I heard a song today I hadn’t for a while — “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour. At the end was a clip from President Kennedy’s inauguration address “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
After that, I took a walk around Green Lake snapping pictures. But it stuck with me and I made the connection why I have a cognitive dissonance with what I consider to be Progressive compared to what the modern Progressive moment is headed.
The core of the conflict for me is that there is an implied social contract between individuals and the community they live in. Each has responsibilities to the other. I, as an individual, am responsible to pay taxes, to generally take care of myself, my family, my house, etc. In turn society, or more broadly the city, state, and federal government provides me with roads, defense and security, a legal system, parks, a regulatory regime to ensure I have clean water and air, and so forth.
Much of this comes to a head with the homeless crisis we’re facing in Seattle. The modern Progressive sides with the ACLU (side note: I support the ACLU but I’m very against their position on this) in the sense that people can live in a feral setting because they want to. They live in that setting for a number of reasons, but the position taken by the ACLU is that society can demand nothing from these individuals and simultaneously society is beholden to the upkeep of these individuals.
I disagree with that; Individuals have responsibilities as well. If you are able-bodied you don’t just get to pitch a tent in the city park because you don’t feel like working. If you are on drugs and spend all your income (be it illegitimate or legally acquired) you should be compelled to get treatment because you are not contributing to society as much as you are leaching off it. If you are mentally ill and unable to help yourself at all then society should bear that responsibility because you’ve done all you can and can ask no more. As much as people bitch that the rich shouldn’t be above the law, the poor, likewise shouldn’t be above the law — all at the cost of the people in the middle.
The modern Progressive movement seems to be more about getting the government to give everything while at the same time demanding nothing from the population getting the benefits. The imbalance in rights and responsibility makes this unpalatable to me. I quite simply reject the notion that we should all suckle up to the government teat and be happy not thinking for ourselves and becoming better people.