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What Does Parenting, Kids, and Helping the Blind See Say About Our Culture?
What's so bad about being a parent and Mr. Beast helping blind people?
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An old proverb that most of us have probably heard goes something like, “blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” It’s one of those idioms that everyone likes and has been apocryphally assigned to all sorts of people like Cicero, Greek Proverbs, and Post Malone (the most likely, of course). It resonates with us because selflessness is among the highest virtues to which we can strive, and in the pre-internet, “be good to your neighbors or you will be excommunicated from the tribe and likely die by becoming wild jackal food” world; it was also a critical currency to your survival.
Even when it went beyond basic survival, consider all the churches and monuments that architects started, with their full knowledge that they would not live to see its completion.
Unfortunately, we certainly no longer live in that world. Forget being selfless; we now live in a nearly post-friend world, as, according to a 2021 survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, 19% of people say they have one or no close friends, up from 7% in 1990. From that same survey, nearly half of the respondents said they had six or more close friends in 1990, which has been slashed to 25%.
Not only is this depressing to consider, but it also says something about the give-and-take friendship requires. Too many people just aren’t willing to have that type of relationship anymore. You know, the ones that involve getting off the couch and getting out IRL, as the kids say. Who needs community when you have Community on Netflix?
Not only do we not have friends, but we increasingly don’t really even want to be parents anymore, according to the Pew poll, “Parenting in America Today.”
Parents think that their children being “financially independent” and “having jobs or careers they enjoy” are both extremely or very important, while “getting married” and “hav[ing] children” are less so, by more than a 4:1 ratio.
Do most parents really just shrug when asked if they want their children to perform the most fundamental biological and social functions which exist in the human species? From an evolutionary perspective, it’s the only reason species exist at all. Maybe this says more about what the parents feel about their lives, but even if that is so, it’s still shocking.
Of course, it’s essential to have money and enjoy your job, but to what end? So you can buy all the shit you want, of which you need none? So you can afford the top-of-the-line leather sex swing and not that cheap rope one? Look, if you want to donate their extra funds to charity, I am all for that, but something tells me that’s not what these parents have in mind.
And I’m not saying that all people should have kids (we all know people who NEVER should have had kids), but for so few parents to think it’s important for their kids to have kids is mind-blowing.
When asked how important being a parent is to them, only 30% of parents say it is “the most important” aspect of who they are. What’s more important? Your useless corporate cubical job? Your pickleball league? Your friend’s poker night? Your pithy comments on Pornhub?
To add to the bottomless pit of selfish cultural news which is Pew, in a separate poll in 2021, 44% of non-parents between the ages of 18-49 said they are not likely to have children, with 56% of those giving the reason as they just don’t feel like it.
To summarize, we don’t care about having friends anymore, we care less and less about being good parents, becoming parents at all, and our kids becoming parents, but we can at least be happy when we see other people perform selfless acts, right?
Oh, you beautiful, naïve, silly little person.
It’s not enough that we are selfish; we need to luxuriate in it; we need to be sybarites about it; we need everyone to be as selfish as we are so as not to make us feel as bad about our selfishness.
Enter Mr. Beast:
If you are one of the ten people on the planet earth who don’t know Mr. Beast yet, he is a Youtuber with 130+ million subscribers and pulls off audacious competitions like recreating all the Squid Games competitions for someone to win $456,000 or giving away a private jet to the last person to take their hand off of it. Full disclosure, he’s not my thing; I can’t stand watching his content for more than two minutes because I find it unbearably dull. But his most recent video is likely his most controversial and has resulted in dozens of articles about what a dreadful person he is.
What did he do? If you have kids reading this (which would lead me to numerous other questions about your life choices), you may want to shield their eyes.
Mr. Breast recently committed the Hitler-esque crime of paying for cataract surgery so 1,000 people could regain their sight. That’s it. That’s what he is being dragged for. Additionally, the surgery is relatively inexpensive (somewhere between $3,000-$6,000), so not only is he helping people regain their vision, he is disproportionately (if not exclusively) helping poor people.
The shame-brigade’s rationale goes something like, “I’m a miserable asshole, and you’re just doing that to make money, so you’re as big of an asshole as I am who has never done anything for anyone in my entire life that wasn’t 100% for my benefit. Actually, you’re a bigger asshole because you’re a capitalist pig, too, so you only pretend to care about other people! Like any good socialist, I pretend to care about other people, but my caring is blatantly a kabuki dance, so it’s as good as them knowing I want to step on their throats with my jackboots. Fuck you, Mr. Least!”
That could be based slightly on my biases, but you get the point.
There is basically a cottage industry of thought pieces out there trying to convince us that re-sighting people (is that a word?) makes Mr. Beast a malevolent force, but one article in particular almost made me go Scanners.
Steven Aquino, writing for TechCrunch, wants us all to know that “Mr. Beast’s blindness video puts systemic ableism on display.” No, I am not kidding you…
One thing to know about Aquino, and only because he makes it relevant to his analysis, is that he suffers from various disabilities. So, unfortunately, this is going to be one of those insufferable “my truth” analyses.
The concept of the argument is that the “ableist” people who are trying to “cure” disabilities are only doing so because of a sense of moral superiority they feel over disabled people. Rather than trying to help them, Mr. Beast is simply an example of inspiration porn produced with the dual purpose of stripping disabled people of their humanity and reinforcing said superiority.
It is merely de rigueur for these types to ignore the people being helped and focus solely on their navel-gazing view of the world. Look at the “aside from that, how was the play Mr. Lincoln” view of the situation Aquino takes here:
Before delving into the many layers of why the video is troublesome, it’s important to issue a caveat. However problematic Mr. Beast’s premise in producing the video, the people who participated — the patients and their doctors — should not be vilified. They made the decision to go through with the surgery of their own volition. The reasoning behind making that choice goes far beyond the scope of this article.
The most damning praise I can give him is that he gives a pass to blind people who want to see rather than casting them as modern-day Darth Vaders. How magnanimous have him! However, contrary to his final point in the paragraph, I don’t think the reasoning behind the patient’s decision requires a different article. I don’t know that it even requires its own paragraph. I think it takes four words. They…want…to…see. There, done. Glad I could help you out there.
Aquino also repeatedly sets up strawmen arguments with which to attack Mr. Beast. For one, he keeps referring to Mr. Beast’s claim that he is “curing blindness.” Mr. Beast never says this. He says he is curing blindness for these 1,000 people because their blindness is all caused by the same malady (cataracts), which is easily remedied with an inexpensive surgery. That is not the same claim, and it’s not even close. As a direct counter to that argument, Mr. Beast explains that cataracts cause 50% of global blindness, so definitionally, he is not claiming to “cure” blindness.
Also, Aquino repeatedly makes arguments along the lines of “abled people have a tendency to think disabilit[ies] define[s] us,” which is another claim, or even implication, that Mr. Beast never makes. This is pure mind reading on behalf of Aquino, which is necessary because otherwise, he wouldn’t have an article to write.
Later, he explains the detrimental effect that people like Mr. Beast could have on disabled “culture”:
I know firsthand how deaf people look at their culture and their ways of life with immense pride [both of his parents were deaf]. If someone “cured” deafness, what would happen to the people? Deaf culture is real. The culture would fade away because there’d be no reason for sign language to exist and the experiences derived from it.
The answer to this is Darwinism. If enough deaf people value “deaf culture,” blind people value “blind culture,” or constipated people value “constipated culture,” then they will choose to retain their afflictions if given a choice to mend them. If they choose to hear, see, or easily defecate, they chose those abilities over their “culture.” Why shouldn’t disabled people have the chance to choose the life they want rather than prop up a culture that a single handicapped person values?
Even if 99.9% of deaf people prefer to remain deaf to preserve deaf culture, shouldn’t that .1% be allowed to say, “fuck that, I want to hear?” Of course, they should. It is beyond me how Aquino misses that point.
But here’s the secret sauce to all of this, Steven. You do you. If you don’t want your disabilities cured, more power to you. I couldn’t care less. But if this pile-on that people like Aquino are a party to causes anyone to rethink a good deed in helping disabled people, this is genuinely a venomous concept.
I have to hope that Aquino and all the other dopes criticizing the video never actually watched it because if they did, that means they saw the people’s reactions when they could see again. They would have also seen Mr. Beast randomly give some of the surgery recipients $10,000, $50,000 towards college, a Tesla, and make a $100,000 donation to the clinic. If they saw all those reactions and said to themselves that Mr. Beast committed an immoral act, they are indeed pieces of human refuse…. No, Steven, I’m not saying that because of your disability; I am saying because you are perfidious trash.
I encourage you all to watch the eight-minute video for yourself and make up your own mind.
Hopefully, we’ll return to a place where we start to have friends again; parents will want to act like parents, young people will want to become parents, and helping to cure blindness is considered an honorable act again.
Here’s to wishful thinking!