Your principle should be to see everything and say nothing. The world changes so rapidly that if you want to get on you cannot afford to align yourself with any person or point of view.
The author says one patrician English leader saw his relationship with the populace thusly: He wasn't responsible TO them. He was responsible FOR them. He was responsible for their care.
Seeing myself or my church or my denomination as the blessing — like so many mission trips to help those less fortunate than ourselves — can easily descend into a blend of benevolence and paternalism. We can start to see the poor as supporting characters in a big story about how noble, selfless, and helpful we are.
But then it is easy, too easy, to sermonize about the dangers of paternalism and the need to take responsibility for our own lives, from the comfort of our couch in our safe and sanitary home. Aren't we, those who live in the rich world, the constant beneficiaries of a paternalism now so thoroughly embedded into the system that we hardly notice it?
The critical spirit rises up against itself and consumes its form. But instead of coming out of this process greater and purified, it devours itself in a kind of self-cannibalism and takes a morose pleasure in annihilating itself. Hyper-criticism eventuates in self-hatred, leaving behind it only ruins. A new dogma of demolition is born out of the rejection of dogmas. Thus we euro-americans are supposed to have only one obligation: endlessly atoning for what we have inflicted on other parts of humanity. How can we fail to see that this leads us to live off self-denunciation while taking a strange pride in being the worst? Self-denigration is all too clearly a form of indirect self-glorification. Evil can come only from us; other people are motivated by sympathy, good will, candor. This is the paternalism of the guilty conscience: seeing ourselves as the kings of infamy is still a way of staying on the crest of history.
For the multiculturalist, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are prohibited, Italians and Irish get a little respect, blacks are good, native Americans are even better. The further away we go, the more they deserve respect. This is a kind of inverted, patronising respect that puts everyone at a distance.
If we regard the state as the father, and the citizens as children, there are three alternatives. First, the father may be bad and despotic:this, most people will agree, was the case in Czarist Russia. Second, the father may be good, but somewhat tyrannical; this is the way the Communist governments in Russia and China picture themselves. Third, the father may not act as a father at all, for the children have grown up, and there is mutual respect among them. All are now governed by the same rules of behavior (laws): this is the Anglo-American concept of nonpaternalistic humanism and liberty under law.
They would tell you that governments could not manage things as economically as private individuals; they would repeat and repeat that, and think they were saying something! They could not see that “economical” management by masters meant simply that they, the people, were worked harder and ground closer and paid less!They were wage-earners and servants, at the mercy of exploiters whose one thought was to get as much out of them as possible; and they were taking an interest in the process, were anxious lest it should not be done thoroughly enough! Was it not honestly a trial to listen to an argument such as that?And yet there were things even worse. You would begin talking to some poor devil who had worked in one shop for the last thirty years, and had never been able to save a penny; who left home every morning at six o’clock, to go and tend a machine, and come back at night too tired to take his clothes off; who had never had a week’s vacation in his life, had never traveled, never had an adventure, never learned anything, never hoped anything—and when you started to tell him about Socialism he would sniff and say, “I’m not interested in that—I’m an individualist!” And then he would go on to tell you that Socialism was “paternalism,” and that if it ever had its way the world would stop progressing.It was enough to make a mule laugh, to hear arguments like that; and yet it was no laughing matter, as you found out—for how many millions of such poor deluded wretches there were, whose lives had been so stunted by capitalism that they no longer knew what freedom was!And they really thought that it was “individualism” for tens of thousands of them to herd together and obey the orders of a steel magnate, and produce hundreds of millions of dollars of wealth for him, and then let him give them libraries; while for them to take the industry, and run it to suit themselves, and build their own libraries—that would have been “Paternalism”!
...if I were an angel of the Lord, I would mark the doors of each of my children's homes with an X, so that plague and misfortune would pass over them. Alas, I lack the qualifications. So when there was still world and time enough I fretted. I nagged. I corrected. I got everything wrong.
Today we are less likely to speak of humanitarianism, with its overtones of paternalistic generosity, and more likely to speak of human rights. The basic freedoms in life are not seen as gifts to be doled out by benevolent well-wishers, but as Casement said at his trial, as those rights to which all human beings are entitled from birth. It is this spirit which underlies organizations like Amnesty International, with its belief that putting someone in prison solely for his or her opinion is a crime, whether it happens in China or Turkey or Argentina and Medecins Sans Frontieres, with its belief that a sick child is entitled to medical care, whether in Rwanda or Honduras or the South Bronx.