When we are faced with a choice, we make the assumption that there are two or more options to choose from. One of those choices will usually benefit us more than others. But what if those choices we colored by social expectations? What if the choices that more often worked best for us were somehow branded as selfish or immoral? How would this influence what we choose? Our upbringing and education speak volumes about how we would make those choices. And that education is changing right under our noses.
When we are children our parents are the authority who regulate our actions in the world. They keep us safe, guide how we interact and teach us how to handle the world outside of our home. But hopefully there comes a time in our lives when parents begin to allow or even encourage us to make our own choices. Children need encouragement toward thinking for themselves and toward asking questions about choices that lead toward asserting independence from their parents and the things that they feel are important. This process has been happening less and less in our current culture. This is not to say that current day parents are not teaching children how to interact but that the basis for those interactions are not received with the encouragement toward that needed independence in making their choices. Children have not incorporated the necessary qualities toward becoming self-sustaining. There is an underlying reason for this seemingly subtle absence.
One of the factors in raising children that must be acknowledged is the affect that the extended family has had on them over the past generations. This effect was extremely subtle but tremendously influential.
Up until about the forties and fifties extended families lived in the same house. Children had exposure to at least two prior generations. The grandparents who lived with them were often retired and had plenty of time to spend with their grandchildren. And if there is one thing that we can generally say about grandparents is that the love and attention they gave their grandchildren was, with few exceptions, bordering on unconditional if not overwhelming. This had a monumental effect on how children felt about themselves.
With copious amounts of positive attention, a child feels that they are accepted and loved. In this kind of atmosphere there is little hesitation for them to express themselves, but more importantly, to trust that what they feel and say will be allowed and welcomed. The grandparents usually supplied the most of this as most of the parents were working the majority of the week. When the family began to disintegrate in the sixties, the grandparents either moved to their own homes or were put in retirement homes outside of the family residence. This left only the children and the parents in the home. When this occurred, there was a decided drop in love and attention for the children left in the residence. Their opportunity for personal validation and encouragement dwindled. As their parents, the “me generation,” went through work challenges and their new identity difficulties, divorce became more apparent and many children, in increasing numbers, ended up in one parent homes. With the one parent having to support themselves and their children, there became little or no time for “quality attention” with their children. Children now had to look elsewhere for their emotional guidance and support. Enter daycare and “nannydom.”
This is not to put down daycare or nannies, but they are a far cry from the individual love and attention previously supplied by in-home grandparents. To exacerbate the situation, daycares, and nannies, then and now, were and are expensive and understaffed to say the least. Additionally, the people populating daycares and “nannydom” are usually strangers to the children and haven’t earned the trust that their parents and grandparents had. This now also makes discipline issues much more difficult to deal with, especially since there is no emotionally invested trust providing an impetus for the child to give obedience.
Rules are very important for living in the world with others. They keep us all on the same page at the least in terms of what is not only expected of us but what makes getting along with others smoother with less misunderstandings. Generally, those rules are made by the people who are interacting with each other and they are passed down from generation to generation with small modifications to account for social trends. But as the home family units have considerably disintegrated, those family traditions have fallen by the wayside and a new “family member” has filled the void. Enter the media.
Needless to say, the media is quite devoid of any emotional support or encouragement that would lead a child to trust them. This is not to say that there is no emotional content. There is but it is tacit and subliminal and has the opposite effect of grandparents on children.
The main thrust of what the media projects is an image of what we should be IF we are to be acceptable or desirable to others. It does not reach into anyone attempting to bring out talents that may be capitalized on for improving our self-reliance as the Montessori schools attempted to do. What it does to us and children, through implication, is stress that we are not acceptable or desirable as we are but must buy or become what they “recommend” in order to be so. Of course, there is always a price and a farmed email in the exchange.
Grandparents and some parents are more absent than previous generations. But the media is there now more than grandparents and, more than likely, their parents also. This leaves a gaping hole in the opportunities that a child may have to be encouraged and develop trust in their own ability for thinking for themselves. The grandparent that produced a child’s trust in their own intuition, thinking for themselves and taking initiative in making their own decisions is decidedly absent.
We are and have been becoming more and more open and even coerced to believe what the world thinks of us and what we must offer it. Creativity, except for commercial applications, is all but disappearing. Curiosity for the sake of knowing has simply evaporated. Novelty and gimmicks have now become more the trend geared toward having social amusement to fill the gap and gain approval. We have forgotten what it is to simply enjoy ourselves and immerse ourselves in activities that add to our preferred and needed self-worth and reliance in favor of our world image and its approval.
What is even more frightening, and depersonalizing, is the evolution of our school system. Previous education, at the least, had some hint of what the Montessori schools were trying to convey. They have slowly reduced their influence into only producing skills for vocations. That, in itself, was acceptable and even admirable. But now schooling, including universities, have become fertile ground for political indoctrination further emphasizing the importance of the group over individuals. They include the “one for all” proffered by The Three Musketeers but blatantly leave out the “and all for one” part.
What the contemporary child has lost may seem unnecessary, peripheral or even subtle at best. But the overall effect of this reduction in personal trust in our own autonomy is and has been in a slow crawl toward diminishing personal creativity and self-sufficiency and has become the dominant underlying theme in just about every social movement. The need for the lost personal respect and acknowledgement of self-dignity is glaring. But to those who are currently in this personally diminished position, it is barely noticeable if not unconscious. But there is another dimension to our social development which has put another nail in the coffin of our individual expression. Enter technology.
The recent wave of technical innovations has been a tsunami in taking over the common tasks that have normally filled our daily living. Bluetooth switches everything on and off for us. Microwaves gives us hot food almost instantaneously. Audio players read our books to us. Computers teach us how to fix things. Television brings us amusements to fill our idle time. The need for patience, waiting, effort and self-sustenance has almost been obliterated by our technological advances. Instant gratification has become our dominant expectation of the world. Everything is done for us. If everything is done for us, how can we know our value as a human? We begin to feel useless and ask why are we here? We seem to have lost the empowerment that doing and deciding for ourselves had previously given us.
Lastly, the current thrust of social trending is subversive with a not so subtle coercion toward our accepting and believing that the wants and needs of others must come before addressing our own preferences. When this is not accepted or agreed with, a strong implication is levied that we are somehow selfish, racist, egotistical, inconsiderate, disrespectful, misogynistic, misandrogynistic and a host of other humanly depreciating labels.
Originally, doing for others at our own expense was perceived and taught as an admirable characteristic offered through manners, courtesy, and traditions and organizations promoting positive or religious human behavior. But that has slowly become drastically twisted in our current social etiquette. With the metastasizing and indoctrinating movement toward our shrinking self-worth, we’re being tacitly taught that it’s not proper to ask for something for ourselves unless others’ needs have been addressed first. It has become, essentially, an emotional blackmail ploy by manipulative groups and individuals who are fearful of being refused if asking directly, to put us in a position of feeling obligated through appearing diminished in self-worth if we don’t acquiesce toward servicing their needs before our own. It is a passive-aggressive ploy avoiding exposure of their perceived diminished self-worth. The underlying assertion is that our preferences are not as valid as the stated needs or wants of those conducting the abuse. And if we confront this tactic and we complain, we are labeled as an ingrate and user of others. This is a degenerative and rampant form of projection.
Our values and joy in doing for others has been usurped to be used as a tactic used by abusive people. To go more into depth in understanding this ploy read my previous article “I’m Offended: The Moral Obligation to Yield to Emotional Outrage.”
Personal power and its sustainability are subjects having many diverse perspectives and definitions for each of us. But our social underlying trajectory is and has been one of loss for our entire culture through the breakdown of the family structure, the depersonalization of our public rapport, loss of personal intimacy (platonic), and the indoctrination of our neutered identity through a calculated assault by our media. Our educational system has failed us miserably in providing us with encouragement, personal empowerment, or the enabling of our ability to think for ourselves. The growing mass mind progression into a “one for all” mentality is a blatant symptom of the encroaching loss of our individualism that has been running rampant within our societal culture. Age old traditions that have acted as guide rails have collapsed. Values that nourished our hearts have evaporated. If we are to survive the onslaught of personal diminishment and evolve back into the creative force that we used to be, there must come, in equal measure, a renaissance of personal creativity, education, strengthened individualism and personal empowerment for all of us or we will all disappear into only a monochrome shadow of the light of the world that we were becoming.