Former pro hoops journeyman / author Paul Shirley has won considerable acclaim throughout the sports blogosphere for his thoughtful takes on subjects ranging from the plight of NBA 12th men to whether or not Oasis are better than the Beatles (OK, less acclaim for the last one). Today, however, might be the day when much of that goodwill goes straight down the toilet. “I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street,” argues Shirley. “Very few have said, written, or even intimated the slightest admonishment of Haiti, the country, for putting itself into a position where so many would be killed by an earthquake.”

I don’t mean in any way that the Haitians deserved their collective fate. And I understand that it is difficult to plan for the aftermath of an earthquake. However, it is not outside the realm of imagination to think that the citizens of a country might be able to: A) avoid putting themselves into a situation that might result in such catastrophic loss of life.  And B) provide for their own aid, in the event of such a catastrophe.

Imagine that I’m a caveman. Imagine that I’ve chosen to build my house out of balsa wood, and that I’m building it next to a roaring river because I’ve decided it will make harvesting fish that much easier. Then, imagine that my hut is destroyed by a flood.

Imagining what would happen next is easier than imagining me carrying a caveman’s club. If I were lucky enough to survive the roaring waters that took my hut, my tribesmen would say, “Building next to the river was pretty dumb, wasn’t it?.” Or, if I weren’t so lucky, they’d say, “At least we don”t have to worry about that moron anymore.”

Sure, you think, but those are cavemen. We’re more civilized now, we help each other, even when we make mistakes.

True enough. But what about when people repeat their mistakes? And what about when they do things that obviously act against their own self-interests?

I recoil at the notion that I’m SUPPOSED to do something. I would like to help, but only if I feel that my assistance is deserved and justified. If I perceive that I am being told to feel a certain way, and if I can point to a pattern of mistakes made in similar situations, I lose interest.

Later in his essay, Shirley admits, “children cannot very well control their destinies”. The same could be said for parents born into a cycle of poverty.