Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. QOTD: Camera vs. Sandwich

 

The late Sam Kinison, an incomparably loud and invariably offensive comedian, once delivered a comedy routine about famine. He remarked that whenever he sees heart-rending scenes of famine victims he wonders, “How come the film crew didn’t just give the kid a sandwich? How come you never see that? What are they afraid of”that it would spoil the shot?”

His famine routine was really very funny. In a twisted way it was also trenchant. The “Camera or Sandwich” problem is a good starting point for examining any human problem. Is it better to try to collect lots of insights about many issues than to get bogged down in particular problems involving particular people?

– George Tobin, First Things December 1992

One of the earliest things I learned on my path to becoming a conservative is that some ideas remain valid despite the passage of time. As an annoying kid, I wanted something with a bit more depth than the regular soap opera at school. My father passed me one of his old copies of First Things, and I dug in. Richard John Neuhaus made me laugh, and most of the other articles made me think. My father and I would often talk about the ideas involved – this was before I had easy access to the internet. I loved the fact that they were written for a higher level than any of the stuff I had to deal with in English class, and I can say that I owe a lot of my development as a reader and writer to these magazines.

I had reason to dig back into First Things recently, and I ended up getting a link to the piece by George Tobin. Written in 1992, the same dynamic applies today. I live in Chicago, and people love to talk about our horrible crime problem. I’ve yet to see much in the way of a solution or any kind, possibly because it is difficult to imagine how one person could directly reduce crime. After 9-11, I remember people looking in vain for some way to get involved short of mass enlistment. (The Marines need a few good men, not a few OmegaPaladins) The camera option keeps on coming up in one policy debate after another

In fact, much of Ricochet is the Camera option writ large. Many issues seem to just be an excuse to wind people up without some kind of productive outlet. Raging at the heavens or denouncing the Left with righteous indignation is fun and all, but how much does it actually change anything? Are there ways to pick the sandwich option in politics, even if you live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Obamastan?

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There are 30 comments.

  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin Post author

    I’m curious how many people here read First Things – it’s actually been a while for me.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. While the November Signup Sheet is full, December is wide open! (Except for Thursdays) We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #1
    • November 20, 2019, at 10:30 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Boss Mongo Member

    OmegaPaladin: The late Sam Kinison, an incomparably loud and invariably offensive comedian, once delivered a comedy routine about famine. He remarked that whenever he sees heart-rending scenes of famine victims he wonders, “How come the film crew didn’t just give the kid a sandwich? How come you never see that? What are they afraid of”that it would spoil the shot?”

    • #2
    • November 20, 2019, at 10:41 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    OmegaPaladin: Are there ways to pick the sandwich option in politics, even if you live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Obamastan?

    Yes, there are. It means getting out and getting involved. Get involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and similar organizations. Do you live in Chicago? Or in one of the bedroom communities or other suburbs?

    • #3
    • November 20, 2019, at 10:41 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin: Are there ways to pick the sandwich option in politics, even if you live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Obamastan?

    Yes, there are. It means getting out and getting involved. Get involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and similar organizations. Do you live in Chicago? Or in one of the bedroom communities or other suburbs?

    I live in Chicago proper, not in a suburb.

    • #4
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:31 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Hartmann von Aue Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I’m curious how many people here read First Things – it’s actually been a while for me.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. While the November Signup Sheet is full, December is wide open! (Except for Thursdays) We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    We had subscribed for several years, but let it lapse when we moved to Europe in 15. We only just re-subscribed. 

    • #5
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:39 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Doctor Robert Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I’m curious how many people here read First Things – it’s actually been a while for me.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. While the November Signup Sheet is full, December is wide open! (Except for Thursdays) We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    I do, and even though Mrs Doctor Robert and I are Baptists, we both love it.

    • #6
    • November 21, 2019, at 3:58 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Amy Schley Moderator

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin: The late Sam Kinison, an incomparably loud and invariably offensive comedian, once delivered a comedy routine about famine. He remarked that whenever he sees heart-rending scenes of famine victims he wonders, “How come the film crew didn’t just give the kid a sandwich? How come you never see that? What are they afraid of”that it would spoil the shot?”

    Wait, I thought we weren’t supposed to suggest people in economically depressed areas who can’t survive without charity should get a U-haul and move …

    (Sorry, feeling cantankerous today) 

    • #7
    • November 21, 2019, at 4:46 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Jules PA Member

    I read First Things. But not lately. I probably should out it back into my routine. 

    • #8
    • November 21, 2019, at 5:21 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. I Walton Member

    I have been reading First Things for over a decade, but I’m less religious about it since Newhouse died and Ricochet came along. It’s still one of the best magazines out there but I think it struggles.

    As to Chicago. I think it’s simple. Get the Federal government out of all subsidies, whether for welfare, the private sector etc. and make cities and states fund everything they want. States that don’t adjust to reality, and there will be many at least for a long while, slow to change such as giant cities like Chicago, but centralization in a country as large as the US can’t work out well. The net amount of Federal spending in a state or city isn’t the issue, it’s any federal spending even if Washington takes more in taxes from residents than it provides. It’s that Washington is remote, doesn’t pay for its mistakes in any way so there is no feedback. We think it’s an improvement because the Feds are less corrupt, but traditional corruption isn’t the problem, it’s just a natural human condition. The problem is that government isn’t good at anything, has never been, can’t be, but is necessary for some things, but must be as close to the people as possible. The exceptions are quite clear in the constitution and in our first couple of centuries.

    • #9
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:00 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  10. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Thatcher

    OmegaPaladin: Are there ways to pick the sandwich option in politics, even if you live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Obamastan?

    Alexis de Tocqueville called them little platoons.

    Personally, I have spent many uncomfortable weekends in the wilderness with the Boy Scouts (I just notified them to not recharter me after 21 years, well beyond my boy’s duration in the organization). Looking back it was tremendously rewarding both for me and as some of my non genetic boys who catchup with me years later and I find that I made a few profound impacts on their development.

    I also spend about ten hours a week with the Knights of Columbus (the organization that seems to have disqualifying dogma for Judicial appointments). They do fundraising and give the proceeds to local charities (both affiliated and not affiliated with the Church) that align with our mission. Our active band of 50 or so Gentlemen typical donate ~90K annually, mostly to organizations within 20 miles of our council.

    Perhaps not much monetarily in a governmental comparison of giving, but if we all donate some of our time, perhaps we would not need such an all encompassing government in our lives. It would certainly be a more personal connection than any government bureaucrat could affect.

    • #10
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:32 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  11. Kephalithos Member

    You’re right. Talking is always easier than acting. Plus, some of us (and I include myself in this category) just aren’t very good at doing things.

    Our culture is constantly telling us to act, but it defines acting as empty outrage. It hardly glorifies the ways of improving the world which are attainable to most people — creating and fulfilling obligations to friends, family, and communities. Instead, it encourages everyone to take up whatever political cause is fashionable at the moment, as if holding picket signs, chanting angry slogans, or barging into public meetings while dressed as handmaids are the only routes to human flourishing.

    • #11
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:36 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. Stad Thatcher

    In his routine, Kinison also screamed, “You live in a desert! You can’t grow anything to eat! Why don’t you move to where the food is?!?”

    Kinda makes sense . . .

    • #12
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:36 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Juliana Member

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I read First Things. But not lately. I probably should out it back into my routine.

    Ditto

    • #13
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor

    If you are writing to just rant and rave, or to get people angry, than you’re not adding anything to the world. But it is possible to write to educate, to inspire discussion, to shine a light on injustice and to learn from others. I think these are all worthy endeavors. Writing is not the only thing I do to make a difference, but it can be a productive way.

    • #14
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:01 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  15. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    How did Kinison know that the cameraman didn’t give the kid a sandwich? If the cameraman had filmed himself giving the kid a sandwich, would he not have been condemned for virtue-signalling?

    • #15
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:58 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    In his routine, Kinison also screamed, “You live in a desert! You can’t grow anything to eat! Why don’t you move to where the food is?!?”

    Kinda makes sense . . .

    Except that the famines of the 1980s/90s were largely caused by war and government oppression rather than environmental factors. The people sought refuge when possible, but crossing borders in those areas at that time in history wasn’t easy.

    Kinison was a bit of an idiot.

    • #16
    • November 21, 2019, at 9:00 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    Is it better to try to collect lots of insights about many issues than to get bogged down in particular problems involving particular people?

    That’s why free division of labour exists, so a society doesn’t have to choose between such extreme options. Some members of the society can serve as sandwich-distributors and others can serve as information-gatherers. Meanwhile, still others serve as policy-developers, educators, distributors, innovators, peacemakers, etc. etc. etc. Liberty is what allows individuals to fill all the roles necessary to keep a society running smoothly. It’s when leaders impose false choices like the one from the quote, thereby limiting the options of free individuals, that vital roles end up going unfilled.

    • #17
    • November 21, 2019, at 9:08 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. Lilly B Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin: Are there ways to pick the sandwich option in politics, even if you live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Obamastan?

    Yes, there are. It means getting out and getting involved. Get involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and similar organizations. Do you live in Chicago? Or in one of the bedroom communities or other suburbs?

    If there’s something like Horton’s Kids in Chicago, I’d say get involved in that by donating your time and/or money. I’m not affiliated with Horton’s Kids, but this is what they do:

    Horton’s Kids empowers children growing up in one of DC’s most under-resourced communities so that they graduate from high school ready for success in college, career, and life. We serve 500 children in grades K-12 living in Wellington Park, a neighborhood where 80 percent of adults don’t have a high school diploma and the average annual household income is less than $10,000.

    With support from committed volunteers, Horton’s Kids’ goal is to change the life trajectory of children by providing academic, youth development, and health and basic needs supports. Our impact is dramatic: in fact, children in Horton’s Kids are twice as likely to graduate from high school. https://www.hortonskids.org/who-we-are/

    Even though I can’t volunteer after school because of my own child-care responsibilities, I have attended the annual reception where the kids attend and mingle with volunteers. One middle school-aged girl asked me if I was married and when I said yes, her follow up question was “Is he treatin’ you right?” That’s a question that would not occur to my daughters or any of the kids who grow up in a neighborhood full of mostly married parents. So if you can be a role model for girls and boys to learn how to form healthy relationships and get/stay married, I’d say that’s probably as valuable as helping with academics.

    • #18
    • November 21, 2019, at 10:28 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  19. Stad Thatcher

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    How did Kinison know that the cameraman didn’t give the kid a sandwich? If the cameraman had filmed himself giving the kid a sandwich, would he not have been condemned for virtue-signalling?

    Doubtful the cameraman did. If the villagers saw one person getting food, the crew would be swamped.

    • #19
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Stad Thatcher

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    Kinison was a bit of an idiot.

    Maybe behind the wheel . . .

    • #20
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. The Reticulator Member

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    Some members of the society can serve as sandwich-distributors and others can serve as information-gatherers. Meanwhile, still others serve as policy-developers, educators, distributors, innovators, peacemakers, etc. etc. etc.

    I like them all except the policy-developers. No policy-developers allowed at our house. 

    • #21
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:16 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  22. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    I Walton (View Comment):

    We think it’s an improvement because the Feds are less corrupt, but traditional corruption isn’t the problem, it’s just a natural human condition. The problem is that government isn’t good at anything, has never been, can’t be, but is necessary for some things, but must be as close to the people as possible. The exceptions are quite clear in the constitution and in our first couple of centuries.

    I agree with the idea of getting the responsibility for problem-solving and the funding of same back to the fifty states where those problems are resident. To my mind the best use of these less corrupt Feds is to pay them to root out corruption in state governments, their police, and their client agencies. We could whomp up a whole department for it, maybe call them the Eff Bee Eye or somesuch kind of name. 

     

    • #22
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Our culture is constantly telling us to act, but it defines acting as empty outrage. 

    Nonsense. All across America are legions of community organizers, consciousness raisers, and speakers of truth-to-power! Heroic finger-pointers who log in countless hours on Facebook those who are insufficiently concerned about hurt feelings and who rain down a destroying fury on those who would mis-pronoun the defenseless.

    • #23
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:24 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    Is it better to try to collect lots of insights about many issues than to get bogged down in particular problems involving particular people?

    That’s why free division of labour exists, so a society doesn’t have to choose between such extreme options. Some members of the society can serve as sandwich-distributors and others can serve as information-gatherers. Meanwhile, still others serve as policy-developers, educators, distributors, innovators, peacemakers, etc. etc. etc. Liberty is what allows individuals to fill all the roles necessary to keep a society running smoothly. It’s when leaders impose false choices like the one from the quote, thereby limiting the options of free individuals, that vital roles end up going unfilled.

    All true, but there is a marked preference of late for angst and problem description over planning and problem solutions. Probably fueled in part by the technological wonder of the internet that creates an insatiable demand for words, words, words. 

    • #24
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:29 PM PST
    • Like
  25. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    Some members of the society can serve as sandwich-distributors and others can serve as information-gatherers. Meanwhile, still others serve as policy-developers, educators, distributors, innovators, peacemakers, etc. etc. etc.

    I like them all except the policy-developers. No policy-developers allowed at our house.

    And this is exactly the kind of attitude that leads to so many policy-developers going hungry every day. 

    Give generously to Feed the Policy-Developer Foundation – for the price of one half-baked notion a day, you can keep a policy-developer going. Your adopted policy-maker will send you photos and crudely written action plans once a month to keep you informed of his or her progress. Or become a Gold Star Contributor and fund a small think tank that can house up to twenty full-time policy-developers in contemplative comfort for life. Please help them realize their hopes and ideas – ideas like this one! 

    • #25
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:41 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  26. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    Some members of the society can serve as sandwich-distributors and others can serve as information-gatherers. Meanwhile, still others serve as policy-developers, educators, distributors, innovators, peacemakers, etc. etc. etc.

    I like them all except the policy-developers. No policy-developers allowed at our house.

    I chose the term “policy-developers” to be as wide-ranging (i.e. vague) as possible. They need not be grifting politicos and/or ivory tower authoritarians. They can just as easily be the leaders and strategists of Burke’s proverbial “little platoons” that keep a good society humming. Every enterprise needs planning, and there can be no planning without planners.

    • #26
    • November 22, 2019, at 8:19 AM PST
    • 1 like
  27. The Reticulator Member

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    I chose the term “policy-developers” to be as wide-ranging (i.e. vague) as possible. They need not be grifting politicos and/or ivory tower authoritarians. They can just as easily be the leaders and strategists of Burke’s proverbial “little platoons” that keep a good society humming. Every enterprise needs planning, and there can be no planning without planners.

    Yeahbut, not everything that is accomplished is accomplished because it was planned. 

    People do plan, of course. But in this case I had in mind some of the New Deal progressives who were advocating central planning by what the people we have recently come to know as the deep state. One of them wrote a book explaining, disingenuously, that people have always planned, so what’s so bad or different about our planners planning things now?

    • #27
    • November 22, 2019, at 8:44 AM PST
    • 1 like
  28. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    I chose the term “policy-developers” to be as wide-ranging (i.e. vague) as possible. They need not be grifting politicos and/or ivory tower authoritarians. They can just as easily be the leaders and strategists of Burke’s proverbial “little platoons” that keep a good society humming. Every enterprise needs planning, and there can be no planning without planners.

    Yeahbut, not everything that is accomplished is accomplished because it was planned.

    People do plan, of course. But in this case I had in mind some of the New Deal progressives who were advocating central planning by what the people we have recently come to know as the deep state. One of them wrote a book explaining, disingenuously, that people have always planned, so what’s so bad or different about our planners planning things now?

    Or to put it another way, it’s normal for people to plan things. It can even be good and useful. Planners, on the other hand, are a problem.

    • #28
    • November 22, 2019, at 8:49 AM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Or to put it another way, it’s normal for people to plan things. It can even be good and useful. Planners, on the other hand, are a problem.

    The people are always the problem.

    • #29
    • November 22, 2019, at 12:06 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    I chose the term “policy-developers” to be as wide-ranging (i.e. vague) as possible. They need not be grifting politicos and/or ivory tower authoritarians. They can just as easily be the leaders and strategists of Burke’s proverbial “little platoons” that keep a good society humming. Every enterprise needs planning, and there can be no planning without planners.

    Yeahbut, not everything that is accomplished is accomplished because it was planned.

    People do plan, of course. But in this case I had in mind some of the New Deal progressives who were advocating central planning by what the people we have recently come to know as the deep state. One of them wrote a book explaining, disingenuously, that people have always planned, so what’s so bad or different about our planners planning things now?

    Or to put it another way, it’s normal for people to plan things. It can even be good and useful. Planners, on the other hand, are a problem.

    It’s sorta like when teachers become Educators, managers Facilitators and similar metamorphoses into Meta-doers. We’ve always planned, but people in Departments of Planning – professional planners – become an elite caste whose output is no longer measured in physical product. 

    • #30
    • November 22, 2019, at 12:27 PM PST
    • 1 like