I spent a good bit of yesterday getting people that owe me money, some of them for quite a long time, to pay me the money they owe me. In business we call this “collections.” Most business like mine is conducted on some sort of limited credit. When the economy is pumping along, it is usually not an issue. But when things are down, it can be a huge issue. People hoard money, they stretch their credit to the limit and if they owe you money, you have to ask to get paid.
Usually collections are a matter of course, you ask for the money, you get paid. Lately though it seems like it takes more than just asking. Threats of, and actually withholding, delivery is becoming something I have to do more and more of to get paid. Money up-front, C.O.D. terms and other more forceful methods are necessary to keep the receivables in line.
I find myself wondering why, if the economic signs seem hopeful – as the news proclaims and the market seems to think, am I having such a hard time collecting money? Is money tighter than we are being lead to believe? I think that is true in some markets and maybe I am stuck in those markets at the moment. But I think there is more at play. If the government is borrowing money at a break-neck pace, with no real plan or seeming intention to pay it back, why shouldn’t my customers?
The timely payment of debt is a matter of simple civility. By incurring debt I have pledged to meet that obligation. I consider myself an honorable man, a man of my word, so such an obligation is not to be taken lightly. And yet, if my situation is any measure, people are taking that obligation pretty lightly indeed. This is not a good thing.
When things are down in this fashion, a society/nation has two ways to turn – on itself or towards something bigger. America has always been about something bigger. Our word has always been our bond – we have always worked to improve for all so that things improved for the self. But one is forced to wonder if the nation is responding that way in the current times.
Empathy is always held up as a great virtue, but it’s remarkable how so few people have empathy with the total sum of the American experience beyond their own self-definition.
There are two ways to destroy a thing. You can either run it at while swinging a hammer with both hands or you can attack its structure until it no longer means anything.
The left hasn’t gone all out by outlawing marriage, instead it has deconstructed it, taking apart each of its assumptions, from the economic to the cooperative to the emotional to the social, until it no longer means anything at all. Until there is no way to distinguish marriage from a temporary liaison between members of uncertain sexes for reasons that due to their vagueness cannot be held to have any solemn and meaningful purpose.
You can abolish democracy by banning the vote or you can do it by letting people vote as many times as they want, by letting small children and foreigners vote, until no one sees the point in counting the votes or taking the process seriously. The same goes for marriage or any other institution. You can destroy it by outlawing it or by eliminating its meaningfulness until it becomes so open that it is absurd.
Anyone who has not noticed that “demands for apologies” have become one of the central political tactics of our day has simply not been paying attention. Like many effective tactics, it depends on an impulse that was originally good and right. It is the old Pottery Barn rule — you break it, it’s yours. Everybody knows that. But in our hyper age, we have gotten to the point where old high school pranks can be hauled out in presidential campaigns. This is simply pathological.
There is no civility here, there is only the desire to destroy what you have for the sake of what I want – whether it is destroying marriage of failing to pay debts, or forcing apology as a means of avoiding responsibility. Why, after 200 years of pitching in and working together towards a compromise solution to any dilemma are we turning on ourselves and devouring one another?
Like the unleavened bread of this Passover season, we are missing an ingredient. God, something bigger than all of us, is no longer a normal part of our thinking and discussion.
It’s Good Friday, the world is a dark, dark place. At church, Easter is coming, the light will return. But will it return to the nation? Only a future more distant than Sunday will say for sure. However, this I know – if we accept things as they are, if we keep our Passover and Easter celebrations within the confines of our Synagogues and Churches it will not.
I hate doing collections. I hate having to point out to people that they are being dishonorable and uncivil. I hate having to find a way to be nice to them when they are being so hard on me. But I have found through long years of experience that such is just what I have to do. Withdrawing means I never get paid. Becoming completely adversarial just costs me more money.
So it is with putting our faith back in its place as the leaven of our society. We have to undertake the unpleasant task of pointing out, and enduring, incivility while remaining civil. We have got to step out of our ghettos.