Teaching Men To Fish

A little conversation with my fellow conservatives, here.  Readers on the political left are welcome to eavesdrop, but this idea is for those of us who like to talk more about limited government and personal responsibility.

When we say these things, we also really like to quote the saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  This is wise, and useful.  But only if we actually go out and teach men to fish.

Yes, I know, conservatives actually give more to charity than liberals do–maybe our friends on the left think that their social safety nets are effective and sufficient–but is this really enough for us?

If we believe that the best charity isn’t in the form of monetary handouts, but people in the trenches doing one-on-one training with those whose skills aren’t as secure as ours, doesn’t that obligate us to actually give time to our communities doing just that?  Not just a little time, either, but enough to make a real difference?

I’m not saying that we don’t do that at all now, but I am suggesting that maybe we should do more.  Imagine a concerted, volunteer, conservative community mentoring effort for the needy that was so effective, the most liberal observers would have to admit, “Wow, those Tea Party types are really on to something here–they surely do care about their communities, and they’re clearly doing good to a degree that our generations of public programs simply aren’t.”  I don’t care about “converting” those on the left, but wouldn’t it be nice to silence the media’s snide stereotyping of us as heartless misers, as well as reducing the social ills that plague our communities?  I’m sure we all care about at least one of those goals.

So what say you?  Who’s up for actually teaching men how to fish?


6 comments on “Teaching Men To Fish

  1. I’m 56 years old Huston and I’ve never seen it said as well as you have here. I’m interested to see where this conversation goes. My experience is that very, very few of my conservative friends give much of their time or their considerable brain power toward addressing the real issues facing poor people. Many don’t know where to start. Others have real fears about going into poor sections of town. Others are already so busy they simply don’t have time.

  2. That teaching men to fish bit is the conservative version of utopianism. Some conservatives might say that some men can’t be taught to fish and we can’t afford to feed them, while yet other men can be taught but only under the spur of starving if they don’t.

    Anyway, thinking of the poor and broken people that I know, it isn’t at all clear to me that what they really need is a middle-class person to appoint himself their personal mentor and start telling them what to do.

    Most of my charitable activity is more in the ‘give a man fish’ line.

  3. Thanks, guys. Mrmandias, yes, emergencies need to be met initially with the giving of fish: I think the Savior’s life was full of that. But our call to establish Zion does have more than a whiff of Utopianism about it.

    Let me put it this way. When progressives use scriptural injunctions to support the poor as a rationale for their programs, we conservatives reply that those religious mandates are all personal, not necessarily public. That’s all well and good, but the nature of that argument obligates us, then, to actively support the poor in our private lives. Anything less is, frankly, hypocrisy. I don’t see any way around it.

  4. Nada. This is easier said than done, isn’t it? I’d love ideas, conversations, and resources for grassroots community improvement, vis a vis, teaching men to fish.

  5. Huston, you may feel you’re doing nothing but to the contrary you are shining a light on the oft neglected topic of action when it comes to approaching the poor and the needy.

    In his first conference address as as an apostle Elder Christiansen gave a wonder sermon on establishing Zion where he urged us all to me proactive in establishing Zion. His message was we are not simply going to wake up one day and find Zion where there are no poor among us. Rather Zion, like everything else in life, will be created as a result of our hard work multiplied by the God’s mercy, grace and power.


    How I would love to see us as a people throw off the shackles of our political affiliations, both liberal and conservative, and throw ourselves into effectively addressing the issue of inequality and poverty in our congregations and communities.

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