Capitalism, Constitution, Just musing

The difference between giving a fish and teaching to fish

IMGP0820A few years ago, my wife and I decided to try kayaking for the first time. We have always loved the water, but didn’t know if a day on the river would compare to being at the beach. Comparing the two is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorites? Being at the beach is different from being on the river, but we love them both equally.

Since our first excursion on the Etowah River, we have spent hundreds of hours exploring as much of it as we can within the county in which we live. We have put in as far back as the Allatoona Dam and have gone as far as Hwy. 411 and everywhere in between. Some days we will be on the river for four or five hours. Other times, we could be on the river as much as eight.

In my youth, some of my fondest memories were going fishing at my grandfather’s home on one of the many lakes in Michigan. Sometimes I would fish off the dock, my bright orange life jacket strapped firmly around my neck and waist. Other times we would go out in a small boat with an ancient Evinrude outboard for a ride around the lake, stopping to fish along the way. These are powerful memories filled with joy and nostalgia and always make me smile when I think back on those adventures.

When we decided to buy our own kayaks, I selected one with fishing pole mounts, a small bait well in the nose and a storage compartment in back. My wife has one that has storage in both the front and back, but fishing isn’t her thing. Instead, our smallest dog, Rudy, a Pug-Chihuahua mix, joins us and loves to ride on the fore of her kayak, basking in the sun. They glide along, looking at nature all around us while I troll a line behind me and am more than happy with the few fish I catch and immediately release. For me, being on the river brings back all of the best memories I have had on the water — with my dad, my grandfather and my brothers. And, with each new trip on the river, we create brand new ones. All of our four girls have joined us on the river and I can only hope they have the same feelings when looking back as when I do.

One of our favorite places to put in to the river is a place called Floyd’s Landing. The local farm supply company owns a field that runs along a stretch of the banks of the Etowah River. The elder statesman of the owning family wanted to do something for the people of our community and spent his own money building campsites, picnic tables, shelters and a boat ramp along the river. His business model — make it absolutely free.

Here was a die-hard capitalist, spending his own money to provide a campground for families, and he had no desire to make a penny on it. All he asked was for folks to clean up after themselves, be good to one another and to make room for others. Working with the local Department of Natural Resources rangers, they setup a life vest station where anyone could borrow one at no cost — so long as they promised to return it when they were done.

EtowahRiverTrash4Unfortunately, generosity received from others without having to invest of one’s own, never works. No matter how many times the wizards of smart in their Ivory Towers think utopia can be achieved by following the motto, “From each according to his abilities; to each according to their needs,” it always fails in practice.

EtowahRiverTrash2Over time, squatters began to take advantage of staying in the shelters for months at a time. Baser elements of society began to appear more and more frequently. Police were called to arrest drug addicts and to quell altercations at all hours of the day and night. Picnic tables were found turned over, swinging benches left dangling from a single chain, roofs of picnic shelters were ripped and torn and trash became commonplace all along the grounds.

In an attempt to reach out to these dregs, printed signs were posted all along the campsite asking visitors to please pickup after themselves and to not abuse the amenities being provided at no cost. But it didn’t matter. The signs were not only ignored, but also the recipients of even more vandalism. It took close to three years, but the owners of the land realized they would never be able to change the hearts and minds of those who believed they were entitled to whatever they wanted without worry over consequences or cost.

EtowahRiverTrash3A month ago, they were forced to close the grounds, and installed a locked gate across the entrance, saying they have had enough. The gift horse had been looked in the mouth far too many times and their generosity had run dry at the hands of selfish ingrates who were incapable of even a modicum of common sense and civility. After all, why should they have acted any differently? They had made no personal investment themselves, therefore they had nothing to lose.

My wife and I are no longer able access that boat ramp when we want to spend a few hours with each other, communing with nature. The old saying of, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime,” continues to run through my mind every time we drive by that locked gate. We had both known this was going to happen. We had seen these examples of human debris use and abuse what had been given to them at no cost, save for a request to be mindful of each other and clean up after themselves. We knew at some point, thanks to them, this was going to end.

Socialism, Marxism, communism…they do not work. They will never work. We all know this at our core. When we tell our children they do not appreciate what we have given them, the flaw in those philosophies is revealed. When we see how a young driver treats their first car based on whether or not they paid for it, we recognize the faults behind those philosophies. When we struggle and save and clip every coupon we can find to maximize our grocery shopping, only to find ourselves behind someone with a government provided EBT card buying better food than we can afford, we are irritated over the mandates of those philosophies. When we inherently know hard work and effort are the keys to success, yet we see case after case of others living off the taxpayers dime, we get angry about the tenants of those philosophies.

It is wrong! Our Founding Fathers talked about this and were very clear that equality for all meant equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

Yet, for some reason, too many of us are silent. We don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to be the upstarts. We believe in a sense of decorum and civility and we just shake our heads and keep going with our own lives. But socialism, Marxism and communism are cancers out to destroy capitalism. They begin as small spots, but when allowed to grow unchecked, will rapidly spread. It is only by remaining actively involved in the body politic will we be able to heal the body that is our country — at least the country as I know it under the Constitution.

The banks of the Etowah River is but one small example of why we cannot allow these deleterious philosophies to be sold to us under the guise of compassion or the label of fairness. These purveyors of anti-capitalism will smile and smile and yet they have daggers in their teeth. They play to the emotions of the useful idiots and the low-information voters and convince them the best solution is for everyone to be the same, that everyone deserves a fish.

The reality is, the best thing we can do is to not give it to them.

The best thing we can do is teach them how to do it for themselves.


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