This content originally appeared in print in the column "ALL THAT JAZZ" with the Siloam Springs Herald Leader
I’ve always wondered how people can be okay with keeping their money and belongings to themselves. Everything about my life has been about sharing. As a child I was taught that what I had belonged to my family and what my family had belonged to me. We were also taught that we share with everyone. I remember my mother, as poor as we were, handing out food to neighbors of neighbors and even complete strangers on the street. I remember, in Junior High, when I felt the “WHY CAN I NEVER HAVE ANYTHING FOR MYSELF” angst, I was very pleased that I was the only person in my family who wore a size 9 shoe. I invested in my footwear, cared for my shoes with such fervor, and relished that they were mine and mine only. When I became a mother I made the point to create a culture among my children and their friends that emphasized the belief that when one of them have extra they are encouraged to share. “Remember what it feels like when someone shares with you,” I would say. I would also remind, “remember what it feels like when someone doesn’t share with you?” More than that, I teach my children to share with strangers as much as they can. If someone has a need who is friend, family, or otherwise you share. No questions asked. I count it as a part of them being more attached to the value of a relationship with people more than with a relationship with stuff.
I was reading an article in “Psychology Today” about Liberals, Conservatives, and the reasons for why both share (or don’t in the case of Conservatives). Satoshi Kanazawa set out to determine if Liberals were more intelligent than Conservatives. It isn’t an unreasonable question to consider, as the evidence is that the more educated people become, the more liberal they become in their political ideology. Kanazawa sited that “sharing” is considered evolutionarily novel and a character of higher intelligence as his hypothesis:
“The primary means that citizens of capitalist democracies contribute their private resources for the welfare of the genetically unrelated others is paying taxes to the government for its social welfare programs. The fact that conservatives have been shown to give more money to charities than liberals is not inconsistent with the prediction from the hypothesis; in fact, it supports the prediction. Individuals can normally choose and select the beneficiaries of their charity donations. For example, they can choose to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, because they want to help them, but not to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Chile, because they don’t want to help them. In contrast, citizens do not have any control over whom the money they pay in taxes benefit. They cannot individually choose to pay taxes to fund Medicare, because they want to help elderly white people, but not AFDC, because they don’t want to help poor black single mothers. This may precisely be why conservatives choose to give more money to individual charities of their choice while opposing higher taxes.” Kanazawa basically surmises that those who are able to share their resources without controlling who it goes to are intellectually and evolutionarily superior, and his statistical findings back up that guess.
Election season is upon us and I wince at all the vitriol that will be spewed about “throwing away money” to social welfare programs. It never fails that there will be some Conservatives who are up in arms because, “it is their money!” and “how dare it be thrown to social welfare programs... those people need jobs, not handouts!” I wish it were that easy. Just get a job and the problems go away. It isn’t that easy. It is a complexed set of problems that requires more than part of America holding tight fisted to their money, like a Junior High girl pissed off about sharing what she has. Like that Junior High girl, it is time to grow up and be reminded that people, not shoes (or money) is important. Caring for others, not just the people we know and like, is important. Heck! Even Jesus was on board! In Matthew 5: 46-47 Jesus challenged us to think, “ If you love those who love you what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” We have to share with everyone, not just the people who we consider valuable. It is more than a political issue. It is a matter of moral imperative and, I think Kanazawa would argue, important for the socio-evolutionary future of us all. Hey Conservatives! It is time to evolve.