"You didn't build that"

A discussion started by the expose of corruption ...

Perhaps the lucky 1 millionth rorter of our bloated disability support system. http://t.co/nlHLWNU65I

Khaled Sharrouf lived on a disability pension in Sydney, but he’s well enough to plan terrorist attacks here and to

Beside the pretty obvious rorter above (whose cultural compatriots seem to have a very high incidence of "disability"), there are the cold hard facts that the rate of real disability have not changed while the ease of access to a disability pension has attracted a ever growing number of people. E.g http://www.pc.gov.au/.../35-disability-support-appendixk.doc

Redeemer: Couldn't it be that the ease of access to disability pension explains the rise of people on it – ie. the number of disabled people hasn't changed but more of them, previously unable to access the pension, now have access? This seems just as plausible as, if not more so than, a theory involving large numbers of people (in collaboration with medical professionals, etc.) defrauding the system? Additionally, the report offers explanations for the rise in DWP payments including acknowledging that, in an economic downturn, people on the lowest level of society (eg. disabled) are adversely effected. You could argue that this is an employment issue, not a disability issue, but if the reason they are unemployed can be related to a disability, why?
Alternatively, what would a disability support system that wasn't bloated look like?
Also, what is the evidence around the scammer's 'ethnic compatriots' having a 'high incidence of 'disability''? Not sure about that. If there is such a correlation, couldn't it be related to PTSD, depression, or other illnesses related to past trauma, abuse and mistreatment, etc., rather than because brown people are scammers?

Skin color has nothing to do with it. Culture is the key. The correlation between disability claim rates and culture are very high, and you have only listed a fraction of the terms used on the eligibility forms. Once you start believing that your need is someone else's obligation, need creation becomes your main life goal.

Redeemer: How many white 'ethnic compatriots' of this guy are you aware of?
The correlation between culture/socio-economic status/gender and oppression/lack of opportunity/misfortune, etc is also very high. Suggesting that this is because other cultures/women, etc. are somehow deserving of their purely luck-based position is deliberate ignorance and mistaking our own privilege with some sort of earned right.
And I think my point still holds if you avoid the simple semantic argument and replace 'brown people' with 'people of whatever culture you're talking about, of which a majority happen to be brown'.

"White ethnic" - why are you worried about skin color ? Probably, because argumentum ad hominem is easier than reflection ? If I am a racist you can play Rick Mayall and just squeak "shut up".

Redeemer: Not sure what you mean – if you don't think colour is relevant and want to talk about culture, that's fine, just change "brown people" to "people of what culture you're talking about"... point still stands. And skin colour is a factor related to oppression and disadvantage, it is relevant. Racism exists.
And if colour isn't relevant and it is just about culture, then you should be able to provide many examples of people from that culture who are white.
I think colour IS relevant in practice (although it shouldn't be), but am happy to continue the discussion as a comparison of 'culture' if that is more comfortable for you. The point still stands that people of such 'cultures', alongside having a high number of disability claims also highly correlate with oppression, mental illness, experience of trauma, racism, lower wages, less opportunities, etc. I suggest that these factors are a more likely explanation for such 'people of culture' having a high rate of access to DSPs, rather than because they, along with all the professionals between them and the Disability Support Pension (DSP), are scammers.

"Luck based position" Mmm.. Smacks of Obama's "you didn't build that".  Trouble with that train is that it leads to "the poor will always be with us" station. If I have what I have through luck alone, then I have a strong inclination to say to the Samaritan, "stiff luck, mate, but shit happens". Charity for the disabled is more likely to be supported by people who believe in achievement through effort and ability. If they see people making constant efforts, but without ability, they tend to feel generous.

Redeemer: The idea of acknowledging that our privilege is merely a product of chance rather than kidding ourselves that the disparity in the world is somehow deserved doesn't lead to a situation in which inequality at the current level is inevitable. Rather, it helps those fortunate enough to have privilege (us) realise the fragility and arbitrariness of our situation and, hopefully, consider how we would feel were the roles reversed. Via empathy, this then leads to the realisation that attempting to reduce this disparity is the obvious thing to do, which doesn't seem like 'the poor will always be with us'? You would only have the inclination to say to the Samaritan "stiff luck" if you were devoid of empathy and somehow unable to envisage yourself in the other position. 'Achievement' is not currently achieved through 'effort and ability', rather, it is hugely biased towards white men. To believe otherwise is to ignore the living situation of the majority of people on the planet.

I don't think empathy gets you very far. The power of empathy to galvanism action is low at the best of times, and reduces enormously (or disappears) with each significant difference between people. "He looks the same as me, but he is Sunni / Liberal/ white/ male etc. I have no empathy for him/her."
A much more powerful and widely accepted principle is the selfish "golden rule"- do into others as you would have done to yourself. This is the motivation behind most charity - whether private or rebadged (mistakenly) as welfare.
Additional support comes from self interested appeasement impulses: better drop a coin/ support a payment, of "there will be blood".

Redeemer: What you described as 'empathy' in your example is actually not empathy at all – it's the opposite. The differences between all humans are relatively minor - empathy is the ability to appreciate another's point of view, despite differences, not just 'looking after your own', as you have portrayed it. And yes, I think empathy and the golden rule are closely connected, and not in a way which is negative. Further, my argument IS along the lines of the golden rule – 'I want to reduce disparity because if I were (by some twist of fate having nothing to do with my 'value' or 'effort', such as being disabled, in a car accident, born into poverty, female, etc) in their position rather than my own, I would want compassion/help/to be treated like an equal, etc., rather than to be submitted to a system of 'competition' which favours those with the most power and privilege (and thus isn't actually all that 'competitive')". 
Yes, I think this is the motivator for wanting to reduce disparity/charity/welfare. Ignoring the part that chance has played in our own good fortune and trying to build and support a system whereby we can feel like we have 'earned' our privilege rather than falling into it by chance (thus justifying our conception of the 'Other' as lazy, incompetent, greedy, etc., rather than the other side of the coin of our privilege) is deliberate and willing ignorance. 
There are some fundamental assumptions that I think we are differing on, so here are the questions I'd like answered:
• Do you disagree that 'success' in the world is biased towards white men?
• If not, how do you suggest that we, born white males due in no part to our skill, value or worth, have 'earned' this bias.

Your questions assume that I care to what extent I have earned my 'success'.
What I care about is improving (or at least maintaining) it for my self and those I love. Enlightened self-interest (including the golden rule) leads me to support action in relation to those whose lives may impact mine whether they live in Moonee Ponds or Minas Tirith.
Caucasian males had a historic opportunity and they literally capitalized on it. Good luck to us.
Chinese males are doing the same as we speak and may be just as successful in dominating the planet. Bad luck for us.
If they win, their enlightened self interest or empathy might include at least some Ashkenazy.  But I doubt the DSP or the NDS will survive.
Ans 1: Caucasian/ European men are still dominant in world economic, political and cultural systems.
Ans 2: This dominance is a fast diminishing legacy inherited from centuries of social and economic dynamism which fuelled competitive conquest.
Nearly all human cultures include some concept of "birthright" which you call "luck based position".
You, like many others, seem determined to focus on inequality as if it infers obligation.
Faced with a pretty obvious example of the corruption of the term "need", you look to any historic twist of fate to help justify it.
You are not alone in this blind defense of anyone who plays the victim card.
This IS the problem.

Redeemer: Why I do not support the view you are espousing:
1) It’s fundamentally racist – put lipstick on a pig and call it something else, it’s still a pig. Using terms like ‘ethnic compatriots’, ’culture’ and the like do not mean that judging and vilifying a group of people (who happen to be dissimilar from us) is not racism. That’s exactly what it is, even if we’re careful to not use language that directly says ‘race’, it is the action behind it which makes it racism.
Further, the idea of maintaining a position of success for a ‘circle of concern’, alongside the the acknowledgement that white men are in a position of power and exploitation in the world, necessitates that your ‘circle of concern’ can only truly apply to white men – if by ‘maintaining success’ we are furthering the exploitation of others (be they children, women, people of other cultures, the disabled, etc.), then it is inconsistent to claim that these people are in our ‘circle of concern’. We can’t both be truly enabling their ‘success’ while willingly and proudly continuing to submit them to a system of oppression and exploitation – we are maintaining our own privilege at their expense. This is not ‘concern’, but, in addition to the majority of the world, willing exploitation of our children, wives, mothers and fellow humans close to us. This is, among other things (sexist, bigoted, etc.), is racist. I believe racism, while perhaps currently practically unavoidable to some degree due to upbringing, experience, etc., is inherently hateful towards other humans and not something that can justifiably be consciously supported and held to by people in positions of power, education and influence – ie. those without being able to claim ‘ignorance’.
2) It’s fundamentally inconsistent. It acknowledges and relishes in the fact that we, as white men, are a minority in a position of power and dominance and exploit the majority of the world. This is inconsistent with the outrage expressed when one of the ‘majority world’ tries to ‘exploit’ us (arguably in a far more minimal manner). This basically is saying it’s OK for me to exploit you, but it’s not OK for you to exploit me. Yes, this might be ‘human nature’ and 'self-interest', but it is inconsistent, shortsighted and hard to justify without relying on ignorance.
3) I think it IS relevant that we, as individuals who are white and male, have not ‘earned’ most of our position of dominance in the world. This is because it undermines any system wherein ‘competition’, ‘effort’ or ‘merit’ – where the achievement and assessment of such terms are weighted in a powerful minority’s favour – are key factors to a person’s ‘worth’ or ‘deservedness of welfare/empathy/help/compassion’. It’s not ‘competition’ if the more powerful/fortunate person is starting the race halfway down the track. 
My view comes from the point of view that humans, as ‘conscious’ beings, supposedly with ‘free will’ (all of which you know I actually doubt, but let’s be pragmatic here and give ourselves something to do other than be buffeted on the winds of inevitability and determinism), upon learning of inconsistencies and injustices, have the power, and thus the responsibility (cf Spider Man), to change them. This is not from some moral absolutist sense (except perhaps the principle of trying to avoid harm), but from the sense that a world with less disparity of opportunity (and, as a result, fewer refugees, homeless, burglars, cheats, scammers, etc.) will be better for all, not just those currently oppressed. The more disparity there exists, the higher we have to build our walls, the better the exploited get at climbing and the more we live in fear of having ‘what’s ours’ taken from us. 
(I suspect that you will try and frame the last sentence as a example of extortion, but, even if that were so, we are responsible for creating and furthering the situation in which such 'extortion' is a valid response.)
As an alternative, if you acknowledge that ‘what’s ours’ is largely so by chance, then the idea of ‘giving away our hard-earned wealth’ (and not necessarily all of or it at once or even in a way that is actually detrimental to us) is not so scary a concept.
It also undermines your earlier suggestion that people are more ‘empathetic’ if they see someone disadvantaged ‘trying’, because the notion of ‘trying’ is so heavily weighted against the majority of the world’s current situation. Couched as ‘respect for one another in equal competition’, this notion is derived from a desire to dismiss people because they are not ‘trying’, according to our system, rather than showing showing actual empathy and attempting to understand and appreciate their position. The acknowledgement that our ‘fortune’ is merely the product of chance highlights that, as members of a powerful minority based on the exploitation of others’ misfortune, we are thus partly responsible for their position. It supports that wilful ignorance of people who do not look and act like me is not a valid position. Which brings me to the idea of ‘empathy’ you described.
4) Your conception of ‘empathy’ is actually opposite to my understanding of empathy. The description you used, “He looks the same as me, but he is Sunni / Liberal/ white/ male etc. I have no empathy for him/her.” is, obviously I hope, fundamentally racist (it starts with the assumption that empathy is ‘understanding people who look like you’, which is racism, and which is then undermined by their ‘differences’), which I do not agree with. Empathy is actually the acknowledgement and attempted understanding of others’ differences and the acknowledgement that all humans in general are far more alike than different, despite different skin colours, being in a wheelchair, being female, etc.

a) The way in which I am using the term ‘need’ is derived from my idea that the way towards a better world for all humans is to minimise harm, reduce disparity and increase equity. This is the goal from which my definition of ‘need’ is drawn. I think that is a good goal. Do you disagree? If so, what is a better goal and how do you derive your definition of ‘need’ from it?
b) Lots of human cultures included and include slavery, rape, hatred, xenophobia, etc. – that is not an argument for the validity of any of them, merely an acknowledgement of their existence. If you are suggesting that the majority of the world actually disagrees with me and doesn’t want more equity, how do you explain asylum seekers, people wanting the level of luxury and privilege we have etc. – is it just that they’re all jealous scammers that want to take our stuff? I do not accept the implication that the disparity in the world is supported and cherished by the majority and think, if you actually want to make that argument, need more evidence.
c) I am not looking to an historic twist of fate, I am looking at the current situation of the world wherein a tiny minority of the population exploits and dominates the vast majority. I’ve outlined above why I think this is a situation that can and should be changed, for everyone’s benefit.
d) I do not think this defense is blind at all. I am attempting to justify and make clear the reasons for my position, using all the skills of my privileged education. That sounded suspiciously like a straw-man or ad-hominem attack – is that right? 
e) What do you mean by ‘playing the victim card’? If you acknowledge that white men are a dominant and exploitative minority in the world, how are the majority of the world not ‘victims’ of this exploitation?
f) The problem is not that people are trying to take our stuff, or that people are trying to make you 'give our stuff away' (thus teaching lazy people that they can get away with it if they scream loud enough), it’s that there is a huge disparity in the distribution of ‘stuff’ and equity. You seem to have a fear that if you give someone something, they’ll keep asking for more until you have nothing left – that 'work ethic' in our capitalist system is a product of 'personal value', rather than part of a global system of privilege, disadvantage and the various effects thereof. Is this actually true of your personal experience, or just in the imagined perception of others, with little regard for their actual situation and motivations? 
g) Do you really think it’s OK that a tiny majority of the world’s population (us – we are the 1%) have the vast majority of the world’s opportunity and wealth, even if it were due to our effort, endeavour and ‘worth’?

Additionally, since you seem to have an idea of 'fairness' or 'being worthy of help', don't you think it's understandable that the majority of the world, looking at what we have and the fact that we, despite our proclamations to the contrary, have it by chance, think that that is not fair? That is, NO amount of effort or action on their part could have resulted in them being in our privileged position. How are they not correct? 
Is this not at the root of why you fear these people so much and wouldn't reducing global disparity alleviate that fear somewhat?

1) The word racism is being corrupted from the dictionary definition logically based on race to a term based on "colour, descent,
or national or ethnic origin" (UN). The motivation is to endlessly extend the opportunity to claim victim status using a term that trumps opposition. This example is a good example of that corruption. You want to use the term to trump argument when the example under discussion is specifically related to culture. In this example, the key cultural element is Islam. Religion and its associated cultural behaviours occur across a wide range of races and ethnicities. Neither religion nor culture are subject to the ridiculously widened UN definition - yet.

Redeemer:  I'm not using the word 'racism' to trump opposition, rather I am saying that I personally do not agree with your argument because it involves the vilification of an entire race, culture, ethnicity, etc. I think this is 'racist', but if you disagree with the definition if that word, my point still holds.

No, but yes but no but yes but no, well anyway, I know I am wrong but my point still holds..... Not very convincing. "if you disagree with the definition": I quoted both Oxford and UN. What definition are YOU using? The leftoid convenience dictionary ? "Vilification of an entire race, culture, ethnicity, etc." No, just the dangerous 10% (guestimate) of a culture who, instead of being condemned as opportunistic hypocritical extremists, are defended by people, who in so many OTHER ways seem to be intelligent and independent thinkers. Some topics just seem to push the button marked "replay the doggerel". But why aren't more people laughing ?

Re Your 3 above) The heart of the matter. "You didn't build that" has become a meme because it encapsulates a dangerous philosophical position that is used by statists around the world to argue for enforced sharing of resources and to vilify those who have "exploited" their "luck". The problem with the view is not it's truth or falsehood. Indeed, the rational arguments for determinism are very strong and persuasive. The problem is the cascade effect of the view on human culture i.e. it is a (perhaps very close) partial truth that, as a guide to daily behaviour, is deeply corrupting. The partial truth that "success is available to all" is highly motivating and builds resilience, self-belief and success in the strong. On the downside, it also creates self-blame and a sense of personal failure in the "unlucky". For these, we have deliberately inadequate support systems to balance compassion with motivation. The fiction that "You didn't build that", builds entitlement and resentment and a focus on getting from someone else rather than creating for oneself. On the other hand, it builds a sense of social obligation in those "lucky" people. Of course, there needs to be a continuous dialectic (preferably without so much hyperbole and venom) between these views. I believe that we have wandered so far in the direction of "you didn't build that" that many in our society are spending hours of each day developing proof of their entitlement, rather than creating wealth. This is aided by those that respond hysterically when even the most egregious corruption is exposed.

Your second 3) "The more disparity there exists, the higher we have to build our walls, the better the exploited get at climbing and the more we live in fear of having ‘what’s ours’ taken from us. " This relationship exists but is mediated to an extraordinary extent by culture. Think of the astonishing differences in wealth and power existing cheek by jowl in India with relative acceptance. Compare this to the widespread rioting in Greece when faced with comparatively mild cutbacks in conditions, pay and retirement. Culture is the lens through which right and wrong, reasonable and fair are immensely distorted. That is why, the absence of social condemnation for those that corruptly exploit our charity are deeply damaging. In the absence of condemnation, the corruption escalates quickly - "Why not ? Everyone's doing it. I deserve it. Society is unfair anyway."
We need a culture where the "lucky" consent to compulsory charitable contributions (i.e. taxation) only for the benefit of those in genuine need, and only to a subsistence level. Providing assistance above that level should be through voluntary contributions only. Recipients continually reminded that they are benefiting from the charity of their lucky fellow citizens will be far less likely to climb those walls. On the other hand, if you keep telling them that they are entitled to demand whatever they "need" from the lucky ones, then the only winning strategy is to permanent act the victim.

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