Among the many mindless mantras of our time, “making a difference” and “giving back” irritate me like chalk screeching across a blackboard.
I have a friend who eats school lunch with "underprivileged" junior high kids once a month during the school year because she wants to "make a difference." As far as I can tell, the difference she makes is that she feels less guilty about being white and graduating from high school without getting pregnant than she did before she started doing "Lunch Buddies"--not that anyone should feel guilty about either of those things.
Very few 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.
I miss the good old days of liberals screaming "government out of my bedroom!" instead of "ban incandescent lightbulbs to save the Earth!" Government out of MY bedroom--I need 150 unflickering watts to read without physical pain. Government out of my paycheck would be even better, but I'm willing to start small.
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.
Giving back 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.”
Indeed, many 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.
Sowell doesn't specifically mention the U.S. armed forces, but most of the "give back!" group that wants to blind me whilst redistributing my earnings to people who didn't graduate high school without getting pregnant is vehemently anti-military. Ironically, the military would be the one group of people who truly do "give back" in the way Sowell describes--they put their families on hold and their lives on the line and volunteer to defend the "institutions and values" that have made America great and allow us to prosper.
This segues nicely into...Project Valour-IT is having a fundraising drive this week. All the money goes to getting accessible laptops to soldiers with hand, arm, and eye injuries so they can communicate with their friends and family (and read football media, if it makes them feel better). I distributed some of my earnings there yesterday (in the "Air Force" pool because that's where my dad served). It's not really "giving back"...I just feel grateful for their service and kinda schmucky for not doing more. Especially knowing how many people refuse to support--hell, actually work toward hurting--our armed forces at all.