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Oh! Duty is an icy shadow. It will freeze you. It cannot fill the heart's sanctuary.
Augusta Jane Evans

Duty as a Virtue and Service as an Obligation

join - join - join! community service for all

One of the primary tasks of a White House press secretary is to fabricate, invent or misdirect government policy, for popular consumption. Another is to translate what the President really means after he just said it. And sometimes he plays the cheer leader before a major speech. Well, Ari Fleischer had the admirable assignment of putting on a happy face while his words ring with the clarity of a skilled orator.

"The president is going to remind students at Ohio State about serving something bigger than yourself, about the importance of volunteerism, about USA Freedom Corps, about the Peace Corps, about a host of entities that have really been focused on sine Sept. 11 about a way to see something that’s bigger than just yourself."

It doesn't matter that the entire notion of civic duty is simply assumed as a given. Nor does his repetitive mouthing of official policy allow for a debate on the merits of such an obligation. What does matter in this new era of unbridled enthusiasm for flag waving, is that political leadership inspire the youth of our nation to serve and become more that you can be - by becoming an army of one.

Making the following emotional appeal: Bush called on all Americans to give two years -- or 4,000 hours -- over the rest of their lives to community service. He said today's graduates would determine whether America's "feel-good" culture will be replaced by an ethic of self-sacrifice in honor of the more than 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

But where does this idea arise - that a citizen has a duty to the State for providing community service? Make no mistake about this pitch. Voluntarism is a placebo for the selling of a very different mindset. Community service is not about serving the public in your neighborhoods, but has the intent of planting the seeds of guilt if you reject its worth.

Bush said, on David Letterman, March 2, 2000: "I'm a uniter not a divider. That means when it comes time to sew up your chest cavity, we use stitches as opposed to opening it up." --  (the audience booed)

Well, where is the compact that says that we all have a duty to devote our energy, labor and service to a cause that is suspect in its core nature. Yes, community service is a fraud, not because we wish ill to our neighbor, but because it stems from a cultural view that seeks to establish primacy of the community over the individual.

Morality and duty are the key elements when one analyzes the idea of "community service". Even the superman, Friedrich Nietzsche, claims that a virtue must be one of a people's own invention, not an abstract "duty" in-itself, which must be followed universally for its own sake. If a people does not follow its own virtues and do its own duty, he argues, it will perish.

His answer to Immanuel Kant's idea of duty as the result of morality: 

"A nation goes to pieces when it confounds its duty with the general concept of duty. Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every "impersonal" duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction.--To think that no one has thought of Kant's categorical imperative as dangerous to life!... "

Nietzsche follows from his THE ANTICHRIST, with:

"We live, we die, we sacrifice ourselves for the good" (--"the truth," "the light," "the kingdom of God"): in point of fact, they simply do what they cannot help doing. Forced, like hypocrites, to be sneaky, to hide in corners, to slink along in the shadows, they convert their necessity into a duty: it is on grounds of duty that they account for their lives of humility, and that humility becomes merely one more proof of their piety. . . Ah, that humble, chaste, charitable brand of fraud!"

rally round the flag: boys and girls

When Bush speaks of  "compassionate conservatism" and calls for national service, we are being led down a road that voids individual choice. Again from his Ohio State commencement speech:

"Government has essential responsibilities: fighting wars and fighting crime; protecting the homeland and enforcing civil rights laws; educating the young and providing for the old; giving people tools to improve their own lives; and helping those who are sick and disabled and in need."

What is clear from this Bush litany for government is that the State takes the lead active role in social services. But where is the consent and choice for those who are being told that we all have an obligation? If service to your neighbor is really voluntary, why does the State consider it as their responsibility to direct the process?  Out of ‘so called’ notion of duty, we are suppose to buy into this scam or be considered a derelict . . .

It is one thing to encourage free devotion to a principle or activity, but when political policy is directed at creating false obligations, we are in danger of falling into the same errors that led other autocrats to misuse Nietzsche as the basis for totalitarian regimes. There is no room for a 'community superman service', in a free society. Each act of civic kindness, must be performed by individuals without any sense of government obligation. What will be next, the return to mandatory military service? Or is this just the precursor of a requirement for compulsory national public service?

SARTRE - June 16, 2002

It is easier to do one's duty to others than to one's self. If you do your duty to others, you are considered reliable. If you do your duty to yourself, you are considered selfish.
Thomas Szasz

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