Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, December 26, 2011

Communist Thinking in a Capitalist World

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

People who are chronically ill, in pain or disabled often have feelings of uselessness, that they aren't full human beings or contributing members of society because they aren't able to do what they think is expected of them. For men, it is most often an inability to provide for their family that leads to this thinking. For women, it is more often an inability to nurture their family and care for the household that triggers it. These are very stereotypical role expectations, but even in our 'enlightened' society, this holds true for most people.
In a capitalist society, earning money is the prime objective. Until World War II, this meant men, women were expected to play a supporting role in this objective, by caring for the household and family. During World War II, so many men were at war, women were called upon to provide for their families, support the war effort from home, along with their usual roles. Many women discovered they liked working, they liked the challenge, the satisfaction of a job well done, the independence of earning their own money and the social contacts they made on the job. Men often took on some of the household duties to balance out the tasks, but women were generally still the person running the house. Hence, the roles that people feel most guilty about when not able to perform.
In a pure communist society, people are expected to work according to their ability, and they are given compensation according to their need. This sounds great, but human nature being what it is, some people looked for ways to give less than they were capable of, and/or to take more than they needed. Communism never quite works out the way it should.
So, back to my reason for writing about this topic. What if we could instill in our society's thought pattern the acceptance of the validity of this basic communist idea? I am not trying to restructure our whole society, just to change this one thought. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone recognized that people have different capacities and different needs, and that is okay? A person would be respected for who they are, not how much they produce or how much they contribute. It would be accepted that not everyone can work full time, go grocery shopping, vacuum or lift a child. It would be okay that some people need more sleep, more medical resources, or more help to do basic tasks. It could still be a capitalist world in which there was incentive to strive for excellence, for newer and better ways of doing things, but with a communist recognition that not everyone can do that. Those people are not any less valuable to the society as a whole, or to their families.
How does this play out in the real world? How can we apply this thinking to make this a better world for everyone? What can we change so that people with illness, pain and/or disability won't feel less than others, and/or less than themselves? These are questions worth pondering.
We, as individuals, don't have the power to change the thinking of society as a whole. We do have the power to change our own thinking, and to influence the thinking of those around us. We can stop thinking of ourselves as less than, as damaged goods, as inadequate. We can stop apologizing for not being able to do what we used to do, or what we think we are 'supposed' to be able to do. We can start empowering ourselves to ask for the help we need, and to accept it graciously when offered. We can start taking pride in ourselves as we are, for what we can do, and what we can offer to our families and our communities.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Be yourself.  Be proud of yourself.

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