Thoughts on Thinking

"When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes

"If you're unhappy with your life, change your thinking." Charles Fillmore

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Eckhart Tolle

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." Epictetus

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

"Consciousness is a terrible thing to waste." PunditGeorge

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Another camel nosing around the tent

Mandatory Community Service

“…that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet;” Shakespeare - Romeo & Juliet.

“Forced labor, by any other name, is still forced labor,” T.A. Snead.

Whether in terms of a judicial sentence, a condition of probation, or a requirement for graduation, “mandatory” or “required” “community service” is a camel’s nose phrase that has sneaked into the social tent.

The camel’s nose, once beneath the tent, is difficult to remove, as it is attached to a very large and stubborn beast. “Community service” is such a nice phrase; it is so pleasant; so useful, so feel-good. It harkens altruistic endeavor on the part of a person. Me thinks there is mischief afoot. There is no such thing as “Mandatory Community Service.” There is, however, “Forced Labor” Also Known As:

Prisoner labor
Indentured servants

The common denominator of the above status is that the labor of the person is considered the property of the controlling person or institution. I mean, “40 hours of community service” means forty hours of your labor belongs to “me/us” and not you. (And if you fail to give it to us, we will hurt you.) Now, the hurt might be some time in jail, a big fine, a withheld degree, or lowered grade or any number of punishments. The presence of the punishment defines the situation as forced labor and not some sweet smelly social project.

Forced labor just doesn’t fit in with the principles “We the People” arranged for our governance. I guess that’s why it hides behind the pleasant sounding “community service.” That’s about as fishy as calling taxes “contributions.” Contributions are VOLUNTARY. Taxes are forced. Community Service is VOLUNTARY. “Mandatory” Community Service” is Forced Labor. Really, it’s that simple.

The next time you read or hear of a situation where a miscreant has been sentenced to X hours of community service, or a student must fulfill X hours of community service to get the grade or graduate, replace “community service” with forced labor and see if it still seems okay to you.

If you’re still not sure about this, then probe a bit and see if the person subjected to the “mandatory (or required) community service” has the freedom to select his/her arena of service. Should the person have that option (“gosh, I think I’ll paint sets for the community theatre for my mandatory service”) then there may be some mutual benefit. However, if the person must provide his/her labor for a short list of organizations or recognized causes, then the lights and red flags should be leaping all around.

Call it for what it is. Forced labor. If “We, the People” consider forced labor a legitimate part of a civil or criminal sanction, then so legislate it under that name. If the public believes that students should provide labor for selected political causes in order to fulfill mandated educational criteria, then legislate that for what it is.

When language is subverted, the truth is already twisted and mischief abounds. The mischief here is the subtle manipulation of the old world strata of class and caste. While still working towards a better Republic, the United States (We, the People) rejected the ancient ways of ruling class, caste, class strata. Okay, there’s still a lot of work to be done. But a refreshing breath of what this nation is about can be had simply by studying the litany of our folks who did great things, contributed mightily to the common good, and did very well for themselves. A good many of these folks came from nowhere, began with nothing, but succeeded wildly because of a place where genius, endeavor, faith, determination, and good sense flourish. That is the difference. Such an environment never (or very seldom survived) in the old worlds.

So why on earth would such a retro-practice such as forced labor (which heralds totalitarian thinking) be more and more common?

If you support forced labor, then do so with sound debate. If you despise forced labor, then do so with sound debate. But let there be public debate and not a sweet-smelling bit of linguistic nonsense slipping its foul nose beneath the tent of the Republic.

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