Social Question

seVen's avatar

What's your opinion on the "American Creed" by Dean Alfange?

Asked by seVen (3445 points ) August 31st, 2009

it goes as fallowing:

I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon-if I can. I seek opportunity not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, “This I have done.”

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29 Answers

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

that’s really what the American dream was supposed to be.

gailcalled's avatar

He needs a good editor.

ragingloli's avatar

false pride and selfishness.

dpworkin's avatar

He’s a Native American, right?

rooeytoo's avatar

I like it, agree with him and applaud him for saying it. It does sound like the American dream to me.

cwilbur's avatar

It sounds like right-wing propaganda to me.

benjaminlevi's avatar

Its like he is trying to romanticize screwing over the poor.

JLeslie's avatar

I think you can have both. Be reasonably secure and be inspired. America has been a hybrid for a long time now. It is not all or nothing.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t understand why someone is criticized for wanting to excel. He wants to rise above. Would he be more admired if he said he wants to stay on the dole for the rest of his life and it is the job of the government and working people to support him?

cwilbur's avatar

@rooeytoo: the creed seems to assume it’s either-or—either you want to excel and rise above, which you do completely on your own, or you are a worthless lazy good-for-nothing who needs government support.

Real life is more complicated than that. Having a social safety net so that you’re not completely destitute if you fail means that you can afford to take greater risks. Having socialized health care means you can afford to say “screw this” and start your own business without first having to figure out whether you can afford to spend $1500 a month on health insurance premiums for your family, or whether having no health insurance at all is an acceptable risk. And even if you do everything to the utmost best of your ability, a great deal of your success or failure comes down to dumb random chance—do you meet the right person at the conference? Do you pick the right day to launch your new product?

That’s why this reads to me like right-wing propaganda: it puts down the social safety net, insults those who think it’s a good thing, and completely ignores the role of chance in most people’s success.

rooeytoo's avatar

The entire statement is made up of “I” statements. The guy is saying what he wants. If that makes others feel less than because they want safety nets or don’t want to stand on their own, that does not make him the bad guy.

If the pioneers had wanted safety nets and government guarantees, Plymouth rock would be hellish crowded.

Maybe the answer is, take lesser risks and do it on your own.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I’m with Rooeytoo on this one, he’s not saying anything other than “I will not let myself fail.”

cwilbur's avatar

Except that he slams people who disagree:

“I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.”

“I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.”

“I will not trade [...] my dignity for a handout.”

He’s not just saying what he wants, he’s saying some pretty insulting things about people who disagree.

Also, I hope like hell the speaker never drove on a public road or Interstate highway, attended public school, or the like—because then, on top of it all, he’s a hypocrite.

rooeytoo's avatar

I can’t believe a person can now be criticized for wanting to make it on his own.

What ever happened to “ask not what my country can do for me?”

This man was born in 1899, so his stance is not so political as it is generational, he was born in a time when people didn’t expect the government to take care of them and their family, they felt it was their own job.

He’s not a hypocrite, he’s a hero.

benjaminlevi's avatar

@rooeytoo There is nothing wrong with doing things yourself, just don’t dump on people so much when they need to use the safety net.

rooeytoo's avatar

@benjaminlevi – That is my point, I don’t see him dumping, I see only the “I” statements of someone who wants to make it on his own.

The judgements are coming from others about his statements, not vice versa.

And if he lives his life this way and is proud of his choices, why should you criticize him?

cwilbur's avatar

@rooeytoo: His word choice and phrasing is insulting to those who disagree with him.

If I said, “I believe in the social safety net, and I am not the sort of selfish intolerant prick who thinks anyone can make it solely on his own,” it’s very likely that many people would read that as an insult directed at them. My insistence that it is merely the “I” statement of someone who believes in the social safety net would not minimize the insult that people felt. It’s the same way with this creed.

His stance is political and generational—the labor movement was organized and active in his day. The AFL half of the AFL-CIO was founded in 1886, and even that was a reorganization of an earlier federation of unions. The idea of working collectively was well-established by the time Mr Alfange wrote his creed.

And I reiterate: if he ever benefited from a public road, a public school, a public library, public police, fire, or ambulance service—he’s a hypocrite, because that’s exactly what he’s railing against in his creed.

Finally, I criticize him because his philosophy is narrow-minded and insulting, and in the end is harmful to others. The rugged individualist has always been an American fantasy; however, the truth is that we succeed overall much better when we work together. The fact that he is proud of his choices is simply meaningless; I could recite a litany of public figures who were proud of their choices but who were nonetheless quite deserving of criticism.

rooeytoo's avatar

@cwilbur – you feel he is out of line and being insulting to and slamming those who disagree with him. And yet you are doing all of that to him because you don’t like what he is saying.

I don’t care to discuss this further. In the USA he was (and hopefully still is) allowed to make his statement and you are allowed to criticize him for it. I still admire him for not asking what his country can do for him, instead doing it for himself. I have always tried to live my life the same way and so far have succeeded. I guess that means I am insulting and slamming as well. And here all along I thought I was contributing???

cwilbur's avatar

@rooeytoo: No, I’m calling him a hypocrite because he’s insulting people who benefit from the collective action of government, while in all likelihood he did the exact same thing.

For that matter, when I googled him, I found this. It turns out that Mr Alfange ran for governor of New York as the Labor party candidate and was instrumental in the formation of New York’s Liberal party.

So yeah, I think “hypocrite” is the right word for him. A hypocrite is someone who claims he believes one thing, but acts otherwise, and it sure looks like that’s what he’s doing here. “Hypocrite” is not merely a generic term of abuse; it actually has a meaning, and that’s precisely why I’m applying it here.

Further, what you seem to be continually, and apparently intentionally, missing here is that what I object to is not Mr Alfange’s self-reliance and willing to do things on his own. What I object to is the language he uses to denigrate those who choose otherwise, or who for whatever reason cannot be as self-reliant as he is, for all the reasons I outlined in this quip.

rooeytoo's avatar

ohhhhh wilbur, so it is semantics that bother you.

Well neither the semantics nor the intent bother me, I say again, I think it is an admirable goal. And I think it is sad that more Americans don’t still pursue it. When he wrote that, it was probably the way most felt, today it seems the trend is to demand the government do more instead of achieving it on your own.

Now it certainly appears as if you are insisting that I agree with you, I don’t see him as a hypocrite, that is his goal he is stating. And your reason for calling him a hypocrite is like calling a football team hypocrites if they don’t achieve their goal of winning the superbowl.

That is my opinion and you may insult me by telling me I am “continually, and apparently intentionally, missing” what you are trying to make me agree with but I am not going to. I think you are wrong. You will have to find someone more easily swayed by your domineering attitude, it isn’t working on me.

cwilbur's avatar

No, it’s not semantics. It’s what he says in his creed, on its face.

You seem so focused on his goal of doing it by himself that you are completely ignoring the insults he levies towards people who do not do it by themselves.

He is not a hypocrite because he wants to succeed on his own, and yet did not do so; he is a hypocrite because he is so insulting towards people who do not succeed on their own, when he is the product of, and owes a large part of his success to, a society that exists because of people banding together because they could not succeed on their own.

His values and his actions simply do not line up. See the definition of hypocrite here—“1. a person who puts on a false display of virtue or religion.” Check. He’s claiming virtue he doesn’t possess; he’s preaching about being self-reliant, and insulting those who aren’t, while owing his success to others. “2. a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” Check. He benefited from the New Deal, and from Social Security, and from Medicare. If he really did believe what he wrote in his creed, he should have declined all three of them.

Again, and you seem to be willfully ignoring this: my objection to his creed, and the reason I call him a hypocrite, is not because he has the goal of being self-reliant. It’s because he is so insulting and condescending to the people who fail. It’s more like a football player who says, “The only acceptable way to win the Super Bowl is if you get there with a completely undefeated season, and if you can’t do that, you’re scum who should just hang up your jersey and cleats” and then lost the second game of the season, but didn’t hang up his jersey and cleats.

Finally, I’m not attempting to insult you. I am pointing out that you keep on responding to me as if I am criticizing his goals, and completely ignoring my actual point. His goals are noble, and good; his attitude towards people who cannot attain them is pretty vile, and the fact that he holds that attitude while having benefited from the collective action of government makes him a hypocrite.

rooeytoo's avatar

I know what hypocrite means and if I didn’t I have my very own dictionary and know how to use it.

I am pointing out to you that you seem to have this great need for me to see his words as you do and I’m not going to.

Read my lips, you are not going to make me change my mind. I don’t see it the way you see it, I admire what he said and how he said it and that’s that!

cwilbur's avatar

I don’t need for you to agree with my point, and I don’t really care whether you do or not. I want you to understand my point, which you apparently don’t, because you keep on ignoring it and arguing as if I had said something else entirely.

None so blind, etc.

rooeytoo's avatar

You just don’t get it, you have repeated your “point” numerous times, I simply DISAGREE with your “point” and as I said above “Read my lips, you are not going to make me change my mind. I don’t see it the way you see it, I admire what he said and how he said it and that’s that!”

None so conceited etc.

cwilbur's avatar

I see that you’re Australian.

How do you reconcile your admiration for his statement with your education (paid for by taxes and run by the state) and your healthcare (paid for by taxes and run by the state), not to mention public roads, police, fire service?

By my reading, you’re a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after you, and you’ve traded your freedom for beneficience and your dignity for a handout.

But you’ve already claimed that that isn’t insulting, so you should have no objection to having it pointed out, right? You admire what he said, which means you’re admitting that you’ve been humbled and dulled and that you’ve traded your dignity away.

Right?

rooeytoo's avatar

I am American.

You’re a funny guy.

I’m finished trying to convince you that you can’t convince me.

heyrobertdavis's avatar

“I’d never take a handout, so forget about Social Security or Medicaid – I’ll just wander out onto the ice pack and drift away.”

Twaddle.

Ron_C's avatar

I think the guy read too much Ayn Rand and was raised by wolves.

I live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. By state constitution, our government is the steward of our commons and is responsible to see that we can all share the commons while we are on our own to prosper as individuals. You can, in fact, have it both ways.

The state takes care of the infrastructure, protects the commons, and the citizens are free to pursue their interests and vocations. By the way health care, hospitals law enforcement and electrical power are part of the commons and the state has no right to privatize them.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think the guy is a hero.

He was obviously referring to not taking welfare, he personally would rather work than take a hand out for not working. He never said he would not avail himself of that which he pays for with his taxes such as social securtity, use of the roads, etc..

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