Are compassionate public policies not common sense policies? What does common sense mean anyway? Right according to ordinary thinking, maybe? Is ordinary thinking going to get us past our current situation? Does compassion ever qualify as common sense? The compassionate teachings of Jesus certainly don’t pass the standard common sense test. One thing we all seem to realize is that the compassionate route is uncertain and costly. It is never the easy way, the way that makes sense in light of apparent self interest. But what about the cost of the so called common sense approach? Is everything to be measured in dollars and cents?
Is there a possibility that common sense does not make sense ultimately? When the Bible said that there is a way which seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof is the way of death, was that the common sense way or some other way? Was it the correct message that it is every man for himself, so fight for your fair share; or was the message of self interest the deadly way? When Jesus said that as much as you did it unto one of the least these you did it unto me, was that just the hollow rhetoric of the politician, or the assurance of counter intuitive truth?
We all naturally tend to equate perceived self interest with actual general interest. In other words, whatever is good for me personally is easily seen as best for the country also. A hypothetical scenario can always be crafted mentally to demonstrate how the country benefits from policies which favor my situation. Real answers to real problems are much more likely to require real sacrifices from every one of us. Realistic solutions are rarely obvious and ideologically clear and simple; the world is vastly too complex for that to be the case. Ideologists assume a simple, black and white world, where profoundly interrelated systems operate, according to simple, easily predictable cause and effect relationships. When attempts to control these systems according to their prescriptions fail, the inherent complexities always provide a ready explanation for the failures: too little of this and too much of that is always the problem. Black and white thinkers are big on common sense, meaning the thinking of those who think like they do. It’s a mental trap that invites us all to fall in and enjoy the comfort of simplicity.