Criticizing Caring

As I've stated here many times before, I like to surf the internet reading opinions in opposition to my own. Although the majority of the political blogs I read are probably more philosophically aligned with me than not, I often feel I am much more intellectually stimulated by reading intelligent opinions with which I disagree.

Two posts that I feel are some of the most important writings I've done on my political stance can be found here, where I posit that progress is a moral obligation, and here, where I emphasize that the power of collective institutions (namely government) should not be left unused in seeking progress.
Indeed, I would say that my most important political issue is caring - caring about others, caring for others, and pushing for change that will improve the lives of people around the world. If I might be so bold, I would guess that most people that describe this as a political priority would also describe themselves as being liberal. I am not saying that people who are more conservative are less caring, but rather that they see caring for others as more of an issue lying outside the realm of politics.

I see this as problematic, because politics is the realm of the polis, and those who need caring for are just as much a part of our communities as anyone else. Government is a tool; it always has been. That makes it neither good nor bad - dangerous, perhaps, but also something with great potential, and I see democratic reform of government (making our institutions more accountable and efficient) as going hand in hand with using government more to care for others. That is my politics in a nutshell - call it collectivist, socialist, whatever - I occaisionally use those descriptors myself.

What I am constantly trying to discover, however, is the essence of opposition to this idea of using our democratic institutions to better people's lives. In comments on various blogs I have often seen my attitude degraded as "elitist" and as a "liberal sense of noblesse oblige." Clearly the term "noblesse oblige" is used to bolster claims of elitism by associating "liberal" feelings of obligation to others with greater-than-thou feelings of superiority, but I don't really get it. Noblesse oblige, quite simply, is a concept that the powerful have obligations. That's hardly elitist! I don't look down on people who have been less fortunate than me, and neither do I look down on nations less powerful than my own. How then does my wish to help others on a personal and global level (and every level in between) open me to criticism?

I think perhaps some rejection of my attitude may come from come from things like the pride we see from time to time in people who won't accept charity or believe that whatever they receive they should earn for themselves. The problem with this though is that there are many things in life we receive from others - things we should gladly accept - and there are many free things in this world - including lunches. Government aid isn't free, of course, but government can use the wealth of the fortunate to provide for the less fortunate in ways that individuals cannot.

To embrace each other more, (metaphorically, and perhaps literally as well), to give to each other more, to treat each other more as family, and to further accept that although we may be unique and individual we cannot live to our fullest alone - these are the things that I firmly believe people must do in order to make this world a better place.


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