Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oprah offers Suze on living within your means; Dr. Phil: sacrifice within a family;


Today both Oprah and Dr. Phil hit hard on a couple of controversies.

Oprah featured Suze Orman, giving her moral lecture on our need to live among our means. I have no argument with this in principle. And I understand her contention that Wall Street had a party and skipped town on the bills. She predicted that most people’s credit cards will have their limits sharply reduced, and that layaway purchases would come back. So will saving for a house down payment. People with cash and little debt may come out of this pretty well, making money by buying assets at bottom-feeding prices. She gave some stern advice on checking out money market funds and checking about FDIC and related coverages; "you must do this today" she said.

The link for today’s episode (“Recession Proof Your Family”) is here.

Monday Oprah featured her “Big Give” co-host and frequent guest, designer Nate Berkus, who helps a big Utah family with a quick redesign, and then helps a New Orleans family (living in a FEMA trailer after Katrina) with a complete home reconstruction. Perhaps Nate would have been Oprah’s choice for Barack Obama’s running mate.

Dr. Phil featured Bishop T. D. Jakes, author of “Before You Do: Making Great Decisions That You Won't Regret”, about major life decisions, counseling a nineteen year old man about a particularly painful situation involving his brother, who is 21. The brother needs a kidney transplant, but has a history of tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse. The potential donor does not want to be tested unless he can make up his mind about whether to offer his kidney. He plays baseball and believes that he could play major league baseball, and that the donation of a kidney would cost him a future career.

The discussion seemed to focus on the idea that he would want to attach “performance” stipulations on his needy brother if he is to make a donation from his own body. It seemed like a call for “unconditional love.” The audience was sympathetic to the idea that he would have some “ownership” of his brother.

There is a medical question as to whether it would affect his ability to play baseball. Many big league players have had various issues, including diabetes. Maybe someone can comment on whether he would be able to play with one kidney from a sports medicine perspective.

But the most disturbing idea in the show is that one brother is asked (at least indirectly) to sacrifice his planned career and way of life for another at all with a part of his own body. Your own body is about as personal as it gets. One political point is that this potentially speaks to the importance of marriage. Parents, when supported by marriage, create families which have, in practice, a lot of “power” to compel behavior of its members even when they have become adults. That sounds like a “perk” of marital sex – the “power” to compel (down the road) the subordination of or sacrifice of others in some cases. That seems like what a lot of the culture war is about.

Of course, there are cases where people give organs to non-relative, and, of course, the biggest “body part” donation is that of blood, which is renewable. And a lot of people are excluded from participating in this “social responsibility” donation because of past “behavior.” There is a lot of room for moralizing here.

The link for the show is here.

Dr. Phil hasn’t covered the issue of filial responsibility and intra-family sacrifice (from the “innocent”) before very much. I wonder if he would do some programs on the challenges of elder care.

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