up money from investors (middle-men) that reap the initial financial rewards.

I worked many years in the science field, academic and commercial, applied science. The universities receive co-patents with the discoverer-scientist and most of the royalties derived from the commercialization. The same for any discoveries made in a commercial setting...the inventor receives a better title, a pay increase, and recognition amongst peers, but the company profits. Start-up companies receive funding from investors and pay a hefty return after commercialization. Have you seen "Shark Tank"?

I worked in start-up biotech, as well as commercially successful biotech companies. ALL receive money from investors. Investors demand a huge pay-back initially, because the risks are higher. When these biopharm companies go commercial, they charge an arm-and-a-leg to recoup expenses and to provide a capital return for the investors.

Yes, the collective LUVs innovation, but it almost always involves a middle-man, huge pay-backs to investors, and a huge sale's price to the consumer.

There have been many scientists-inventors that never saw a dime on their ideas. Many, such as Nikolas Tesla, were exploited by the middle-men and companies, and received very little compensation. Additionally, Tesla's brilliant ideas were supposedly stolen by the government upon his death. Tesla could have changed the world in much the way you perceive benefiting the collective (free electricity and telecommunication), but he was not allowed the profit to be made there.

And speaking of companies getting rich off its employees, here's a quote from Apple, Inc.:

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Twilight said...

LB ~ thanks for your observations. I'm in agreement, especially re the I-Ching's wisdom.

The examples mentioned from current news, I agree on, of course - though I don't necessarily see them as exactly in line with the individual/collective issue as put forward by Ayn Rand. They are more, as you mentioned - unfettered capitalism and corporatism. In the health care case corporatism allied to politics = fascism (almost).

Twilight said...

mike ~~ I knew I was walking into a maze I'd have trouble getting out of here! LOL!

While I don't disagree with the spirit of what you've written, is it really the collective who are doing the wrongs you describe though?

What do you see as "the collective". This is what I said in the post - "key words "what she Ayn Rand) saw as".

I see the collective as the whole seething mass of humanity. We the People, the labourers, the craftsmen, the professionals, the tradesmen, all of us.

Ayn Rand seems to see it (from what I've been able to glean so far) as anybody who doesn't bow and scrape to the ego of an individual genius.

The ordinary people seldom oppose or wish to deny a brilliant individual the right to do his thing - it's more likely to be his peers (who are part of the collective, certainly, but only one tiny part of it).

I think we probably agree in a broad sense but it's this thing about properly defining the collective which isn't sitting right with me. Maybe I've misunderstood the word.

I suspect that Ayn Rand hated and despised the "common" people - and that's why I feel aversion for her.

LB said...

That Apple quote mike provided is ironic considering Apple's history:

Admittedly, the article was written several years ago. Also, to some extent, this seems to be the norm when it comes to free trade in our global economy. Yet as consumers we're often limited in our choices - unless we're willing to do without a phone (even land-line providers are guilty) or TV, or many of the other things we depend upon every day and take for granted. One thing we can do is to limit our consumption by holding onto necessary items longer without replacing them when the next big trend comes along. And we can encourage businesses to do better by purchasing items that are ethically produced or fair-trade.

LB said...

Twilight (and mike) ~ Here's the link to a long and interesting/informative article, "What Ayn Rand Got Right and Wrong":

Twilight said...

LB ~ We're caught in a trap....that's the start of an Elvis song isn't it? :-) But yes, where possible holding on to what we have is one way to avoid and oppose the enticement of those continual new models, improved models etc.
A quote I've used before in the sidebar - a New England proverb I think:
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"

We had to do that when I was very young, just after WW2 in England, and for some years on from there.
My ancestors definitely had to do that - all the time!

There's a problem with some items though - small appliances seem to be made not to last, and are not usually repairable these days. I've noticed this especially since I moved to the USA. Another ploy by manufacturers (all now in china I suppose).

Twilight said...

LB ~ Will go read that link - thanks!

LB said...

P.S. My previous comment about iphones and healthcare relates only because both are examples of capitalism. Ayn Rand was a proponent of an idealized version of capitalism that hasn't worked any better than trickle-down economics.

"When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church." — AYN RAND

Twilight said...

LB ~ Understood!

Twilight said...

LB ~ I've read the blog post you recommended - good one! O enjoyed the many erudite comments as much as the post - which is often the case for me. :-)

A comment there reminded me of a point I'd meant to make and forgot.
It's something that came up in political argument earlier this year or last year - don't recall exactly when or the context.

The brilliant individuals who come up with wondrous developments and imaginative or excellent design became brilliant and able to develop their innate abilities and inspirations due to the work, artistry and input of many who came before including teachers, earlier artists or technicians or engineers, not to mention the work of their parents essential to put them through college or help them in other ways - depending of the sphere in which they excelled.

"No man is an island" - but It seemed that Ayn Rand disagreed.

mike (again) said...

LB, I read your link written by Church. I'm tempted to write a statement here about what Church got right and wrong! But I won't. His penultimate paragraph:
"What’s ultimately fatal to Rand’s ideology was...the fact that the entrepreneurial alpha males she was so in love with...never came back." Church wrote this in May, 2013. Is he not aware of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Martin Eberhard, Elon Musk, etc? Our extant world is full of entrepreneurs.

This is a prescient Rand quote from Wiki:
" excerpt from a 1964 interview with Playboy magazine in which Rand states "What we have today is not a capitalist society, but a mixed economy — that is, a mixture of freedom and controls, which, by the presently dominant trend, is moving toward dictatorship. The action in Atlas Shrugged takes place at a time when society has reached the stage of dictatorship. When and if this happens, that will be the time to go on strike, but not until then."

"Rand characterizes the actions of government employees in a way that is consistent with public choice theory, describing how in her view the language of altruism is used to pass legislation that is nominally in the public interest...but which in reality serves special interests and government agencies at the expense of the public and the producers of value."

"Moochers" are Rand's depiction of those who have no ability or work ethic whatsoever and are thus unable to produce value themselves. Therefore they demand others' earnings on behalf of the needy; however, they curse the producers who make that help possible and are jealous and resentful of the talented upon whom they depend. They are ultimately as destructive as the looters — destroying the productive through guilt, and appealing to "moral right" while enabling the "lawful" looting performed by governments."

Call me creepy, but I agree with Rand.

LB said...

mike ~ Like I said, I'm no expert on Ayn Rand, her writing and philosophy just never appealed to me, though it's possible she got *some* things right, even if it was for the wrong reasons. Her ideas had a bitter, self-serving, narcissistic quality I could never get past.

Her early admiration for William Edward Hickman -the man who kidnapped, murdered then dismembered a 12-year old girl- was also very telling and spoke volumes about her deeply misguided way of thinking and (apparent) lack of empathy. Referring to Hickman she once wrote, "He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should."

I know she was a young woman at the time she wrote it, but still, it's a pretty extreme way of looking at things.

mike (again) said...

LB, Rand utilized Hickman as a template for a character in a never-published novel she was writing at the time. I don't have the impression she idolized's a quote from the Prescott link you provided:

"Hickman served as a model for [her fictional hero] Danny [Renahan] only in strictly limited respects, which AR names in her notes. And he does commit a crime in the story, but it is nothing like Hickman's. To guard against any misinterpretation, I quote her own statement regarding the relationship between her hero and Hickman:

" '[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.' "

This reminds me of Truman Capote's research for his non-fiction novel, "In Cold Blood". Capote received negative press for his intimate involvement with the two murderers. From Wiki:

"After the criminals were found, tried, and convicted, Capote conducted personal interviews with both Smith and Hickock. Smith especially fascinated Capote; in the book he is portrayed as the more sensitive and guilt-ridden of the two killers. Rumors of a relationship between Smith and Capote still linger to this day."

Rand, for being a writer of a minimal collection of fictional novels, has an enduring legacy of controversy...almost as if she had written non-fiction or that she had developed a thesis of civilization, government, and society! I refused to read Rand for several decades based on hear-say of her reputed uber-capitalism. I finally caved, because a valued friend suggested that I decide for myself and that I might be surprised. I read "Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" interpretation was very different from the hear-say I'd been led to believe.

I find that too many individuals have a very strong opinion of Rand, but have not endeavored to actually read her work to develop an understanding of her context. There has to be something to Rand's writing, as it has a very polarizing effect on the readers (and non-readers!), such that I've not seen for a non-fiction novel producer.

mike (again) said...

A last thought here, Twilight and LB: I've read a number of fictional authors that paint the collective as zombies, dim-wits, miscreants...controlled by an errant government or society...think Orwell or Heinlin, Kerouac or Ginsberg.

Heinlin's "Stranger in a Strange Land" has some of the same qualities as "Atlas Shrugged" and received scathing reviews when published. Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" are not essentially that far from Rand's polemic tomes. What makes the difference? All of these writings have a form of prescience about them based on a stifled collective.

OK, I'm done defending Rand. I'll take Heinlin's line: "I'm but an egg." LOL

Twilight said...

mike~ Maybe the problem is that "the collective" a term which I think (my opinion) has been used unnecessarily abusively by Rand, and has been used, as you say, in similar ways though more obliquely and with more need, by some sci fi authors of the past too. Maybe like an abused individual the true collective will, one day, either turn on its abuser(s), or become exactly what they depicted.

PS I will get to read at least one of Rand's books in full when I can find a cheapo hardback with decent-sized print - promise!

Twilight said...

mike and LB~~ Ayn Rand must be pervading the air just now - article seen this morning:

LB said...

mike ~ Reading your comments these past months, I suspect we agree on a lot of things - we're always kind of preachin' to the choir here! Having said that, Ayn Rand might have to remain one of those things we respectfully agree to disagree on.:)

In a nutshell, though I may share some of her frustrations (on the surface at least), Ayn Rand's basic world view and approach just don't ring true for me, nor do I believe they serve the greater good for all.

For instance, Ayn Rand believed the teachings of Jesus contained contradictions and were inherently flawed, whereas I find no such contradiction. Throughout history, humans have misinterpreted and corrupted the spiritual teachings of Jesus and other great teachers to achieve their own self-serving ends, which is probably why Ayn Rand continues to attract so many (mostly conservative?) misguided Christians.

Some of her quotes speak for themselves:

"My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.

The fact that a man has no claim on others (i.e., that it is not their moral duty to help him and that he cannot demand their help as his right) does not preclude or prohibit good will among men and does not make it immoral to offer or to accept voluntary, non-sacrificial assistance."
Ayn Rand, 1964 Playboy interview

LB said...

Twilight ~ There goes that synchronicity again! What's funny is I left my previous comment (and Ayn Rand quote) *before* I read your comment and clicked on the Huffington Post link. Just another example of how connected we all are.

LB said...

While I was there, I found another interesting Huffington Post article on Ayn Rand and her influence on some of our elected representatives:

So much reading, so little time.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Let's hope that her influence doesn't translate into too much activity!

Her name tends to come up to justify stuff doesn't it? As mike said somewhere among these comments, people tend to treat her books as non-fiction text books/instruction manuals rather than novels. I wonder why that is?
The left doesn't often quote Dickens or Hugo as justification for stuff not digestible by the right, though I'm often tempted to do so, and occasionally have done.

LB said...

Twilight ~ The thing about Ayn Rand was that apart from her works of fiction, she also came up with her philosophy of Objectivism.

mike (again) said...

LB, I agree that we can peacefully exchange of opinions can be helpful sometimes, and sometimes not. I keep stating in these comments that I'm done commenting on this thread, but here I am again!

You provide "Objectivism" as another factor of Ayn Rand's protracted hold on her five minutes of deserved fame. I personally have no qualms with "Objectivism", in itself, is opinion, of course! LOL

This from Wiki:

"Says Rand, "Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive he must act and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch—or build a cyclotron—without a knowledge of his aim and the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think."

Many individuals can interpret her views as purely selfish...or hedonistic. Here is another statement:

"A "whim-worshiper" or "hedonist," according to Rand, is not motivated by a desire to live his own human life, but by a wish to live on a sub-human level. Instead of using "that which promotes my (human) life" as his standard of value, he mistakes "that which I (mindlessly happen to) value" for a standard of value, in contradiction of the fact that, existentially, he is a human and therefore rational organism. The "I value" in whim-worship or hedonism can be replaced with "we value," "he values," "they value," or "God values," and still it would remain dissociated from reality. Rand repudiated the equation of rational selfishness with hedonistic or whim-worshiping "selfishness-without-a-self." She held that the former is good, and the latter evil, and that there is a fundamental difference between them."

If one wishes to interpret her meaning as promoting selfishness, then so be it. I don't. Twilight, you, and I each promote self-interest (objectivism) or we wouldn't have a computer, a dwelling, fair-trade chocolate from Whole Foods...we promote ourselves first, others second. Is that wrong?

Love her or hate her...she created an enduring legacy.

Twilight said...

LB and mike ~~ I have difficulty getting to grips with the great variety of -isms in philosophy. I've never studied the subject, and quite frankly don't have the right kind of brain mechanics to appreciate it.

Selfishness, self interest, self-absorption, self-obsession stages of ....the road to a bad place I'd say. Of course we all start out as babies with no interest in anything but self and the next meal, we reach toddlerhood with a fine case of self absorption and "I wants". A lot depends on how we are trained and what befalls us from then on as to how we develop as adults.

There's nothing wrong with being interested in one's self (in my view) as long as one does not ever denigrate fellow-humans for no better reason than "they are not like you", have decided to follow different paths in some way, or have been forced to do so by circumstance.

The most despicable of Rand's views is that a man (or woman) is only entitled to what he has earned. That is such a blinkered view and does not take into consideration any of life's pitfalls, diseases, disabilities, limited abilities, circumstances of birth etc.

I'm sorry, mike, but I feel that Ayn Rand and her mindset embody everything that's worst about Aquarius - and I say that as one with Sun in that sign, and probably capable of displaying some of its many faults myself - but at least I know it - she didn't.

No more from me on this, but others are welcome to continue - I shall agree, happily, to disagree. As has been said already Rand is polarising - we've proved that clearly here. It has all been interesting to me though, and I thank you both for that. :-)

LB said...

mike ~ Know what you mean about the last word! I so wanted to let yours be the last, but here I am again. Maybe it's the preacher in me, but something about this conversation seems important.

Ayn Rand turned personal happiness into a god and considered self-sacrifice immoral. Unlike many of our greatest thinkers and spiritual teachers, she didn't consider charity a chief virtue or a moral duty.

mike, it seems to me that because you respect your own well-being (and hopefully view it as a gift worthy of care), yet continue to care about others in less self-serving ways (and are willing to make certain sacrifices on their behalf or in light of the greater good), Rand's philosophy hasn't been used by you as an excuse to dehumanize others as somehow being less worthy of charity or compassion. Or at least that's my impression, based on some of your comments. Which isn't the case with others who admire Rand's philosophy, especially those who've risen to the top in politics and business.

You gave choosing fair-trade chocolate as an example of promoting our own self-interest, whereas I see it as an example of being mindful of others and willing to make a relatively *small* sacrifice (of time, money, convenience) on their behalf. It's not so much that having a roof over our heads, or a computer or phone, or access to affordable healthcare are bad (or selfish), rather it's the false sense of entitlement that allows folks to ignore the suffering of those who are less fortunate because they believe they're not worthy of these same blessings or haven't earned them - how does someone who's sick, or old, or disabled, or poor *earn* healthcare, or someone who's enslaved or abused and can't speak for themselves earn their dignity or freedom?

I believe true charity is a noble virtue, one best practiced with discernment, that involves our *willingness* to give it all up to serve something greater than ourselves, without regard for our own worldly glory or reward. While it sounds like a huge thing to ask, in practice true charity rarely, if ever, requires us to go completely without, usually it's more a matter of us making do with a little less of something so that others can have a bit more. And of our being willing to look and act on behalf of others, without turning away because it doesn't feel good or is unpleasant. Conscience is a gift.