The humanist views of Victor Hugo are easy for me to criticize in this American suburb. For in America, we say that we can be a self-made individual, and indeed, circumstantial opportunity is relatively plentiful – but I will get back to that one. But in Hugo’s world the inequitable distribution of opportunity really did seem arbitrary with no reasonable path for advancement and application of character being visible to a large number of poor. Even in my position of excess, without any need, I have committed worse crimes than stealing a loaf of bread. So, I have no ground to stand on to argue against Hugo’s case for the injustice imposed on such a noble poor person – if such a man exists. And Hugo’s description of the hardening of a criminal in the penal system certainly resonates even in the relatively luxurious prisons of America. His humanist perspective is revealed by his “spark of goodness” metaphor.
So opportunity is indeed plentiful in circumstances. But life is about motivation and perspective – in a word, relationship. If an opportunity seems and feels out of reach, then generally it is out of reach. It is easy for me to criticize a person for indulging in the dependency on the government, apparently passing up the opportunity to better themselves and assume personal responsibility. And it is easy for me to look out from my wealthy perch having walked in the opportunity by my personal industry. But I was given much: And not just an opportunity, but a predisposition to walk in that opportunity. That predisposition was due to:
1. my birth into the lower middle class from generations of hardworking fathers and mothers,
2. the timing of my birth before the great governmental poverty class was created by social programs,
3. my parents initiative to help me envision what I could become, and their intentionality to build into me a lifestyle of personal responsibility.
Certainly I made some choices to work hard and please the right group of people, and there were some in my circumstance who did not make those same choices. But, as Malcolm Gladwell preaches in his book Outliers, my situation is more about the circumstantial opportunity that I was afforded than my individual giftedness.
So it is not right for me to judge. But let me walk humbly. And let me offer circumstance to others that would help them to step into the modern day opportunities for a prosperous life.
Easy for me to assume some prideful stance against moral relativism. But I am just as guilty, and am only preserved from demise by the grace of God. Why He afforded me this life is not for me to question, but to accept in a life lived out in gratitude.