Monday, March 29, 2010


Fuigmism is one of the most insidious diseases in America today. It can devastate communities, pit neighbors against each other, and it often proves extremely difficult to cure.

What is fuigmism?

FU, I've Got Mine.

Well-functioning societies, regardless of their industrial status, at some level require a shared sense of community, of teamwork. I help you, you help me. Members of a community must be willing to help each other achieve mutual goals. When someone becomes for whatever reason unable to contribute to society (e.g. temporary injury/sickness or job loss), it's incumbent on the rest of us to help them become able again and ready to once again contribute, and if their potential contribution has become permanently limited (e.g. permanent injury/sickness or retirement), it's incumbent on the rest of us to not take advantage of them in their reduced capacity.

That's how it's supposed to work, anyway.

Fuigmism happens when this sense of community breaks down. It occurs when someone becomes not so much unable to contribute as unwilling, and yes, they are two different things.

Some of the symptoms of fuigmism:

*Repeated requests to know what's in it for you even if no monetary investment is asked of you
*Rationalization that if you've gotten to where you've gotten in life under your own power, so can everyone else under theirs
*Failure to recognize just how many things are in fact helping you out in your daily life
*Lack of sympathy for those more unfortunate than you coupled with never having suffered their misfortunes yourself
*Overuse of the word 'bootstraps'
*General disregard for anyone that isn't you or a loved one

Fuigmism comes and goes in American life. During the 80's, it more or less swept the country, with Patient Zero arguably being lifelong carrier Donald Trump. It was the Me Decade, the Gordon Gekko era of 'greed is good'. Sure, he was the primary factor in the death of the USFL when he ignored the salary cap and and made the league move games from spring to fall so as to force a merge with the NFL, sure he went bankrupt and needed to be bailed out, sure he was slimy as all get out, but deep down, you kinda wanted to be him anyway. You wanted to be the guy that could coat anything in gold just for the fun of it. You wanted to be the guy whose house Robin Leach would fawn over in his over-the-top rich-guy British accent this week. You wanted to be the guy that owned the casino, that flew in the private jet, that could name things after himself at will.

But look at Trump now. He hasn't really changed since then, but now he just seems tacky and disgusting. Oh, great, you gold-plated your toilet again and invited another dozen celebrities everybody hates to go admire it. Must be nice.

Who is most likely to be afflicted with fuigmism? The upper middle class. Statistically, even though the poorest among us are expected to have to contribute the least, they, proportionally, contribute the most, according to this 2009 graph regarding charitable giving, which counts both financial contributions and volunteer work. (Volunteer work is officially valued at $20.25 an hour.) A separate reading done in 2008 found similar findings, as do most studies done on the subject. The poor give the most, but then giving drops off sharply from the lower middle class, middle class, and then bottoming out at upper middle class. A small uptick occurs when you reach the richest members of society, but not nearly enough to match the poor.

Why is that? The poorest know what each other are going through, and help out in a shared sense of necessity. Everyone must pool resources or everyone's in big trouble. Past that, though, once the sensed necessity of community decreases, fuigmism takes over. One loses touch with the problems afflicting those on society's bottom rungs. Once one becomes rich enough, some among them feel an urge to give back, and do so (my local library was funded by Andrew Carnegie), but between the two extremes, there is a giant donut hole. It's similar to how bacteria has trouble surviving at very cold or very hot temperatures, but flourishes and ruins food at room temperature.

So what's the cure for fuigmism? Simple: start giving a damn about those around you. Or at least, care more than you currently do. It's that simple. No sense overcomplicating things.

You can start here.

No comments: