Dorothy Dimitre

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill.

In one of the newspapers I read a while back, a letter to the editor caught my attention. The writer lamented: “The recent actions on the fiscal cliff were to punish the successful and reward the non-performers.” In his own words, he repeated the same old mantra that ultra-conservatives, deploring any tax increase, spew regularly.

More recently, we heard from Ben Carson who proclaimed that rents should be raised so more people will go out and get jobs instead of “depending on handouts.” In other words, these people are just lazy.

Such views are depressing to read (or hear) again because it reminds us that there are too many people in this country who are so arrogant and narcissistic that they completely lack empathy and compassion. They apparently believe that because they have worked hard to obtain “The American Dream” that those who do not “perform” deserve absolutely nothing from them. I would never use the word “successful” to describe such people. They are not successful as human beings no matter how much money and other assets that they may obtain. 

The previously aggravated letter writer apparently suffers from what John W. Dean describes in his book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.” He writes: “Conservatives without a conscience do not have horns and tails; if they did they’d be easier to identify. Many of them can be quite pleasant, but at heart they are tough, cold-blooded, ruthless authoritarians. They are limited to see the world in any other point of view but their own, and they are narrow in their outlook.”

So what is being “successful?” Is it grabbing everything you can for yourself so you can impress yourself and others? Is it obtaining a position of power so you can influence others to believe the way you do and/or carry on in your authoritarian ways? Is it believing that you worked hard and made it on your own so those who do not make it in this world are inferior beings who do not deserve any better? Is it being completely closed to the truth — that things happen (or don’t happen) in people’s lives that cause them to be deficient in (one or more) health, intelligence, initiative, self-confidence, etc. that make it impossible for them to “succeed” — just like things happened in Carson’s life that caused him to develop no empathy or compassion?

You’d think that by now we would have realized our cultural definition of success and achieving “The Great American Dream” is very distorted. Gurus have warned us for centuries that it isn’t how much wealth we accumulate or how much power we have, but such things as attaining peace of mind, sharing with others and enjoying rewarding relationships. Makes you wonder if we, as a culture, will ever learn that gaining power and wealth at the expense of others is despicable, that (wealth) without integrity and compassion is immoral, and that self-indulgence and hedonism do not lead to contentment and peace of mind.

I know I’ve gone on about this before, but there’s nothing that gets my dander up more than people who have such a grossly inflated view of themselves that they are unable to feel empathy and compassion and are indifferent to the suffering of others as they cling tenaciously to their assets. When you combine the generally accepted definition of “The American Dream” with lack of conscience and empathy you come up with those authoritarian conservatives that Dean describes. He warns us: “Conservatism has been co-opted by authoritarians, a most dangerous type of political animal.”

If we want our democratic society to thrive, we need to focus on re-creating The American Dream so everyone has a chance at a better life and the gap between the rich and needy narrows considerably. We must downplay the adulation of the wealthy authoritarian conservatives and disavow the mantra: “You are what you have.” If only those conservatives who are having such a hard time parting with a few extra tax dollars and disrupting our government processes with their inability to soften their hearts and open their minds a bit, could absorb the following: “It is a worried life in which people pursue a success that forever eludes them. Their goal is an undefined material success, to be provided by the largest returns in the shortest amount of time. These are unquiet souls; their way of life unrelenting.” — Alexis de Tocqueville.

Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 950 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is gramsd@aceweb.com.

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