But what is the limit to the dictum “what’s mine is mine”? What balance governs the morality between greed and need, between surplus and survival? What defines the duty incumbent on one having more than he needs in the face of others in really dire straits? We quickly find ways of distancing ourselves from any sense of responsibility, don’t we?
It is hard to define how to limit taking advantage of those who are already at a disadvantage, which is happening all the time. When a person is subject to disillusion about finding equal opportunity, that is divisive. Despair can spread like green mold on a pudding, contaminating the health of the whole society.
This is a political issue. Can we allow ourselves to feel responsibility for the social injustices that beset “them” but skip over “us”? Raising such questions arouses the ire of Tea Party types whose orthodoxy insists that every individual does have equal opportunity. The president was called divisive when he reminded us we are all in this together.
That is not class warfare or socialism. But equality is easier said than found. Actually, equal opportunity would mean change. The conflict is about whose ox would be gored. When those who already got “theirs” get affected, we hear from the power of riches, most commonly, the Republican Party. The Democrats have the edge in numbers, but anyone calling for change gets tagged a trouble-maker — especially when government is the facilitator.
In the ‘60s, blacks seeking to get white boots off their necks were called radical and dangerous for trying to rectify the injustice of their experience. That injustice tends to be invisible to many, so that we are surprised even when informed that some kids go to school hungry.
Moral segregation and self righteousness are a legacy too easily associated with the Republican ideology, where reform means doing less and advancing tough-minded rhetoric “encouraging” everyone to take initiative as individuals to lift themselves up (by the bootstraps). That is what the well-to-do classes like to think they have done. Republicans, as was once said of General Motors, seem to believe that what is good for them, is good for the country.