Why Did God Pick Noah: The Forgotten Role of Social Responsibility
The evening news can be a real eye-opener. The story of a six-year who has been denied health insurance coverage since he was born drew my attention. He was born with a heart condition, which he eventually outgrew, and went on to learn to skateboard and do the things most six year olds enjoy. Still, despite no obvious signs of the condition now, at least six health insurance companies have denied him health coverage according to the reporter. (The story did not indicate whether a company had offered to cover him or at what cost, but that can easily be left to one’s imagination.)
The new health care reform laws are designed to prevent this story from happening. No child under 19 is to be denied healthcare on the basis of a pre-existing condition. Yet it appears healthcare insurers have already found a loophole. As the reporter went on to say, some insurers only plan to cover pre-existing conditions IF a child had health insurance prior to the passage of the new law. Public statements are presently being issued to clarify any mis-communication by the bill and to spell out its legislative intent. Whether I am for or against health care reform is immaterial. What is material, is that sadly, this story is really no surprise. And the story that immediately followed was no real surprise either.
A survey of baseball salaries indicated that a New York Yankees player made $33 million in 2009 and a Los Angeles Dodgers player made over $23 million. Am I sounding anti-baseball? To the contrary, I love hotdogs and baseball as much as any citizen of the United States. I’m not sure I love it enough to pay $100 to $325 for field level seats, but my point is not to ostracize the spirit of American athletics. My point is to address the irony found between these two altogether different stories which aired back-to-back on the national evening news and to discern what that irony means for our country.
What a contrast? Families can be driven into bankruptcy or spend years paying off medical liens against their property when serious illness strikes. Health insurers struggle, as it seems they always have, to provide coverage to those who need it most. It is, after all, easy and inexpensive to cover those who don’t need the coverage, just as it is for homeowner and auto insurance companies to cover those who rarely call on their policies for a hand out. That is the one hand.
Then there is the other hand. Salaries of CEOs and national athletes now reach into the millions and billions of dollars. The difference between the one hand and the other hand is what postulates the irony. It is not that the left hand cannot see what the right hand is doing. It is that neither hand has any control over the other. And I, like most average, middle-class Americans, am confounded by that lack of control. Every ounce of my being wants to do something to guide this offspring of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness into a well-rounded and responsible adult. But every ounce of my being can do very little. These two and altogether different stories on the evening news are like so many of this country's problems and ironies. Children who can’t get what they deserve and adults who arguably get more than they deserve. But are they a problem to be solved by me, one American who just happens to care. Or is it instead, a problem to be solved by us, all Americans who SHOULD care, but either don’t, or claim not to have the time or energy. Where do we begin?
We can't all be full-time political activists. But we can be something. We can do something. This is where a sense of social responsibility steps in. When problems of this magnitude abound, the only place to begin is with ourselves, or we will collectively, as a nation, self-destruct. We can point fingers at the President, the lawmakers, greed, mis-placed priorities, and so on, but just because we do not and should not accept the blame, that does not mean we do not have a responsibility - a social responsibility. What I mean by social responsibility is this: Whether you are a person, a business, or a government, you are responsible to society at large -- not to yourself, not to your company, and not to your citizens. On the individual level, it means writing your legislators and making your opinions known to them, rather than leaving them to vote their own conscious or the conscious of special interest groups. It means supporting your local church. It means fostering a child or helping your neighbor. It means supporting your employer with productivity rather than squandering your time. It means making diet and exercise a bigger priority than your vices. On the corporate level, it means balancing corporate citizenship with a fair level of profits. It means producing products safe for your consumers rather than those which are inexpensive and sure to bring quick and easy profits. It means considering the impact your production has on the eco-system (and in saying that, I refer mostly to the the extinction of our own life form). On the government level, it means considering the impact of actions on society and being accountable for that impact. It means putting the dollars paid to you by the citizens who put you in office to a wise and productive use. It means gathering facts and making decisions based on those facts. It means adequately maintaining infrastructures and providing basic securities to its citizens.
What if we lived in a world where healthcare was no longer available to lung cancer patients who contrived the disease as a result of first-hand smoking? After all, smokers know every time they pick up a pack of cigarettes they are playing roulette. What if we lived in a world where government regulated the insurance industry? After all, underwriters have the right to cancel policies and deny coverage (essentially forcing the legal system to step in and make socially responsible decisions for them). What if we lived in a world where government had to bail big business out of financial turmoil because it made poor decisions? After all, free enterprise is "free" and capitalism merely means to keep the consumer spending. My friends, I am afraid that we already live in this world in large part. And it does not feel like a democracy anymore. I fear the middle-class is being squeezed out of existence and without a middle class, there is no democracy.
Mankind has self-destructed once before. In the book of Genesis, the story goes that man was so corrupt, God found it necessary to destroy mankind and start over. Why did God pick Noah to build an ark? Noah, despite his righteousness, could not have just happened to have all the material laying around needed to build an ark three stories high and 450 feet long. Likely, God picked Noah because he was the only one who had enough foresight or social responsibility to save for a rainy day. Noah found grace in the eyes of God because he was wise and prudent. He was resourceful and prepared enough to succeed. And with that wisdom and preparation, Noah perpetuated the existence of man.
Are we making full circle toward self-destruction? Will it soon be time to build another ark! The need for social responsibility in America is our call to arms. We should each question our motives and our efforts. We should each remember that social responsibility begins nowhere other than with ourselves. We must first do something individually if we are to ever influence anything collectively .
Liddell Hart said that feelings of helplessness induce feelings of hopelessness. Indeed, history has shown time and time again, that battles are either won or lost in direct relation to the spirit of the men who fight them. It is time to realize that we ARE doing something if we are at least, trying to do something. And as we try, let us remember that some of the world’s greatest achievements were accomplished by the tired, the poor, the hungry, and the discouraged, who instead of admitting defeat, just kept on working. Like Noah, if we don't keep saving, keep preparing, keep trying -- then once again, self-destruction is imminent!
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