The importance of intents

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Recently, Donald Trump went to Louisiana to donate lots of supplies to flood victims. He’s definitely not the first politician to offer help to citizens in need after an event like that. He’s also definitely not the last one. Just like every single time, the people who like the guy are using it as definite proof that he’s a savior and an awesome person, while the people who hate him call that pandering.

At this point in history, a politician doesn’t even need to broadcast his selfless actions to the public. Nowadays, with social media and the internet, everyone will know about it either way. In that case, it’s probably better for the politician to not say anything, just like Trump did, as it looks more sincere that way.

I’ll be blunt. I also think that’s pandering. The guy saw a great opportunity to grab a few votes, and took it. In this specific case, he’s also pretty damn rich, so he can easily afford to pay out of his own pockets, in order to also get a couple points on the corrupt-honest scale. Some people have pointed out that he’s been doing this kind of thing for several years, way before he even considered running for president. I would answer them by saying that the guy has been a public figure for decades, and that even without the presidential race, his brand gets points for stuff like that. Furthermore, he’s been talking about the president thing for pretty long, so if he’s been using systems instead of goals, that was probably part of his system. Either way, that’s pandering. Whenever Obama, Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, or pretty much anyone who has a public image to maintain, it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s pandering one way or another, even if sometimes even the giver might not realize it.

But the thing is, I don’t think we should criticize them for that. First of all, it’s literally their job. In the case of politicians, when doing their job actually helps people for once, we really should be happy about it. Second of all, try to imagine what’s going on in the heads of the victims. They’re in trouble. they are in dire need of supplies and help, and a politician shows up with an 18-wheeler full of life-saving supplies, including some Play-Doh to give your kids some way to have a little bit of fun while their lives are flipped upside down, do you really care if they’re doing it in order to look nice? You get food, medical supplies, etc. for free at the time you need it most in your life. You’re not going to spit on that chance. And you’ll certainly be grateful either way. Actually, you’d have to be incredibly oblivious to reality if you really think that the politician would have cared about you or your family personally, or even knew you existed, without the disaster.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about only Trump, he was just the one who made me think about it. I’m talking about every single time in history when a public figure helped unlucky citizens who had big problems because of a natural or criminal event.

If you’re the victim, you’re glad they did it.

If you’re the public figure, you won’t even talk about it because everything works better this way in modern society.

If you’re a fan, you’ll take advantage of it to push your political agenda, by telling everyone how great your candidate is.

If you’re a hater, you’ll also take advantage of it to push your political agenda, by telling everyone how much of an hypocrite your opponent is.

So basically, if you criticize the guy for pandering, or if you criticize the other who didn’t for being insensitive and selfish, you are literally the only problem in this situation. The only actual negativity (except of course for the actual disaster, but that part couldn’t really be controlled anyway) comes from the people, like you and me, who use it to either criticize the politician who helped or the one who didn’t.

Honestly, I think in those cases, we should all just be glad that someone helped, no matter the reasons. You can’t read anyone’s mind except your own, so there is no way to prove anything about the intentions. Just accept the actions.

We both know Trump will say something super scandalous next week anyway. Let’s all just wait until then to either attack him or praise him. At least we won’t be taking advantages of helpless victims then.

Polarising Trump

  • One other point – of course current vs wannabe leaders makes a difference. I’d say that when the current leader visits a disaster stricken area, that’s often expected of them – it’s kind of “their job” in a slightly fluffy emotional media sort of way, to wander around, get in the way of those who are really helping with the rescue effort, and say – basically – how sorry we all are, how we understand how terrible it is for those affected, and how more money will be allocated real soon now. Personally, though, I’d prefer that the leader of a nation set up support systems which can cope with most problems – and then have the confidence to rely on the trained personnel to get on with it. But, that’s obviously not going to happen in the current media-based world, imagine how the media would trash a politician who didn’t rush over to say “gosh, how terrible”. In the UK, as well as politicians rushing into disaster zones, we also have the royals – often one of the Princes (grown up or youngsters) is sent in as well. They’re even more experienced than politicians at saying “gosh, how terrible” and smiling sympathetically:-)

    A couple of years ago in the UK, some rural parts of Somerset (called the Levels, flat reclaimed marshland) flooded, pretty badly. Loads of politicians waded in (literally:-)) to say how awful it was, and how they’d find more money somewhere, very few of them said: look, this is was a MARSH dammit, it’s almost designed to flood, and it’s better that this bit floods than bigger towns nearby. Guess that might not have been very popular locally:-)

  • Kingfisher12

    It is not helpful at all to criticize people for doing a good deed for the wrong reasons; a good deed is a good deed. It’s also not helpful to criticize a person for not doing a specific good deed; if good deeds are requirements, their value to the doer is diminished.

    Good deeds are not the mark of a good person, but they are part of the process of becoming a good person. Donald Trump cannot help but be a better person than he was before for having done a good deed (no matter what the motive), because you can’t do good without having a little goodness rub off on you.

    But there is a caveat to this. There is a difference between a good deed and a sacrifice. A good deed is good for its own sake, but only a sacrifice can ennoble a person. There is nothing wrong with doing something good for a selfish reason – our economic system is based on this behavior – but that is considered the baseline of decent human. Doing good for selfish reasons is the least we can do.

    Sacrifice, on the other hand, is the mark of a person who seeks a greater good. Mr. Kahn was correct that as far as we can see, Donald Trump has never sacrificed anything in his life. He gives up nothing unless it immediately gratifies him, and sees no greater good than his own personal glory.

    This makes him no better or worse than most of us, most of the time. We shouldn’t criticize him for doing good, but praising people for doing the least they can do isn’t a good precedent.