Life is a Team Sport: Responsibility in Today’s World

February 18, 2017 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)

 

noblesse oblige
[noh-bles oh-bleezh; French naw-bles aw-bleezh]

noun
1.
the moral obligation of those of high birth, powerful social position, etc., to act with honor, kindliness, generosity, etc.

This nation was founded by people who categorically rejected the idea of nobility, of a “special” class, of “royal birthright” to lead a nation. They left the relative comfort of “home” and then proceeded to fire up and fight a revolution to seize control from this entitled class and give power to the people.

Of course, humans being humans, having a hierarchical structure is inevitable. So as we grew, as our society fell into place, we began to develop our own “noble” class. In some cases it’s based on fame – actors, authors, and the like. In some cases it’s based on influence – activists, politicians. In some cases it’s based on fortune – whether that be through industry/profession. More often than not it’s some combination of the above. So while we do not have royalty, per se, our nation most certainly has developed it’s own caste-ish system of structure – with money often (but not always) being a supreme driver of influence.

Having grown up in a relatively privileged upbringing and drifted into a life path that inclines more towards have than have not one might ask what compelled the writing of this.

Put simply, it’s the driver for any self-respecting Jewish girl. Guilt.

Recently I saw an article about billionaire businesswoman, Elaine Wynn, and her incredibly generous donation to support Planned Parenthood. Along with another one about Sheryl Sandberg having done same. I harbor no illusion that I should be feeling guilty about my not donating large sums of money to this or any other organization. I mean, you can’t give what you don’t have, right? At the same time, it did make me think about that phrase with which I opened this post – the idea of the obligation of being someone in a position of influence in today’s world.

Being late to the game I only recently completed watching season one of The Crown (which, if you’ve not yet partaken, do yourself a favor, do.) and besides the stunning pageantry, stupendous casting and generally wonderful portrayal of a monumental period in modern history, something struck me and struck me hard.

Underlying the entirety of season 1 is the theme of responsibility, of honor, of being called to stand up for and represent a higher purpose. Seen through the lens of a young woman wedged with some clear discomfort into a role for which she had no ambition and little taste, this story sends a clear message – there are times when we are called to action and we may not like it, we may not want it, but those things matter little against the importance of stepping up.

When our founding fathers carved the foundation of our country, the principles on which they hewed that base sat firmly on the concept of a participatory Democracy. This means several things. First and foremost those who are elected to office are not leaders, they are not in charge. They are, rather representatives, whose job is to REPRESENT the people. Full stop. These were not to be career positions. These were not to be life-long appointments but temporary roles that they would fill for a period of time after which they would return to private sector life and allow new voices and perspectives to come in. So we’ve failed pretty miserably on that front – allowing alleged representatives to sit term after term after term.

Following a close second to this idea of term limits and rotating the tapestry of voices REPRESENTING the people, is the fact that in order for the system to work, to truly work, the PEOPLE must participate. This means more than just showing up at a poll on election day to tick off a box for someone whose name you only know through a barrage of TV ads or banners around town. Complain if you will about how the 2016 Presidential election turned out (goodness knows that I have) but the biggest issue, to me, in this electoral disaster isn’t that our nation is apparently more heavily populated by self-centered, selfish greedy people along with deeply racist and bigoted people. No, the bigger issue to me is that nearly half of those eligible to vote in this election just didn’t even bother showing up.

Disgraceful.

In the days since the election, as the current Administration and the army of henchman in the House and Senate have systematically dismantled one thing after another, pulling funding and putting key organizations in jeopardy there’s been a wave of donations to many organizations – such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the National Resources Defense Council, Human Rights Campaign and more.

This is amazing. This is great. This is important. All of these organizations need funding in order to just maintain their work in the face of losing government funding (and having to face lawsuits and uphill battles to do their work, costing even more money). These organizations also need help – volunteers who can support their efforts, help them keep costs down by not having to hire more staff and insure that the engines of progress can move forward.

In these times, when so much is at stake, when the enormity of the tasks in front of the world seems utterly daunting, when deciding which weekend protest you’ll attend to scratch that itch of “doing something” is becoming tiresome … pause. And then take action.

We have a choice. What world do we wish to be? Do we wish to be cowed by the bullies and watch as the world is dismantled? Or do we rise up, stronger together and each of us take the obligation set in front of us by the place of privilege we occupy and do our part?

Life is a team sport. Get into the game.

 
 

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