“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Everyone recognizes this passage from Genesis 4.9, but what was God’s answer? Yes or no?
God cursed Cain but let him live. People are still debating the outcome: Do we bear a responsibility to our brothers and sisters? Are we not all descendents of the same distant Adam and Eve?
This is what a social contract is all about. We are all connected, but is there a point where the connection is so tenuous that responsibility ceases? This is a moral question, and it usually falls to philosophers and clergy to answer it, so let’s turn elsewhere. What does science say?
Science also says we’re all connected. What’s more, we are connected to everything else on the earth, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, the creatures that live in the depths of the ocean and those that burrow beneath the soil.
Most of us took algebra in high school. We know that when something is changed on one side of an equation, something will happen on the other side as well. When one part of our ecosystem is changed, something will happen in response.
This alone should explain why we have a responsibility to the earth. Those pesky environmentalists aren’t annoying tree-huggers. They observe these natural connections and feel a responsibility to act.
Religion. Science. And now, politics. Let’s talk about national health care. Let me remind readers we are the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t have universal health care coverage. We also have the world’s highest medical costs. Something is definitely wrong here.
The present administration has passed the Affordable Care Act. Call it Obamacare if you want. It’s one more attempt to provide the nation with national health insurance.
Supporters know it’s not perfect; detractors want to destroy it and start over. Supporters say it’s the law; it can be improved but to demolish it is a step backward. Detractors have dug in their heels and tried over and over again to kill it.
Let’s look at Affordable Care from the standpoint of national connectivity. This is how Social Security has worked, and Social Security for all it faults, has been a success.
Social Security and universal health coverage are part of the social contract a nation negotiates with itself, and it only works when everyone pays into the system. There has to be a single system and a singer payer. This is where the trouble starts. Today — and it was probably true to a degree when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Social Security into law — people don’t trust the government, but who else can be trusted with this? An insurance company conglomerate? Wall Street? A single for-profit health czar?
If we care about national security of any kind -- defense, human health, safe food, etc. -- it’s to our advantage to build a system where people do trust their government.
How? By rejecting ideology in favor of compromise. By picking candidates for office who don’t make promises they can’t fulfill. By refusing to listen to negative campaigns.
Some ancient sage once warned the world” “Beware he who would demonize his enemy.”
Yes, I’ve said, “All governments lie. It’s the nature of the beast.” We do need to be skeptical, but a rational person can usually tell when a government is lying. This is very different than the kind of distrust we see today, one that says government is inherently bad.
The opposite of government is anarchy. In a time of anarchy there are no guidelines at all. There is no law. There is no social contract. In its place you find the modern survivalist or prepper movement.
This isn’t just the kind of common sense preparations we all need to practice. It is a movement based on fear. And fear breeds more fear.
The opposite of fear is trust, not blind trust, but trust in the essential goodness of life.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.