Families that Discuss together, stay together

Families that Discuss together, stay together
Families that Discuss together, stay together

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Altruism: Help or Hinder?

“[The] old people felt rich because they were free”, and “we are poor in spirit because we are not free”, was the cry of Clyde Warrior of the Ponca tribe in 1967. He draws a distinction between those Native Americans before the addition of government assistance and those of today who are the casualties in the thrall of government social programs. As a result, his people have lost the ability to be industrious and responsible and furthermore have turned to crime, alcohol and self-destructive acts. Warrior proposes a solution in three parts; that the Native Americans demonstrate their competence, exercise free choice and learn through their own mistakes.

First Warrior suggests that his people demonstrate their competence through exertion and effort. They must have the responsibility in the ultimate sense of the word or they fall to the incompetent pit of hopelessness. Warrior declares, “Our children are learning that their people are not worthy and thus that they individually are not worthy.” Those who feel unworthy turn to self-destructive acts. Work and industry set the stage for realizing achievement. As the individual performs and completes worthy tasks he gains a strong sense of personal adequacy and competence.

Secondly, the Native Indians ought to be free men and exercise their right to choose. To choose is to have power. How they will make their living, raise their children, or how they will improve their communities and situations will be up to them. Similar to the first proposal, responsibility coupled with free choice will aid them to be prosperous and industrious to the degree that will help them to be free.

Finally, with competence and the freedom to choose come the inevitable consequences of failure. Warrior advocates a people who can make their own mistakes and learn from them as a process to success and freedom. He says, “Failures must be Indian experiences because only then will Indians understand why a program failed and not blame themselves for some personal inadequacy. A better program built upon the failure of an old program is the path of progress.” Wisdom is gained through mistakes.

Warrior’s solution to the Native American social ills is not found in more government assistant programs. It cannot be resolved by others, but must be determined by the Native Americans themselves. Through their experimenting upon competence, their freedom to choose and profiting by their own mistakes, will they eventually ascertain what is needed to help their own circumstances and their communities. The order of Warrior’s solution begs the question if profiting from mistakes ought not to be the first part of the solution. Can our society allow the Native Americans to make mistakes and profit by them? Are we too altruistic to allow that kind of freedom and growth?
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