This is going to be a journey through my transition from budding politician with very leftist views all way through to voluntarism or voluntaryism – which also are about leftist views from the freedom and responsibility perspective. That will cover a lot of territory. I will keep it focused and connected.
I want to start with how I define the terms, as many of you will not be familiar with them. And while I will define each, in my conversation today I will be using voluntarism.
Volunteerism: this is the act or action of volunteering. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial or social gain to the benefit of another person, group or organization. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development and is often intended to promote goodness or to improve human quality of life. Volunteering may have positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue. Others serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster. See reference below.
Voluntaryism: sometimes voluntarism, is a philosophy which holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary, a term coined in this usage by Alberon Herbert in the 19th century, and gaining renewed use since the late 20th century, especially among libertarians. Its principal beliefs stem from the nonaggression principle. See reference below.
Voluntarism may refer to:
- Voluntarism (action), any action based on non-coercion
- voluntarism (philosophy), a perspective in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind that prioritizes the will over emotion or reason
- voluntarism (psychology), the doctrine that the power of the will organizes the mind content into higher-level thought processes
- voluntaryism, a propertarian individualist anarchist ideology based on contractualism and the absence of initiatory force or coerced Association by any person, state, or collective
- volunteering, donating one’s labor without monetary compensation
According to this Wikipedia entry, voluntarism has three ways that it can be defined. Action, philosophy, and psychology. Additionally, it may also refer to voluntaryism and volunteering. See reference below.
I’m going to add one other brief piece of information here about the psychology of voluntarism. As I stated earlier, the doctrine that the power of the will organizes the mind content into higher level processes is how voluntarism as it relates to psychology is defined. And I noted the references in biblical studies. I put another link in the show notes from a website called newadvent.org. This is a Catholic website and they have an online Catholic encyclopedia. From the first paragraph of this reference to voluntarism (Latin Voluntas, will) in the modern metaphysical sense is a theory which explains the universe as emanating ultimately from some form of will.
When I was in my early 30s, I seriously considered running for local office. I was also seriously on the left side of the political spectrum. I looked around me and saw politicians being elected to office with modest means of supporting themselves. Only to have roads named after them years later and millions of dollars in their pockets. The injustice of what I sobbed for me is what stoked the fire and desire in me to perhaps be a voice for those forgotten while politicians sought their fortunes.
I can’t say I remember why I didn’t follow through on this idea. But knowing me as I do, I suspect it was my feeling of the utter futility of being a minority. By minority I do not mean being a woman. I mean being honest and compassionate among crooked politicians. Since that time, I have come to know why the choice to not participate in a corrupt system was an excellent one. And the reason this was an excellent choice is because the nature of politics is to tell people what they want to hear. Your constituents, I mean. The nature is to tell people what you are going to do for them, the actual vocation is being important and having influence amongst a group of people set above others in order to dictate how others should live their lives.
Think about it. We elect officials to represent our interests. Those officials then go to a larger body or organization and hash out how to get a piece of the tax pie. That can be local city, town or county government, state government or federal government. At the highest level in the United States, we have Congress. 435 individuals in the House of Representatives and 100 individuals in the Senate. The 435 are there to represent the needs of their local communities. The 100 in the Senate are there to represent the overall needs of the State. Each and every one or the 435 congressional districts has individual needs. After the income tax was initiated in 1913, vying for a piece of that pie became a primary focus of each and every representative. In order to receive the votes of the people in their district, it was necessary for them to prove they were bringing some of that money back into the district.
In general, the Republican Party primarily sought dollars to support various businesses and industries. At that time in our history, that constituted primarily agriculture. The Democrat party primarily sought dollars to support the workers. Yet in the end, the businesses and the workers are slaves to the government. We have literally sent people to Washington DC to get stuff for us.
As far as I can tell, this is what politics is. Someone is elevated above the general population and given the power to control the population. Until we reach today where the Democrats and the Republicans are engaged in a bitter battle among themselves. And those of us who have entrusted them with our greater good have received exactly what we asked for. We asked for someone else to take care of our problems. We gave over our sovereignty as individuals.
The reasons we did this are as varied as the number of people involved. Perhaps we were too busy to handle things ourselves. Perhaps we felt we weren’t educated enough and the lawyers knew a lot more than us. Perhaps we felt we weren’t wise enough, not experienced in the ways of the world. Perhaps we felt we just weren’t smart enough to figure it out on our own and act appropriately for others. Who knows? The reason matters not. What matters is we gave power to someone else to make choices for us. That’s what politics is. It is a battle for power over the people and how they live their lives.
I am not able to pinpoint the exact moment when the absurdity of this system of government became apparent to me, but I do remember the exact thought that I had about why it was absurd. Hopefully, I’ll be able to communicate it here. I distinctly remember thinking how absurd it was to pay people in government positions to do things I was perfectly capable of doing myself. I am paying my taxes, and everyone is paying their taxes, in order to hire people to form organizations of other people to provide assistance in the community. Those people then hire people or businesses in the community to do the work. Why didn’t we just hire them ourselves?
We pay these people to go to another location outside of our community, gather a group of so-called experts around them (who we also pay for) to organize programs and funds for our community back home. These people then connect with the people back here at home who are going to administer the programs to the people in our community. Is anyone getting the vision of the absurdity yet?
What if we didn’t pay someone to go and gather another group of someone’s that we pay? And what if we didn’t pay for those people to have an elaborate office, large expense account, and the ability to vote themselves additional benefits and raises? What if we simply organized as individuals, pooled our money, and provided support for anyone in the community who needed it? Well that would require some focused effort wouldn’t it? That would require each and every one of us to think past “oh that’s broken” and throw some money at other people to fix the problem. Why not just hire someone locally to do it. Why does it have to be someone interested in having power over a group of people, who spends their lives convincing people they’re going to do something, leaving no time to actually do something? And it goes beyond not having the time to do anything except run for office. Political power is like cocaine. In fact, studies have shown it activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaine. Except much stronger.
So, what does all this have to do with volunteering? I’m going to read a short quote from a wiki page on voluntarism, action. Under the heading varieties:
“Voluntarism flourished in the 19th and early 20th centuries and was empowering especially to the women who had been excluded from political participation outside the home. Women’s organizations dealt with social problems created a rapid industrialization and urbanization, and by massive immigration which were not addressed by institutions of the time and had a great influence on American political culture.”
This reference is talking about what I have mentioned in several podcasts. Because women were excluded from political participation, they had organizations to deal with social problems. It was their contribution and as stated, they had a great influence on American political culture. Here is yet another reference. This is an article from web.archive.org dated August 6, 2007. It is titled, The “Quickened Concience”: Women’s Voluntarism and the State, 1890-1920. This is an amazing piece of work that adds details to what I have been ranting about in a few podcasts about women’s role in the community and how getting the right to vote actually diminished the power of women in politics. Its quite lengthy. Reference below. It’s worth the time.
I have two other points that I want to make that kind of tie it all together. Number one is an article in the Huffington Post, dated December 8, 2015, titled: The Business of Volunteerism.
The Huffington Post is a liberal publication. In general, liberal publications eschew the validity of corporations in favor of government rule. Down with corporations and so on.
Throughout the article they speak of business. Hence the title of the article. Don’t get me wrong. The programs that they talk about in the article sound really, really good. It focuses on businesses offering volunteer opportunities to their employees. This is actually really great. And I think it’s actually great because the other alternative is the government providing volunteer opportunities. We already give our money to the government to administer these programs. If you had to also do the work, that would add insult to injury. Give them your money, then still work for free. On the other hand, when an employer sponsors a volunteer opportunity, they give you money for your work, which gives you the freedom and desire to give back to others. Please read the article as it sounds like there are lots of great things going on in corporate America.
The thing I find most interesting, however and, indeed, disturbing is that the writer of this article seems painfully unaware of their separation and lack of awareness of deeper suffering. The article scratches the surface of volunteering. It puts a pretty face on it. The volunteer programs they speak about, while good in and of themselves, do not include the really hard cases. The featured programs in the article focus primarily on healthy kids. And again, this is good. But nowhere in the article did they mention any kind of volunteer opportunities to assist with the homeless who are often mentally ill, or the sick, or the elderly and the troubled inner-city youth. These opportunities do not have the pretty, cute face of the child. Many times, there’s dirt and squalor and addiction and terminal illness.
I could be wrong there and the writer does know this and was simply selling volunteering via cuteness because it brings in more volunteers and money. That’s a valid concern and useful for staying in business.
Voluntarism Requires Effort
The last point I want to make is based on an article in the New York Times, July 2, 2000. The Vanity of Volunteerism.
This article is quite long and detailed. It highlights the not-so-pretty face of true volunteerism. The writer gives many accounts of her experiences with volunteering for inner-city youth and children. Throughout the article she continually references her feelings of guilt as her passion for volunteering conflicted with her desire for personal pleasure and security. As her life became more complicated, it was harder and harder to spontaneously give of her time. Her volunteering began in New York. She eventually moved to Texas. That pretty much severed her connection to the children she had been supporting through their various crises.
Quite a bit of time is spent detailing the effort she put forth to support her choice to volunteer. It is an effort. It truly does put you in a position of putting the needs of others ahead of your own. This is definitely the challenge with volunteering. This is the challenge within each and every one of us. It requires us to put our energy where our mouth is. If we truly desire to see change, then we must be the change. If we truly desire to see the poor taking care of, then we must take care of them. If we truly desire to see our inner-city children given better guidance, then we must give that guidance. No matter what it takes. If we truly desire to care for the homeless, the sick, the elderly, we need to actually get out there and do it.
The other option is to coerce the general population, including ourselves, through taxation and the implementation of inefficient government programs that waste our money and do little to alleviate the problems they are designed to solve. Unfortunately, she actually does this for a time. Rather than expanding her programs via private donations, she partners with the government and even states that what needs to be done can’t be done without the assistance of the government. This is the huge elephant in the room. It means that you must force others to bend to your will. You must force others to give money into a large pool that you can then draw from. It’s a really easy way to raise money. It’s completely unethical, but easy.
While the idea behind the government programs may be valid, the effectiveness will always be limited. Those implementing the program are not there in your community. They are somewhere far away, looking down from on high, making judgments and passing out gifts to imaginary faces. They are insulated. They are out of touch. This is why so many in the Democratic Party are losing their elections. Their stance is helping the downtrodden. Helping others. But in their ivory towers they are too far removed from those they propose to assist. They live in their mansions with secure walls and armed guards. They make statements about how $1000 is crumbs. They are very out of touch with our lives here on the front lines.
In our quest to be the best person we can be, a better path to salvation is, rather than passing the chore off to another, buckle down and do it yourself. Do a little each day. It doesn’t have to be much. The world’s problems won’t be solved to your effort.
But your soul will benefit from the effort and, even more importantly, those with whom you interact and support can be uplifted from their suffering through your love. It’s beats a handout EVERY SINGLE TIME.
The quote for today’s podcast is from Mahatma Ghandi: Be the change you want to see in the world.
- Voluntarism: newadvent.org
- Internet Archive: Women’s Voluntarism and the State, 1890-1920
- New York Times: The Vanity of Volunteerism
- The Business of Volunteerism
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