Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

"Community service" and help in good will

Rate this topic


Ifat Glassman
 Share

Recommended Posts

[Also available here on my blog]

"Community service" and help in good will

Yesterday, September 11th, Obama made a speech to the nation claiming the significance and meaning of the day is "community service".

Take a moment to ponder: what exactly is the meaning of "community service", and is it really the reason so many American citizens helped others during the event 8 years ago?

To "serve" means "work for or be a servant to", "do duty", "devote (part of) one's life or efforts to" another person.

Is this what was the help about? Were those who helped saw themselves as servants of the ones under the ruins? Did they see it as their duty to selflessly serve the men in need?

I don't think so. Those people were proud, not humble. They saw themselves as soldiers, not as servants.

"Community service" and what was going on there that day and in the days that followed were complete opposites.

Those people who helped others did not do so because they thought their duty is to sacrifice their lives so that others may live. I believe they did not do it out of moral duty, but out of a spiritual, selfish reason - they valued the lives of the kind of people under the ruins, who shared their values and the American love of freedom.

They were angry at the terrorist attack which stood directly against what America is stands for, and by helping others they were fighting for and reafirming their own spiritual values.

This was not service to the state or the "community". It was devotion to their own ideals and values.

This is a very important distinction to understand: If someone is doing something for someone else, it could have two opposite meanings. The "Stalin" meaning of "you are not important, live for the greater good", and the American generosity.

If both are "doing something for someone else", what is the distinction between the two?

It is this distinction that Obama wants people to lose. He wants to take the second meaning of genuine generosity and replace it with the "Stalin" meaning of "live for others".

He wants to scare people that if they don't agree to his idea of "community service" that they are not generous, when in fact generosity and "community service" are complete opposite.

Generosity is an extention of one's spiritual values toward another human being who shares them. It is those spiritual values that allow a man to truly value human life, and thus see them as worthy to perserve.

The man whose sole value is to sacrifice his life for the "community" is incapable of valuing human life.

When I help someone, I do so because their own well being is a selfish value to me. I do so because I see in them the spiritual values I respect and have in me: integrity, courage, determination, honesty.

Does Stalin ever helped anyone? He talked a lot about "service of the greater good", "service to other men", "service to the state" - Did he ever help another soul?

His kind is a void. He has no spiritual values. Human life means nothing to him. This, is the meaning of true selflessness, of "community service", of living for someone else.

Yes, the help is extended to someone else, but the reason is not selfless service, but pride, justice and profoud individuality.

Keep in mind this important distinction: Selfless service or selfish generosity? The two could not be further apart.

_______________________________________

An after-word: If you think that understanding this distinction is important, as I do, spread it around to other people. Especially non-Objectivists. Yes, it's my blog and it's a nice bonus to get more visitors, but hey I'm not making money anyway from it, so you can sleep with a clear conscience. <_<;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It might be that some are going to view your argument as a relaxation of rational egoism - as a pragmatic compromise between 'Never do anything for an other', and 'Always do something for an other'.

But there is a third way, as you put it, an important distinction, guided by volition and self-esteem that is no compromise at all.

I always felt that Ayn Rand's unyielding anti- altruism, pro- Self stance, was, firstly, heavily weighted to the Self, and less to the "other"; secondly, she fiercely opposed what I call "ethics by edict", i.e., that an institution of any sort should lay down and possibly enforce 'brotherly love' ( or whichever putrid buzzword is fashionable at the moment.)

The distinction is between the duty, and the choice.

During times of peril, or hardship (the London Blitz in WW2 is the oft-used example) it is not just in one's own rational self-interest to band together with others; it is also a sense of benevolence and even compassion evolved from respect - self-respect - that prompts any service to the community.

It's when it comes from our Bishops, or our Presidents ("Ask not...") ---- look out!!

You've raised a critical distinction here in the selfishness debate, and I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Obama's call for community service on 9/11 is a call to not be proud of one's achievements. What the terrorist were attacking was our pride as Americans -- that we can have a highly productive civilization dedicated to rational values; and Obama's call for servitude on that day of the attacks is also against our pride. I think it is true that you can help others out of selfish concerns -- because you like them or because they are of value to you -- but Obama's day of service is against this individual selection of values and actually goes along with the Islamic idea of dhimitude -- of being servile to God and to others. It is a spiritual abomination for him to call for service on the day of the attacks instead of calling for justice and pride. A man can be proud that he has a surplus and can therefore help a friend in need, but Obama wants a day of servitude, not pride, and certainly not righteous anger and effective justice. He doesn't want you to be proud of the Twin Towers -- he wants you to bow your head to pick up trash. It's quite disgusting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Calling it "community service" is a disgusting trivialization of the efforts of the firefighters on that day and of the men who fight in the resultant war to this day.

I hate this man with nearly every fiber of my being.

I don't think "travilization" is the right word. In fact he considers it of high honor to say that they were altruists serving the community. What he is doing is not to try to diminish the meaning of what they did - but to strengthen it, glorify it - as something it is not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Community Service could easily be described as each individual tending to their own; Say there is a fire and it destroys a large number of businesses. The owners of said business should be responsible for the cleanup.

Im sure after 9/11 they could have done it themsleves without having resort to people "Pitching In" or even compensated them aka hiring a cleanup crew

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Community Service could easily be described as each individual tending to their own; Say there is a fire and it destroys a large number of businesses. The owners of said business should be responsible for the cleanup.

Im sure after 9/11 they could have done it themsleves without having resort to people "Pitching In" or even compensated them aka hiring a cleanup crew

A disaster on that scale, people trapped under the ruins, and you worry about who does the clean up?

I don't know, sounds cold to me.

Also, the people who helped did it on their own will out of their own values - nobody "volunteered" them into it. I think you are looking at the whole thing from a way wrong angle.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, the people who helped did it on their own will out of their own values - nobody "volunteered" them into it. I think you are looking at the whole thing from a way wrong angle.

I know what you mean.. I'm trying to find a good medium here, I apologize, it's hard to put this in to a good context.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know what you mean.. I'm trying to find a good medium here, I apologize, it's hard to put this in to a good context.

By the way, I don't see anything you need to apologize for. I was simply being honest about what I thought of your post, since I think only the truth can gain people. I did not reproach you, if that's how you interpreted it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Public schools are forcing kids to do community service, and require a signature for proof of said service.

Imagine a kid spending the day with an elderly person in a nursing home, then asking him/her to sign something acknowledging their "service" so they can get a better grade!

I have translated what Obama and others are telling us:

"If you choose to help someone else, you are a good person. If you don't, you are a bad person and you will be penalized. We are going to make you be a "good person", whether you like it or not. Oh, and by the way, you are not teaching your children this so we have decided that we will...whether you like it or not."

Indoctrination you can believe in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, I find it pretty disturbing how universities and now even pre-college schools are requiring community service. I always did my best to avoid it, not because I'm against benevolence, but because I wanted the work I did to be meaningful. In terms of actual usefulness, designing electric cars and studying economics had far more value than hours upon hours cleaning litter off beaches. The idea that people should be forced to spend their precious time on Earth doing low-value menial labor never quite clicked with me.

It's really a shame when government/school mandates substitute resented chores for meaningful voluntary benevolence. If that doesn't devalue goodwill toward man, I don't know what does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"If you choose to help someone else, you are a good person. If you don't, you are a bad person and you will be penalized. We are going to make you be a "good person", whether you like it or not. Oh, and by the way, you are not teaching your children this so we have decided that we will...whether you like it or not."

Indoctrination you can believe in.

That's a nice summary. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ive seen this firsthand. The only community service I enjoyed was working at the Airborne and Special Operations museum and I worked hard enough compared to the kids who were required to volunteer that I was offered a job within 3 months. I guess that was fairly meaningful and I learned a lot from it. Most community service sucks pretty badly though and has little to no value

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...