Seeing Brenda's Point
Jul 06, 1998 01:24 PM
I was sad to see Brenda get jumped on, very sad to learn of
Alan's difficult situation, and irritated by the assumptions
behind several comments earlier by Alan and Thoa. Generally this
whole situation has made me so uncomfortable with the list that
I've considered signing off for a while.
Paul, thank you for your honest input. It gives me a chance to respond to the
fear and judgment that I'm sure is in a lot of people's minds. I sense a lot
of fear, judgment and comparison in your post.
First: I was so startled by the suggestion that some individual
here might have a spare $130,000 to donate for a good cause that
like so many others, I just passed it by without knowing what to
make of it.
Alan is not asking $130,000 from one individual. He is hoping that
collectively, from individuals, organizations, etc., he could collect
$130,000. The difference between Alan's situation and other good causes, is
that Alan has nowhere else to turn to. Whether it be $20 or $130,000, the
money will help toward his goal, or for finding other housing. You can say
that there are a lot of people suffering out there that we don't know about.
However, that is not the point. The point is right here in front of us. Alan
has made a plea. Can we help?
Alan, I work full time and am barely keeping out of
debt, have next to no savings and live in a $24,500 house which
it's a struggle to make mortgage payments on while maintaining
it and a barely middle class lifestyle. Not "poor" but just scraping
along, one paycheck from disaster as Jake put it (I think.)
If you cannot afford it, then don't worry about financially helping Alan. I
can sympathize with that. I used to have times when I ration out one chicken,
until the last day, when it becomes chicken bone spaghetti. There are other
ways of helping. You can become conscious of Alan's plight. You can send e-
mails of condolences to Alan to ease his fears. You can find out how he's
doing. You can offer suggestions. If you have connections, you can route
Alan's plight to your connections. Anything is better than pretending that he
doesn't exist, or grilling him as to why he would need or seek help. If he
says he needs help, he needs help.
So the *second* post, Alan, in which you brought up the First
Object, expressed anger that only one person had responded,
and not very subtly called anyone not offering you help a bad
Theosophist, was irritating.
Alan was afraid and desperate. See how loud anybody yelps, and how s/he would
cling on to any little hope when s/he is desperate. I hope you would
Helping unemployed people buy a
house worth more than five times what I can afford while working,
people I have never met, doesn't feel like my Theosophical duty.
Alan is unemployed because he is disabled. He is 65 and crippled by osteo-
arthritis. It is a debilitating disease. From what I know about it, I would
guess he is in constant pain, and that if he's able to move around (despite
the pain), then it is a good day. His friend, I know little of his condition.
But if Alan says he's also crippled and mentally disabled, I believe him.
Alan and his friend only have each other. They can't go and live with
relatives if they're booted out of their home. You may have never met Alan,
but you've seen him on these lists for years. You should be able to sense
that he is telling the truth, that he is not out to take advantage of anyone,
and that he would not ask for more than what he needs. Can you define
theosophical duty for me? I would think it is, first and foremost, to feel
compassion for others. In fact, this is also a Christian, Buddhist, and
humanist duty. Does it even have to be a duty? What about doing it because
you want to, because of something that makes you sympathize with someone or
something else, whether it be human, animal, vegetable, or mineral?
Second: The greatest concern here to me is that someone is
threatening to do violence to himself or others if a certain
outcome (i.e. staying in the same house) does not occur. I just
cannot see any sense, in *any* situation like this, of providing
the said person the thing demanded as a cure for the problem.
Like Brenda, I wonder if someone capable of making such threats over
one issue can ever be dealt with by such appeasement, and if they
would recur over other situations.
I would trust Alan to know best what his situation and need is. We definitely
do not know more than he what his need is. What I really see here from you
and Brenda is the guilt over not wanting to, or not being able to help.
Through mentally figuring out reasons why the person should not seek help and
why you should not help them, you cancel out your own guilt. People have done
this for ages over all causes, from the Holocaust to racism. Did Hitler
commit destruction all by himself? Of course not! Did the majority of the
people actively commit heinous crime? No. The majority mentally made up a
bunch of reasons as to why they should not do something. Is it silly to
compare the situation of the holocaust to Alan's plight? I believe the
mechanics and excuses of the human mind to not do anything is the same in both
cases, which is from fear and justification. Fear is a funny thing, isn't it?
It makes the other person OTHER, someone we don't know, and someone we
shouldn't have to worry about. (I'm amused at how many people will claim that
they don't know you when you ask for help.) It makes the other person the
enemy, the one intruding on MY security. What is the difference between Alan
intruding on your financial and mental (freedom from guilt, freedom from fear
of peer rejection) security, and you intruding on a Blavatsky devotee's
security? This is not to use your sore spot against you, but it is to relate
to something you know. They're both based on fear. Fear makes us yelp and
get angry, as in Alan's case. Fear makes us justify. We compare. We say
that person has this better than us. We say that person does not really need
our help. We say that person should find help somewhere else, but NOT from
us...what can we do? We say that we are suffering, too, and nobody's doing
anything for us. Gotta look out for number ONE. Reiterating the Holocaust
again, thousands of people say, gotta look out for number ONE. If we harbor a
Jew, our family will get killed. So many silent majority allowing so many
things to slip by.
Third: It is indeed a dreadful situation and I have worried over
it a lot in these last few days. Sharing such concerns on the
list may be appropriate. Direct appeals for funds, and
spiritually judgmental commentary on people who don't ante up,
don't seem appropriate uses of the list IMO. But that seems to
be a minority view.
A theosophical list is composed of people who preached Brother/Sisterliness,
compassion, and interconnectedness. What would be a more appropriate place?
We communicate via the lists, but we're still people at the computer. Does
that negate our responsibilities? As far as being judgmental toward people
who don't ante up, I did not see any of that beyond Alan's desperate anger.
The negative responses, from people sympathetic to Alan, were to how Alan was
Fourth: Thoa, it may be perfectly legitimate in some ideal world
to say "Give whatever is asked of you, from the heart, without
taking any thought." But that is not reasonable advice for the
real world we are living in. I feel pressured by such comments
to join the fundraising campaign, and stigmatized by negative
remarks about those who do not contribute.
I am not a gullible give everything to anyone who comes knocking at the door.
It will have to be a legitimate cause and I will have to sense that the person
or organization is straight with me. Otherwise, I will not contribute a cent.
Once I've determined that the appeal is true, then I give without grilling
someone as to what s/he's going to do with my money, or whether s/he needs it
at all. If s/he has a need, then I believe him/her. I give my money and
leave it to that individual to decide on how to apply it. Because a person
needs help doesn't mean that s/he should be stripped of the dignity of making
his/her own personal decisions.
This has all raised my consciousness about several issues, and
for that I'm grateful. But the way the issue has affected
discourse on the list makes me uncomfortable with continuing
Unfortunately, it is too often a response that people run away when they have
the added pressure of thinking of others. People do several things. They
note the situation but mentally justify remaining closed within their personal
boundaries. They pretend that the situation is nothing, and shouldn't be
fussed over. Or they run away to where they don't have to hear about it.
To let you know how some on the lists have responded to Alan's plight. This
is based on my personal e-mail to Alan. Alan may correct me if I'm wrong. He
had offers of donations up to $500 or more, but lots of smaller donations,
everyone giving what they could. People are looking into help from
foundations for him. There's also one trying to see if he could purchase the
home and have Alan as a permanent tenant. Some have given Alan words of
comfort so that he does not feel alone. Those are the efforts on the lists.
People can offer and do things, and it did not kill them or put them in the
poor house. In each of us is the giving and the selfish side. In our heart,
we want to give, and then immediately we say, "Gosh, I could have used it."
In fact, sometimes the more we have, the more we're afraid to lose it, and the
more we forget that there are less fortunate souls. This results from
"clinging." Giving doesn't hurt so much if you don't cling, and can actually
feel good. If you have ever been on the recipient's end, you know that
receiving kindness from others is the best salve for the wound.
No one is judging you if you can't afford to help. You do not need to make
judgment and comparisons against Alan, and others who support him to justify
that. You are a familiar figure enough on this list that if you were to
become disabled, lose your job, and kicked out of your home, I would be among
those who would try to help you.
No need to fear, Paul.
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