For Respect of Yourself
I have been doing a great deal of reading lately....part of it connected to my substitute work at school. Fortunately, I find much of it very stimulating, such as the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. I found The Giver to be along the same track as other future-bending books like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand's Anthem, or George Orwell's 1984. Part of the notion is that jobs are selected and language is controlled, in part to protect the people. Things are made as soft and sterile as possible, and people are "released", which is a euphemism for euthanasia. Some aspects of personal responsibility are there, like taking pride in your work and being apologetic for being rude, but there is no major room for personal selection / choice / expression. Even color has been removed from this society.
Needless to say, I had to look around me to gauge where we are at in this society. There are some that say there is an extensive, and usually, unfair, attempt to stifle speech by our elected officials. This may be true, but when compared to the other fictional societies, it almost seems justified. People are increasingly rude to each other and have no respect, well, for anything. This includes themselves. I see a large part of this being pushed along by the 'peace activist' movement of the 70s. Feel free to do what gives you pleasure.
This movement has given rise to an ignorance of cultural and societal standards. Interestingly enough, I was watching The Science of Star Wars on the Discovery Channel last night, when I heard George Lucas say something incredibly profound. In essence, he stated that those who examine and integrate components of other cultures should be considered a higher lifeform and be more respected than those who do not. Lucas seemed to paint a need for all of us to pay more attention to this aspect of life, and to give it the level of respect it deserves.
This latest dreck (via MSNBC / Newsweek) masquerading as news about whether or not there were religious abuses at Guantanamo seems to obscure a larger question: are we constantly monitoring ourselves to do the right thing, or only when it is convenient to our life / cause? As I heard in a Teen Titans episode (my kids like it, and so do I): Some people will always take the easier path; that does not mean you should stop doing things the right way. I see this as a means to measure how much one will compromise one's integrity for gain. Sell out, cheat, or make a deal with the Devil now, and you will do it that much easier the next time. And in doing so, you give up another shred of dignity, another component of self-respect gone, never to be reclaimed.
It is easier to pursue instant pleasure (e.g., drug use, random sexual opportunities, having someone write an 'A' paper), but those pursuits are not satisfying long-term. That satisfaction can only be fulfilled by more of the same. On the other hand, striving to complete something through practice, hard work, and some sweat brings better fulfillment through respect for yourself for making the effort, and often the respect of others because they couldn't or wouldn't want to do it.
As an example, I took my son fishing yesterday. He has been doing well for four, but he wanted to use his new fishing pole. After several prompts from me on how to cast it, he insisted he wanted to do it by himself. There were moments of frustration (for both of us), but he took great satisfaction on how well he could do it by himself once he got there. If he failed to meet his goal, he would say "I'm going to try it again." I must have heard that phrase at least twenty times, but he remained commited to the task, and by the end of our day, he was doing fairly well. He even took it a step further and took off as many fish by himself as he could, without prompting from me.
This independence in my son is something I treasure greatly, and I'm sure it will help to carry him through tougher times, at least on the base level of his values. If he can be encouraged to continue this, I have little doubt about where he can go in life. Some kids his age would say "Cast for me" or "You touch the fish." Instead, he wants to do as much on his own as possible, even if the fish gets him with a spine or he makes several bad casts. Our society, especially based on the kids I see through both jobs, coddles children and continues to make exceptions about their behaviors and / or lack of success. It is unfortunate that more isn't done to help foster the drive to succeed, because I truly believe we wouldn't be as far behind globaly in education and other areas if we could motivate our kids, in part by expecting more of them.
Not having expectations appears, to me, to lead to poor motivation and poor results. This, in turn, leads to poor self-image by our children as to what they perceive is possible, making it more difficult for them to face a challenge, and more likely to give up. I would have thought it difficult for my son to do what he did, which was use a mechanical device on a rod more than twice his size and figure out how to make it work. Fortunately for him (and me), I gave him the chance and the praise for his success. Now he has something to be proud of, and something for which he should receive congratulations from others. And he can respect himself for making it through a challenging task.
The question then becomes: Would you try this hard on things that challenge you? And if the answer is no, the next question should be: Can you, and others, respect yourself based on how you do things now?