More than just “good” intentions

During my time working with underprivileged inner-city kids in the very nerve center of the DC Beltway, I was able to work with many good-hearted and well-intentioned people. Sometimes, we were able to do a little good. Sometimes, it seemed, the problems were simply too far-reaching and deeply entrenched.

Other times, I wondered if we weren’t actually causing more problems than we resolved.

This is so often the case with the human condition. The great Dante wrote that the road Hell itself is “paved with good intentions” and a virtuous motive does not virtue necessitate.

So too, I fear, is the course of action with the “Occupy” movement taking place in Wall Street and beyond. Occupy Wall Street is turning into good intentions married to horrid solutions used as a media event for aging politicians and celebrities.

But make no mistake, Wall Street has been far from virtuous.

The stink of the bailouts and the keening grifters can turn any conscientious American’s stomach. Politicians from both parties have shoveled tax money to the very people who created the economic problems our nation currently faces.

I echo the protesters calls for justice but I am under no illusions that a true justice can be found in the ways of Man. Neither do I believe a pendulum swing toward socialism, anarchy or chaos as being in any way constructive.

Socialism, taken to its logical conclusions, purloins the proletariat and enriches only a few elites cunning enough to position themselves at or near the top of the food chain. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Socialism’s no friend to the middle class who are crushed in the gristmill, leaving the stricken to beg for paltry crumbs. Anarchy is even worse, and serves no one. Further, it always hits small businesses and “blue collar” workers hardest.

Currently, regular New Yorkers have lost access to their parks and streets, see their property defaced and their businesses pillaged while opportunistic ideologues posture themselves on one side or the other before a rabid media.

Who does this serve? How does this make anything better? What is accomplished?

The investors won’t get their money refunded. The unemployed aren’t going to be rehired. No one’s getting their house back.

With the season turning colder these protesters will soon abandon their tents and shanties to adjourn indoors. Even if they don’t, their “15 minutes of fame” is winding down. Soon the cable news networks will move on to the next talking point. All this bloviating will be lost with yet another turn of the news cycle.

A truly just cause does not justify folly or vice and the Founders of this nation warned that a self-indulgent and immoral people quickly become incapable of self-government. Moral people can be trusted with power only somewhat, and immoral men swiftly incline toward tyranny.

We need leaders in business, religion, unions and government who will do right because it is right.

The start of that process will come only when we first recognize that each one of us is part of the problem and thus must become part of the solution. With the passage of time we continue to lose our bearings. Instead of being appalled at the corruption and greed, we defend it and call these Robber Barons “job creators.”

Instead of occupying Wall Street, we need to restore our ethics and our ability to self-govern. Americans must recognize that greed and immorality come from “we the people” and not from some vague idea of a nefarious outsider.

We have lived beyond our means. We have forgotten that just because a thing is legal does not mean it is good. We need to “occupy” our homes and communities before we can occupy anywhere else.

The teachings and philosophy embodied in the person of Jesus Christ must find their home in the hearts of men. Humility before our Creator, concern and care for our neighbor, self-restraint and generosity.

God help us occupy ourselves in pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty until it shines in our lives.

Only then can we see to light the way for others.

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