Among the many mindless mantras of our time, "making a difference"
and "giving back" irritate me like chalk screeching across a blackboard.
I would be
scared to death to "make a difference" in the way pilots fly airliners
or brain surgeons operate. Any difference I might make could be fatal to
difference makes sense only if you are convinced that you have mastered
the subject at hand to the point where any difference you might make
would be for the better.
people have mastered anything that well beyond their own limited circle
of knowledge. Even fewer seem to think far enough ahead to consider that
question. Yet hardly a day goes by without news of some uninformed
busybodies on one crusade or another.
simplest acts have ramifications that spread across society the way
waves spread across a pond when you drop a stone in it.
who make a difference by serving food to the homeless, how many have
considered the history of societies which have made idleness easy for
great numbers of people?
How many have
studied the impact of drunken idlers on other people in their own
society, including children who come across their needles in the park —
if they dare to go to the parks?
How many have
even considered such questions relevant as they drop their stone in the
pond without thinking about the waves that spread out to others?
Maybe some would still do what they do, even if they thought about it. But that doesn't mean that thinking is a waste of time.
"Giving back" is a similarly mindless mantra.
I have donated money, books
and blood for people I have never seen and to whom I owe nothing. Nor is
that unusual among Americans, who do more of this than anyone else.
But we are not "giving back" anything to those people because we never took anything from them in the first place.
If we are
giving back to society at large, in exchange for all that society has
made possible for us, then that is a very different ballgame.
in that sense means acknowledging an obligation to those who went before
us and for the institutions and values that enable us to prosper today.
But there is very little of this spirit of gratitude and loyalty in
many of those who urge us to "give back."
who repeat the "giving back" mantra would sneer at any such notion as
patriotism or any idea that the institutions and values of American
society have accomplished worthy things and deserve their support,
instead of their undermining.
educational system, from the schools to the universities, are actively
undermining any sense of loyalty to the traditions, institutions and
values of American society.
They are not
giving back anything except condemnation, often depicting sins common to
the human race around the world as peculiar evils of "our society."
example is slavery, which is repeatedly drummed into our heads — in the
schools and in the media — as something unique done by white people to
black people in the United States.
fact is that, for thousands of years of recorded history, people of
every race and color have been both slaves and enslavers.
enslaved on the Barbary Coast of North Africa alone were far more
numerous than all the Africans brought to the United States and to the
13 colonies from which it was formed.
unique about Western civilization was that it was the first civilization
to turn against slavery, and that it stamped out slavery not only in
its own societies but in other societies around the world during the era
of Western imperialism.
took well over a century, because non-Western societies resisted. White
people, as well as black people, were still being bought and sold as
slaves, decades after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the
Those who want to "give back" should give back the truth. It is a debt that is long overdue.