Posts Tagged ‘Ayn Rand’

A couple of things stuck out recently for me when following the mass media.  On The Daily Show,  comedy writer Merrill Markoe appeared this week and during her interview made the statement that there are now so many socially acceptable ways to exhibit a pathological lack of empathy.  I knew this  already but it was so succinctly put that it stuck in my mind, especially when listening to the GOP candidates such as Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich basically attack the poor in recent appearances, blaming the poor’s own lack of initiative for their condition. 

 I do not disagree there are ways for some to dig out from the depths of poverty.  But for some it is a pit that can’t be escaped.  I often think of a man I worked with for a number of years at the Perkin’s Restaurant where I worked when I first started painting.  He was a few years older than me which put him around forty years old at the time.  He worked as a dishwasher and busboy making around six dollars an hour.  I can’t remember what the minimum wage was at the time since I was a waiter and was only paid $2.35 per hour.  This fellow’s wife was ill with some sort of chronic disease and it was constant struggle to stay afloat without assistance for their medical bills.  To me, he remains the face of the working poor.

Now this man had no escape routes in his life.  He had little education and it was painfully obvious.  His prospects for doing a lot better than his current position were slim, at best.  The jobs that once might have paid more in the factories and plants of our area were gone and probably weren’t coming back anytime soon.  He couldn’t leave.  He didn’t know where to go and if he did, he couldn’t afford to move what little he did have.   He made a few extra dollars helping a friend pick junk but he was unfortunately near the top of his potential.  This was a man who worked hard and did the right things, all that he knew,  but still found himself at the very bottom. 

He deserves our empathy.  He deserves a hand extended. 

Instead he and many thousands, maybe many millions, like him are categorized as merely lazy slackers who suck on the public teat.  The hubris dispalyed by these politicians makes me angry.  They anxiously seek to protect the wealthiest among us whose fortunes have been made possible by the blood and sweat of people like this dishwasher, who have been both the primary workers and customers for their businesses.  Yet do they feel a tinge of empathy for anyone other than the so-called job-creators?

I don’t think so.  At least, it’s not something they dare to exhibit in public.

Maybe I’m wrong in talking about such things here.  Maybe this verges on political statement.  I don’t care.  Too many of us have remained silent and on the sidelines or have started to buy into that Ayn Rand-ish tenet that selfishness is a virtue that these people spout at every turn.  Maybe someone will not like what I say here and suddenly find my work not to their liking. 

So be it.  I have to believe that people who find something in my work  also have high capacities for empathy towards others.  Those are the people for whom I want to paint.  People who believe there’s a better world a-coming, as Woody Guthrie sang in his song many years ago.  When I see how forcefully he stood up for his beliefs and the rights of others, I am ashamed at how little I have done myself.  Here’s his song:


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