By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need.
There are not a lot of stay-at-home-moms here in Portugal and consequently, there are not a lot of playgroups, play dates, or activities for children during the day. I don’t mean to criticize one of the few playgroups available to us and that we participate in. I am very thankful for it, at this stage in our family. However, I knew from the start it had serious defects.
The More Local, The Better
Our playgroup is funded by big entities here in Portugal, and even by the European Union. It is actually a study that is being run by a fancy university. When I tell people this, they are very impressed. It seems as if the more “high-up” something starts, the better. When in reality it would be better if it were more grassroots.
There is a Catholic principle called “subsidiarity” that I would say applies here. There is a really great article here on CatholicStand by Leila Miller that explains what subsidiarity means. Basically, things should be organized at the lowest and smallest level possible. Intervention by greater, more centralized levels should only happen when the lower levels need help.
My Playgroup is Organized by the European Union
In the case of my playgroup, do we really need the European Union to “organize” a few kids from my neighborhood to play together twice a week? As impressive as that might sound, I think the playgroup would work better if not even the national government were involved or the numerous associations and non-profits that are “participating” in this project. We have a need as a family, which is that our children, who are at home, have other children to play with. I think the best idea would be to organize ourselves with other families and neighbors. Perhaps a parish-level organization or something else very local would be beneficial. Nothing higher than that.
In our playgroup, no real friendships have been formed. Many people never showed up in the first place, and many people dropped out during the school year. Perhaps if it had been more local, there would have been more opportunities for genuine friendships to develop naturally.
The “Social Assistance State”
This playgroup is part of a study which is focused on “social inclusion”. It seeks to help parents who aren’t able to afford to put their 0-4-year-olds in daycare. The organizers think that is the best place for children to socialize and develop cognitively, so if families are unable to provide that for their kids, they are there to help us. This is a little offensive to me as a stay-at-home-mom by option, especially since I dislike the idea of daycare at all. However, I accept that the program will have good benefits for us, even though their basic premise is wrong.