It’s a vague and general principle in the insurance business that some activities are more readily underwritten when there is outside, third-party supervision of the endeavors.
That gets to be testy when the aim is to help others.
I wrote my three books and developed my websites and blogs without supervision. The lack of peer supervision was actually an issue back in the Summer of 2001 when I was turned down for a renewal of a “media perils” individual policy that National Writers Union was selling as an intermediary.
Yes, I took some risks, and I probably knew what I was doing better than a lot of amateur writers, with regard to areas like copyright and defamation. I did become infatuated with the implications of my own narrative, which are considerable. I did look forward to the fame, or at least notoriety. But was I helping anyone?
Well, the central topic of the first book was “gays in the military,” and in fact I knew a number of the servicemembers fighting the ban (and the old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy) well, at least by correspondence. I would not have desired a romantic relationship with any or many of them, but I did feel legitimately connected in some personal way. I think I helped, although indirectly. My staying in the debate for so many years in the search engines did help make the final repeal in 2010-2011 more likely.
But I also had made some unusual arguments. They were based in part on accepting the idea of duty, of the necessity for shared sacrifice and resilience. Specifically, I talked about the Vietnam era military draft and my own experience with it, and about the idea that it was still possible to reinstate it. I recalled all too well the controversy over student deferments, implied cowardice, and the connection between risk and vulnerability.
I’ve thought about the “duty” concept in connection to the need for refugees and asylum seekers for assistance, sometimes very personalized. One idea that comes through in discussions, especially with lawyers, that anyone offering hosting or major support should have some third-party supervision. That usually would come from a social services agency, or possibly a faith-based group, as well sometimes local or state agencies. Of course, the capacity of individuals to offer this has become muddled by Donald Trump and all his flailing and failing travel bans. The desirable supervision is much better established in Canada (and some European countries) where sponsorship comes with some legally-driven responsibilities comparable, say, to foster care. In the United States, given the political climate, the volume of people assisted is lower, and the risk or cost, whatever that is, gets spread out among more people. The situation is even murkier for asylum seekers than for refugees, since their access to benefits and work permission is less, as has been explained here before.
I don’t yet know how this will turn out for me, but I agree that any adherence to “duty” would require some supervision. So, I am fussier with this than I was with the risk management for my own writing. But what about the people? True, I don’t feel personally as connected to the people in this situation as I was with the military issue. I have to admit that I have led a somewhat sheltered life. For most of my adult life, the “system” has actually worked for me, and I have been associated with others who more or less play by the rules and benefit from doing so. Since retiring, I’ve seen that the interpersonal aspects of need do bring on a certain culture shock. The system simply does not work for a lot of poorer people, who sometimes find that they have no reason to play by the same rules, but who do tie into social capital. The system also fails “different” people, some not as well off as “Smallville‘s” teen Clark Kent. I can understand duty (accompanying “privilege”), but the meaning expected to be attached to helping others in a much more personal way is rather alien to me.
The whole question of housing refugees and asylum seekers (and I’ll even limit the scope of this remark to assuming “legal” presence in the U.S.) fits into a bigger idea about social resilience and radical hospitality, most of all for those (like me) with “accidentally” inherited property. I do recall that after Hurricane Katrina there was a call for helping to house people in other states (sometimes in homes, sometimes with relatives). Even though most people want to be near their homes to rebuild after disaster, this sort of need (a kind of “emergency bnb” lower-case) could come back again after earthquakes or major terror strikes or even a hostile attack (North Korea is starting to look really dangerous). In the worst cases, the nation’s survival could depend on it.
(Published: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 10 AM EDT)