The dilemma of social responsibility

Is it the responsibility of the citizen to fill in socially for government? No doubt it appears that local government hopes that they will; it will reduce the social burden of the area by transferring it on to other citizens. And so you may find homeless people sat outside places, and wonder why the council does not intervene; and think that perhaps they are hoping the bulk of citizens will chip in and help, because it reduces the costs to the council for re-housing those who need social housing. The council does not have funds for these things anyway, and even if they did, the vote-per-dollar return is severely low on this. Spend £30-40 a day housing an individual buys you a vote after four years, from that individual – if he or she bothers to vote. That’s £36000 or more for a vote. Spend £500 on elderly services, make some noise about it, and you are likely to see a better return.

So local governments expect you to step in to fill the gap because there is no funding for that. The problem that the average individual faces is that we know giving money to the homeless is not a long-term solution to getting them off the streets to better their lives. Secondly, we also know that some people – a small minority, it must be stressed – of those who beg for charity actually are not in need, but find they can make quite a bit of a living doing that. (You can read many newspaper reports of people doing that and getting caught out.) Thirdly, we feel we pay taxes, and filling in even more for local government is a form of stealth tax.
But what does that do to us though? It means that every time we walk pass someone in need, we feel we have to steel ourselves against the compassion we naturally feel, becoming more guarded, less compassionate, more tough – despite all our senses to the contrary. It is building another form of disconnect between the practical reality of our lives and the way we think we should act.

Disconnect breeds mental health problems. Composers such as Hector Berlioz were prone to erratic behaviour. You can trace that to periods of isolation spend huddling in front of a piano. (You can learn more about Berlioz from the N8 piano lessons blog.) Fast forward that to computers in the modern century. But it is not just work that fuels disconnect. The things we see around us and how we have to dull our senses and deaden our reactions – all this does not bear well from the human race; it is just so opposite to how we were made!