Self Sacrifice

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I was reading in this week’s Maclean’s how Michelle Obama’s goal is to make employment more family friendly – unpaid time off for having a baby, 24 hours of some sort of leave to attend to a sick child, stuff like that.

It is obvious that this will result in reduced productivity. In Europe, although they tend to be more productive on an hourly basis, the US is much more productive per capita.

So, if there is reduced productivity, wealth suffers. One way or another, the US gets materially poorer – or at least does not grow.

It struck me that this continent was built on self sacrifice. The people who settled here faced uncertainty and privation to build a country. The citizens of the last century sacrificed their lives and much wealth in the defence of freedom. After the war, people worked hard and men sacrificed family life, relationships with their children, in order to build a better life for the next generation. An 80 year old friend of mine said something like, “I never had a very close relationship with my sons. If you wanted to get anywhere in your career, you had to devote yourself to it.”

It struck me that we are now living off that wealth. Fathers can afford to spend time with their kids – although perhaps, with many working couples, kids are getting less parental time. So, the question: Who is now building for the future? Who is sacrificing so that the next generation will be wealthier than we? Or do we have enough wealth? But can it be maintained so that the next generation will have at least the lifestyle we have?

OK, I will admit it: I have indulged myself as much as anyone. I am grateful for the time I have been able to spend with my kids and the fact that things like health care, retirement benefits and the like have allowed me to spend an inordinate amount of time in University, goof off and travel when I was young and work less hard than my Dad. But it makes me wonder if these sorts of social programs will result in the kind of collapse that seems likely to happen in Europe where everyone wants a secure job, lots of time off, tonnes of benefits but does not want to work for it.

It struck me that we want, want, want without being prepared to give. I often think of the Spanish Civil War. I am sure there were people demonstrating and petitioning western governments to support the Republican government against the fascist revolutionists. But many young men actually did something – went over there and fought and died for what they believed was a just cause. Self-sacrifice. Who would do that today? Who is prepared to fight (figuratively or literally) for a better world? Oh, sure, young people are constantly protesting this and that and expecting governments to DO something. But how many are prepared to personally sacrifice for it?

Ron Turley. April 16, 2009.

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