It was inevitable.


August 15, 2007

No one can deny the interdependent nature of life, culture and society. As in nature, much is predicated on delicate checks and balances and hierchal structures and realities.

As we see the blurring and blending of these once separate and necessarily distinct differences, we also see the results of those efforts. We find ourselves dealing with child rearing issues our parents never faced- or even imagined, an education system that is at best, broken and at worst, a system that knowingly produces unleashes ineffective and ill prepared citizens on our society. We live in a world where being heard and ‘look at me!’ is more important that substance and relevance. Many decry a democracy, that participatory form of government that responds to a community as a whole, that doesn’t ‘deliver’ the outcome they desire (‘If my guy doesn’t win, I’m leaving!’). Democracy is then blamed for ‘psychological disorders’- as if others are to blame for their unhappiness, and even more importantly, the discovery that some voters actually disagree with their views and beliefs. With that of course, comes the demonization- ‘how dare you not agree with me!’ If you don’t believe it is a bad as all that, look at political web sites populated with the opinion of believers, of either side. The vitriol and visceral hatred is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is the silence of the political elites and managers to these voices.

It is true there are freedoms of expression. Nevertheless, simply having the right to those expressions doesn’t make mandatory to express those opinions that are not only divisive, but harmful. It is the now accepted (idiotic) notion that ‘anything goes’ makes any and all opinions of equal merit.

An argument is often made that conforming to societal norms and values quashes the individuality that defines each of us. There is no space, the argument goes, for individuality and free expression and the values that culture and society have generated that bind us. The partnership that we have with society is being tested and questioned everyday. Nothing, we are told, is sacred.

There is no question that there are indeed two opposite forces at play here- the right and legitimacy of cultural and societal norms and structure, and the right of individual self expression and beliefs. Contrary to those who decry cultural and societal values and norms, these two ideas can coexist, and even flourish.

The reality is that we exist as a society and as individuals because of the partnerships we have negotiated with each other. Society exists because we agree to abide by a certain set of rules and laws, and the individual can express himself freely because his or her place in society is protected. It’s that simple. These are the rules that we have agreed to abide by. Of course, these rules have more nuance- we need to love each other and we need to give each other space. We need to take an interest in what is good for society- a shared intimacy, really, because those are the ground rules- and we need to respect each other’s individuality and individual expressions and beliefs.

Sound like a marriage? Well, in a way it is. It is about respect and and the understanding that comes with commitment. It is also important to remember that in every marriage, there comes a point where a real decision is made. At what point does the need and stability of a marriage supersede the needs and wants of the individual? If you don’t understand the meaning, significance and point behind the question, don’t get married.

At what point does the needs of society supersede the need of the individual? We think we can address that question by talking about marriage, that blending of individuality into a community.

Marriage is not only about a commitment between two people- that is the easy part. Marriage is also about the commitment each couple makes to society.  That commitment from this newly formed family unit is also an  agreement to continue societal norms and values. That doesn’t mean that society or culture can’t and won’t change. It does mean that there is an implicit agreement that whatever changes do come, will be with the intent to benefit society as a whole and not just serve the needs or wants of the individual. If we abrogate our commitment to society, we abrogate our commitment to ourselves. We become not contributors, but rather, we highlight our own selfishness. We have knowingly and willingly broken our ties to a better society. Like it or not, this is where are now- and the results of these broken promises are evident for all to see.

How do we get back to moving forward, to making our world a better place to live? The answer is clear- we need to disconnect from the self and reconnect with notion that we are responsible and can make a difference.

Any good teacher (yes, a reference to Mamacita) will till you that a child has a less developed thought process. A young child does not have the the skills or ability to comprehend complex ideas, much less express them. To talk to a child in adult terms and expect the child to relate, is a guarantee of confusion and misunderstanding that can prove very detrimental to both child and adult. Parents want (and often insist) their child to be exceptional, but the truth is, 99.99% of children are  no different from each other, no matter what a parent teaches a  child to parrot. Children are children and need to learn in ways that address that reality.

A smart teacher will employ metaphors, parables and will condense a new concept to a child so that every child in the classroom will understand the issue on the level they can. The teacher is not shortchanging all those the ‘brilliant’  children, nor is the teacher ‘hiding’ anything from the child. The teacher is addressing reality: Notwithstanding what a child parrots, the child cannot understand concepts the way the teacher, or any adult does. The adult has wrestled with and grasped the complexities of the issue- the child has not and cannot. With time, as the analogies and metaphors expand, the child can indeed understand more complex issues- but that takes time, experience and an open mind.

To want to be heard is natural. To want to be heard without comprehending the issue or caring about culture and society at large is reprehensible. To want to be heard with the intent to deceive is a moral outrage.

Our relationship with each other and society is a partnership. Partners are accountable to each other. Before we call each other or society to task, we had best make sure that we have lived up to our own obligations. If we have contributed to each and society, then and only then can we issue the challenge to do better. To simply obviate a culture or society because you aren’t happy is a selfish and foolish example of self centeredness .


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