Want and Ignorance

“From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. 'Spirit. are they yours?' Scrooge could say no more. 'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.”

Ignorance and Want, the two ghastly children from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, are the offspring of man. More accurately, they are the offspring of a society that shows too little concern for what it is breeding. Dickens warned us about the spread of Want and Ignorance in 1843. Perhaps it is time he should warn us again.

At a time of year when we are all getting swept up in the holiday spirit. When you and I are busy with Christmas shopping, holiday planning, and family visits, perhaps we should make time to consider what we have done in the last year. Perhaps we should make a little more time to plan so we might do better next year.

I certainly think the people in our nation’s capital should take a little time to do this. After all, Congress has done so very little this year they should certainly have some free time. I think the officials in Indianapolis should take a little time too. If this past legislative session is any indication, they should set aside a lot of time to reflect on what they could improve.

It seems the spread of Want is a popular campaign plank these days. In our bizarro world of American politics, the spread of Want is being actively promoted by some candidates. They wear their disdain for their fellow citizens as a badge of honor. “Take a bath and get a job!” is a common refrain. It is also a stupid one that plays only to our basilar instincts. Rather than actually doing some serious intellectual work and finding a way to improve our economy, some people, who are actively campaigning to be leader of the free world, reduce themselves to shouting third grade insults. When there are 4.6 unemployed people for every job opening, it requires a plan slightly more complex than “Take a bath!”

The proliferation of Want is not entirely the fault of one political party either. As one party campaigns to increase Want as quickly as humanly possible, the other seeks to compromise with that ghastly thought. The other party thinks it’s a winning strategy to simply halve the increase in Want promoted by its opponent. As if having 100 million Americans in need is the best plan available simply because it is slightly better than having 200 million Americans in need. The rationalization of such idiotic public policy is mind-boggling. It reads like a headline from The Onion, only these policies aren’t intentionally hilarious.

In a time when people need jobs, better pay, homes, food and other basic necessities, our leaders have weeks worth of debate over the astonishingly absurd. One party says they think they saw one instance of a person buying a steak with a food stamp, so the entire program must go. The other party says “well, we’ll compromise with you and cut half the program”. Then, they go on television to announce to the entire thinking world that bipartisanship is alive and well. Let me be the first to say “WELL, THANK GOD FOR THAT!!!!” It brings to mind the great Strother Martin line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team”.

As maddening as politics in Washington DC has become, it is perhaps even worse in our state’s capitol. In Indianapolis, they actively seek to spread both Want and Ignorance, and they tell us it is a good thing. They write their editorial pieces and they even do “listening tours” so they can explain to us through porcelain smiles how laws that lower wages and reduce workplace safety are actually good for us, as if we’re all gullible enough to buy it. Driving down wages will improve your quality of life! It’s good for business! Of course, they’re in the increasing Want business. And brother, business is good!

More disturbingly, the jolly folks in our state’s capitol try to sell us on the spread of Ignorance. They tell us that pulling hundreds of thousands of dollars from our schools here in Perry County is a good thing. They tell us that obtaining a basic education should be a little more exclusive. If you happen to be a child of some means who lives near a private or “charter” school, you have every right to the best education money can buy. If you are of lesser means and live in a rural county like Perry County, well, life’s just not fair sometimes. Next time, you should be born in Carmel. Perhaps you could get one of those wonderful minimum wage service jobs when you grow up. They’ll be plentiful when we have Right to Work! What’s that you say? College? Oh no, sorry, college is going to be reserved for those with the right breeding.

If our state’s leaders are serious about improving Indiana’s economy and retaining educated people, education is the first and best place to start. Does anyone really think businesses will want to locate in Indiana, unions or not, if Indiana’s population becomes one of the least educated populations in the nation?

And retaining educated people? Forget about that. Why would educated people stay in any community that doesn’t value education? And when families with children are considering a move to a community, they might look at property tax rates, but I guarantee you they look at the schools. If the schools are a mess and underfunded, the lowest property taxes in the world won’t matter. It didn’t for my family. I’m quite positive it won’t for others. If you don’t have kids, do you want to live in a state surrounded by uneducated minimum wage earners who have absolutely no hope to improve themselves? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Charles Dickens warned us of the danger posed by Want and Ignorance. He warned us especially where Ignorance would lead. That was 168 years ago. I don’t think we listened all that well. I don’t think we heeded the warning. Our leaders certainly haven’t. Well, one day very soon Want and Ignorance are going to grow up. When they knock on our collective door, I hope we have better answers for them than “Take a Bath!” and “Compromise”.