Category Archives: Commentary

Using Our Resources

It took 3 weeks and some 1300 law enforcement officers to capture (or kill) two escaped convicts. And while the tally of how much it cost is not yet in, it is big, very big. Nothing was spared to reach the goal, and nothing was spared to get one of them the surgery he needed to keep him alive–the decoy ambulances, the bringing in of equipment and staff, and of course as many guards as was required.

It means that when we put our mind to it and utilize all the resources at our disposal, we can reach any goal. So what about homelessness, youths at risk, blighted neighborhood, poverty even, not to speak of the environment, and a host of other problems?

 

Piketty, Government And The Legion D’Honneur

First a disclosure, two members of my family, an uncle and a first cousin, received the Legion D’Honneur, the highest decoration the French can bestow, in this case for being war heroes. So I was all ears when the NYT, the BBC and other news sources reported recently that Thomas Piketty, the now world famous author of “Capital in the Twenty First Century” has refused the citation on the basis that he didn’t think it was the role of government to honor people. The articles didn’t explain Continue reading

Doing Good

Big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are now offering services to low income customers whom they previously shunned. B of A SafeBanking account and JPMorgan Chase prepaid debit card both cost $4.95 a month. The banks, their spokespersons say, will not be reaping profits with these products, but probably just break even. They have been so criticized as a result of the financial meltdown a few years ago, that for them it is a question of public relations, trying to rebuild their image, and more importantly to put themselves in a more favorable light and buy goodwill from regulators. Banks as we have recently been reminded are involved in cashing in on Inversion deals—deals intended to avoid paying U.S. taxes. In addition, their current practices, some analysts are telling us, places them—and us—at risk, for the same conditions that gave rise to the notion of and problems inherent in too big to fail, still exist. It would therefore seem that no matter how an observer looks at it, rightly or wrongly, bank policies are based on self interest.

Low income customers are prey to the pay lending industry and pay high fees for check cashing. There is a rather obvious need for services that is tailored to them. But that is not why the banks began these programs. They did so because ultimately it will benefit them, if indirectly and if not in actual dollars.

What happened to doing good? To doing something just because it was the right thing to do?

Kindness–Making The World Bearable

In Cambridge, England, a workshop was recently held on Kindness. The flyer described it as a basic human attribute (following the 2009 book by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor) a “glue that holds the society together”. The workshop wanted to know why such an important force wasn’t talked about more. Recently on Facebook, friends of friends were putting together a Kindness group to help someone they knew who had breast cancer. For a few years now www.randomactsofkindness.org  has given the idea of kindness a certain impetus. Certainly, kindness is an overlooked attribute. All we need to do to attest to that is to ponder how kindness has played a role in our own lives. We are each the recipient of numerous acts of kindness, acts we often fail to notice. It’s no doubt obvious that for most of us kindness has marked our lives for the better. Strangers letting us go through lines, people giving us information while we travel, people giving us a helping hand when we least expect it, or when we most need it, in stores, in streets,  wherever we are. Regardless of its unsung hero status, kindness however, is not as some have touted the epitome or quintessence of human activity. In fact it seems to have been practiced by other names, goodwill is one. Goodwill being a modern version of god’s will connects the sentiment to a higher part of ourselves. Indeed kindness does reveal the better aspect of our nature, and in many ways can be called the precursor to most higher attributes, as if it created a way for them to manifest themselves. As such it is an adjunct perhaps, but not a substitute for resilience, courage, fortitude, selflessness, honesty, trust, compassion, respect or understanding. Whatever its limitations, kindness as the doing for others, the  going out of our way for another, the  acknowledgment and inclusion of others in our thoughts and deeds, is nevertheless one of those  ever present little spoken of attributes that makes the world bearable.