Genetics Select the Needy
You and I not only have different physical attributes, but we also have different mental attributes. You may be a risk-taker who is great with numbers and, therefore, make a great financier. Or you may have mountains of compassion and, therefore, make a great nurse. I may have an inquisitive mind and, therefore, should be doing research.
On the other hand, you may have an inborn negative attitude and find it difficult to be motivated by anything. And I may have trouble noticing detail and tracking so written directions are a problem.
There are hundreds of mental and personality traits that we are born with. And their combination make individuals who they are. Upbringing can modify these traits for better or for worse. And we can learn to hide, to some extent, the traits that we believe hinder us. That is, unless we don’t have the introspective personality trait and the ability to act (a skill that requires imagination and empathy).
Child development psychologists tell us that deep and lasting shaping of neural pathways happens in the first hours, days, months, and years of life. Basic dispositions are formed that can last a lifetime. Whether you are held, spoken to, fed, made to feel safe and cared for — you have no choice in any of it, but it more or less forms your emotional skeleton. It determines how sensitive you are to threat, how open you are to new experience, your capacity to exercise empathy.
Children aren’t responsible for how they spend their formative years and the permanent imprint it makes upon them. But they’re stuck with it…..
So, then, here you are. You turn 18. You are no longer a child; you are an adult, a moral agent, responsible for who you are and what you do.
By that time, your inheritance is enormous. You’ve not only been granted a genetic makeup, an ethnicity and appearance, by accidents of nature and parentage. You’ve also had your latent genetic traits “activated” in a very specific way through a specific upbringing, in a specific environment, with a specific set of experiences.
Your basic mental and emotional wiring is in place; you have certain instincts, predilections, fears, and cravings. You have a certain amount of money, certain social connections and opportunities, a certain family lineage. You’ve had a certain amount and quality of education. You’re a certain kind of person. The radical moral implications of luck in human life: Acknowledging the role of luck is the secular equivalent of religious awakening. By David Roberts)
So I think it is fair to say that genetics select the needy. At least, within an otherwise prosperous society. Do we have a moral obligation to share our talents, our skills, the fruits of our inherited personality traits with those of individuals who inherited traits that aren’t as conducive to making money?
We choose out mates, not only because of common interests, but also become they have complimentary personality traits. “You complete me”. They may be good at something that we are not and vice versa. Shall we be any less cooperative with other people in society? (Try to keep your mind out of the gutter on this one.)
Corporate and Government Treatment of Low Income Individuals
I don’t mean to totally downplay nurturing but it is obvious that the individuals that are living on the streets or changing low-paying jobs on a regular bases, have not had nurturing enough to overcome their inherited traits. And some corporations, thinking only of the bottom line, either don’t realize or don’t care how their actions effect low income families.
It has never been easy to be poor in America, but decisions made in company boardrooms about seemingly modest financial matters — about fees, fines, interest rates, minimum balances — make life far harder than it has to be for low-income families. This week, Bank of America announced its free, no-minimum-balance checking account, popular with many low-income customers, will require a $1,500 minimum daily balance or $250 in direct monthly deposit (totaling $3,000 per year). If customers fall below that threshold, they will be forced to pay a monthly fee. (Why it Cost so much to be Poor in America – Karen Weese)
Government funding for social programs is always threatened by the chopping block. Medicaid is making it harder for low-income and disabled individuals to get funding for basic needs. We’re required to pay taxes to the government anyway, so why not petition for a more compassionate distribution of funds.
You were Born to be Helpful
You might argue “I didn’t get the generous or charitable trait”. OK, that may be true, so hopefully you live with people who did. Some psychologists would say there is one other trait you may not have gotten. See if you agree. The Link between humility and helpfulness.
But most of us are born with an instinct to help others. “Some biologists believe that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others. Of course every animal must to some extent be selfish to survive. But the biologists also see in humans a natural willingness to help.” The theory is that is was developed during prehistoric society where cooperation was needed for survival. There have been many studies regarding this. Once such study was reported in the New York Times by Nicholas Wade.
So there is the logical reason that (for everyone who can) there is a moral obligation to help those in need. Fortunately, it also comes naturally to most.
Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can. (John Wesley)
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