Written by Sylvia Fuerstenberg, former executive director, The Arc of King County
It has been said that “no man is an island”. We are in fact living an interdependent reality. We have our roles in relationship to others, husband, wife, friend, son, daughter, employee, employer, citizens and community members. Our lives are intertwined with all of the people around us, whether we know them or not. The measure of our lives and our activities is in how we treat others in our society… do we treat them as if they matter or not? That all reflects back on us. In the order that we live we all have to have physical health and economic security. Where would we be without doctors, hospitals, teachers employers. We get paid for doing something that benefits others in some way and we spend our money on things that represents others’ work. As a society we share in the wealth to assure that those we may or may not know have at least the minimum.
I am worried that this basic foundation, on which our society is built is being undermined because we have shifted towards the perception that indeed “I” live on an Island and “I have to have what I need and the others with whom we share our community become invisible. The grab to keep what is mine without regard to the way in which I am interdependent with others robs our lives of meaning and connection. The truth is that we are a part of a huge organic and highly interdependent living world. When I buy something that someone else made, I support their activity, their economic security and, through taxes paid for that item, contribute to the health and economic security of the whole society. I want my neighbors and seniors and people with disabilities cared for and living a decent quality of life. I want all our kids to get a great education and have opportunities – not just my kids – but all kids. We decided as a society at some point that this was an important building block for us all.
I fear we have become stingy and self-centered as a society. Our character as a society IS reflected in how we act collectively. We don’t want to pay taxes on much of anything anymore with little grasp of the magnitude of that decision and how it truly will impact us. At the very very least – we will all have neighbors and friends who lose their livelihoods because of state budget cutbacks, our children (all of them) will not get what we want for them in our schools, our work force will be undermined and poorly educated, our seniors and people with disabilities will have less than the very little they had to start with. What does that say about all of us together? I think it reflects poorly on us all and all of us will suffer even if we try to hold onto what is ours alone.