No one has to tell us we 7 billion earthlings live, not for one another, but for ourselves. Darwin calls it the “survival instinct”…Capitalists call it “free enterprise”…Wall Streeters like Gordon Gekko call it “greed” …most religions call it avarice. Actually it’s a rather thin kind of life, because its outermost limits are limited just to yourself.
A thicker kind of life is more like Monks and Amish lead. Communitarian societies in which how-it-effects-others is part of any decision you make. That’s thicker living, because there’s more room in your life for the feelings of others. No surprise then that these are the people we usually choose to be our friends, our fellow riders on the commuter train, those we invite for dinner.
And yet…! All this seems to change when it comes to our politics. Here we choose our friends differently. Not so much by their kindness of spirit, but more by their kind of labels. The labels we wear these days are bold, brash and cocksure. On one side: “American Free Enterprise.” On the other: “European Socialism.” Both sides roaring labels they can barely explain, but they’re damn sure about their roar!
How strange. The same people we find likable personally, we may find unlikable politically.
My philosopher-barber put it to me this way: “I see these two opposites like a tightrope and a safety net. The tightrope is where the gutsy are free to take their chances; they like risk up there. But down here there’s gotta be some kind of safety net; not only for us little guys, but sometimes even for the gutsy guys. Because everyone falls sometime. Which is when I expect my government to catch us. Why else am I paying taxes!”
He summed up his case with a flurry of scissor trims: “I don’t want to eliminate their tightrope, but I sure as hell want to thicken the safety net. My way — we’re closer to 50:50 instead of 99:1”
He had the scissors, so I agreed. I think even without them, I’d agree.
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