Thursday, September 11, 2008

loosing peace with more

For a long time, I worked hard to be easy to talk to, easy to understand, and easy to get along with. I'm glad I've had that experience, but it didn't end entirely well for me. I can do it, but it's stressful. . . and more importantly, I'm not sure that approach is what I want to support.

I question how I ought to interact with others. I don't want to hurt people's feelings--in fact, I want very badly not to, which makes it painful for all involved when I mess up and don't understand why.

Still, I blunder on, haunted by certain questions-- especially,

Why not expect more of people?

The world I see around me is in shreds.

I could say a lot about the political and economic catastrophes that lead to the more personal circumstances I'm about to describe. Those things would be important, and true. What is more relevant here, though, is a net profit of empty relationships and empty lives.

To many of my more conservative friends and family members, I must mention that I don't know the America you grew up in, or the one you live in now; I only know your experience of this place must be different from mine.

The people who have been closest to me, besides my family, are mostly young and single. They struggle to pay rent and to get an education; some of them are dying, in their early twenties, from cancers of unknown source. Many have been homeless; some are raising children they had when they were still children themselves. Nearly all have already been ground into depression by the Promethean tasks of modern "life".

They work jobs where they are disposable and have virtually no time for education or human relationships. They rarely have mentors who can help them learn the skills of survival and stability, or even temporarily aid them with the enormous economic burdens of childrearing, health problems, or education. They struggle for what to identify with in a world where they, and all the people around them, are primarily commodities, and they respond accordingly--generally by buying all they can.

Most importantly, they have no sense of power to shape their own lives; their outlook is of survival, or of drifting, or of determined conformity in a stream they never could control.

And these, we may note, are not the people being raped, displaced, dismembered or starved in Africa, tortured in China and Cuba or bombed in Georgia and the middle east. These are but a few of the casualties closest to home.

All this is merely an attempt to put into the most accessible terms my motivation: the world doesn't have to be this way. I am profoundly fortunate to have an education, and profoundly obligated to use what resources I have to bring about change.

When I am provocative, demanding, or controversial, it is because of the part of me that can't help but think that every person who lives without that sense of obligation only contributes to this inferno. Part of me never wants ever to judge, and another part thinks we all belong in hell. Both parts want me and everybody else to be better.

I want us to be smarter and more passionate, to work harder, to try longer, to never forgive ourselves and never give up. I want us to plan better, to sacrifice more, to build more awareness and more skills and more actions till we've made solutions.

I want us to cultivate a stronger morality until we actually make it happen.

I want to live in a world where being "well adjusted" no longer means having patience with injustice and accepting that there is everything going wrong and nothing you can do about it.

I have no idea how to reconcile wanting more.


rman1iscool said...

Hmm... interesting. I suppose the reason not to expect more is because they will never give more and will wonder why you expect it.

A strange thing about this world of ours is that the reason that people are commodities, and why identification is so difficult is probably because of a notion of freedom. In order for people to have inherent value, and bonding, a moral commonality is necessary. But no free society could coexist with a forced commonality, and once we have a significant population thinking outside of a group moral perspective, the system starts breaking down as the idea spreads.

Another interesting thing, is how the moral community can fall into a hierarchy as well, the early US had what is called a moral economy, where all people were viewed as part of the same unit, but this system was bound by favoritism, explicit hierarchical lines where paternalism and deference where desired.

Part of the reason I went towards the an-cap position is that I cannot deny others the right to view their fellows as means to an end without forcing my position upon them, and I fear doing that, because then I see that as becoming the destructive position. At the same time, I don't want to necessarily be subject to them, and the government is a means of control, all the way down to the culture. I will admit that I carry a lot of cynicism in my formulations of the world though, and usually think of it in cold, dead terms. Perhaps because my original learning was in libertarian notions of economics.

Life is itself.. the people in it are failures. I don't think it could be any other way.

Day said...

I disagree on a few points.

One: even without having a broad commonality in ethics, there are a wide variety of issues on which people don't even live up to their own varied standards. On some of these issues, having everyone actually behave according to their own system would provide vast improvement.

Two: knowing that I was never going to get a pony for Christmas never stopped me from wanting one.

Three: I'm not very sure about this--certainly it seems elusive--but from what little history I know, it does look like there have been certain limited times and places where a higher proportion of people did exhibit "more.". . . if not perfectly more, than at least quite a lot more than what they show now.

I'm interested, at least, in recreating those conditions. . .

rman1iscool said...

1) I think the people who don't live up to their standards are often lying about those standards, and even if you called them up on that, they would either do some post-hoc explanation, or negate the utility of their standards.

2) Ok.

3) Hmm... from the little history I know such a notion doesn't seem that true. I mean, Adam Smith was noted for saying: "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." I would tend to think that these notions of past kindnesses are mythologies.

Rebecca said...

I love your passion and can relate to having all the feelings you describe. Some days selling out seems like survival to me, but in the end I don't have it in me and I'm glad that you don't either.

Day said...

For Rebbecca: Thank you.

I am not sure, though, and am very curious, what exactly you mean by selling out.

For Rman: I do not refer to some mythical nostalgic past.

I do think that there are circumstances that have been somewhat better and somewhat worse for freedom and enlightenment. I don't mean to imply a huge range.