March 05, 2007

THE GOOD SAMARITAN EXPERIMENT, a WV alert, and privatization at Walter Reed

Caption: This man is not a terribly good man, but he might be a good Samaritan (although he'd probably rip off the victim's squeaky toys).

If El Cabrero had to pick, his favorite book of the New Testament would have to be the Gospel of Luke.

Luke is the most musical gospel. In its early chapters, people spontaneously break into beautiful songs that have become part of the liturgy of the church.

It is also primarily the gospel of and for the poor. And it contains some of the best-loved sayings and parables of Jesus.

It's the only source for the ones commonly known as the Prodigal Son, Lazarus and the Rich Man, and the Good Samaritan.

The one I'm thinking about today is the latter.

It's hard for us today to understand how baffling the words "good" and "Samaritan" would have sounded together to Jesus' Jewish contemporaries, for whom Samaritans were the lowest of the low.

It's been called "a parable of reversal," where the listener is led to think the unthinkable and say the unsayable. As John Dominic Crossan wrote in In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus, "The whole thrust of the story demands that one say what cannot be said, what is a contradiction in terms: Good+Samaritan."

The other shocker in the story was that the Samaritan's compassionate actions contrasted dramatically with the official "good guys," i.e. the priest and the Levite walked by the victim on the other side of the road.

In case you need to refresh your memory, here's the text.

The point of all this today is that this parable was actually the subject of a psychological experiment the results of which are both sad and amusing.

I quote from Frans de Waal's book Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals:
One of my favorite experiments, by John Darley and Daniel Batson, re-created this situation with American seminary students. The students were sent to another building to give a talk about... the Good Samaritan. While in transit they passed a slumped-over person planted in an alley. The groaning "victim" sat still with eyes closed and head down. Only 40 percent of the budding theologians asked what was wrong and offered assistance. Students who had been urged to make hasted helped less than students who had been given lots of time. Indeed, some students hurrying to lecture on the quintessential helping story of our civilization literally stepped over the stranger in need, inadvertently confirming the point of the story.
You don't know whether to laugh or cry on that one...

WEST VIRGINIA ACTION ITEM. If you happen to live in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia and care about education, fairness and fiscal sanity, check out the posts "Action Alert: Fighting a Corporate Giveaway" and "Tax Cuts for Big Business" at WV Blue (although the latter was written by a shady character upon whom El Cabrero may have to open a can...)

Here's the backstory...last week, the WV Senate, for reasons best known to itself, passed gazillions of dollars in corporate tax cuts with little thought of how to pay for it. Unlike the U.S. under this regime, WV has rational spending priorities, with about half of general funds going to K-12 education, 10 % going to higher ed, 20+ percent going to health and human resources, and 20+ for everything else. Cutting corporate taxes means cutting education and health care.

The Action part is to contact WV House Finance chair Harry Keith White (304-340-3230 or toll free at 1-877-565-3447) and leave the following message:

Businesses will gain little if tax cuts come at the cost of education, infrastructure and the long term well being of West Virginians. We need a responsible approach to state taxes and revenues, not careless corporate tax cuts with no plan for the future.

IT'S THE PRIVATIZATION. If you share the outrage of millions of Americans over the treatment of U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, here's a major factor not generally covered by the big media: problems at Walter Reed and elsewhere have been made worse by the Bush administration's mania for privatization. Keep scrolling down at WV Blue for background and check this post at Main Street USA.



Wabi-Sabi said...

El Cabrero,

Your fellow WV Goat Ropers also might want to take action on this issue and send messages to the Governor and House members through this link to the Legislative Action Center for Children & Families.


El Cabrero said...

Good call. I cross posted it at WV Blue too. Thanks for doing this!

El Cabrero said...

Correction: I sent them the info and asked them to post it.