Is today’s society mature enough to understand it?
Roughly 240 years ago a group of people came together with a radically new idea for government. An idea that heretofore had only been thought about in the most simplistic of terms and had lasted about as long and tried on the very smallest number of people. I’m talking about this bold idea of “self” governance rather than rule by Monarchy, Dictator or Oligarchy. To make this even more unique it was a government of a group of people bound only by a specific area. Their beliefs were different, incompatible some would say, most came from different parts of the European continent and very different experiences. What made these people think they could make it work? Look around us today, one side of congress stonewalls the other side, they call each other names or accuse them of absolutely despicable actions and beliefs whether or not they’re true. With this mindset, we’d still be living under a feudal system of government.
These people had to work through truly difficult times, they couldn’t worry about “safe spaces”, they couldn’t worry so much about “political correctness” so no one was offended. There were winners and losers, winners survived and the losers often didn’t make it, so the stakes were real. Protestants actually had to discuss business with Catholics who had to deal with the Puritans and then there were those who didn’t accept the organized form of religion at all. But these people did understand one thing very clearly, if they found a way to work together their lives were better for it and in the extreme it meant they would live to see another planting and harvest. These people, I believe, understood the concept of delayed gratification and an even higher level of thought, the idea that helping someone else might actually help their own self-interest down the road more than the immediate gratification of selfish self-interest which more often than not ends up with worse results than doing nothing. Just ask the “Wolf of Wallstreet” about that or Bernie Madoff how that worked out.
As children, we grow through a number of stages. One such stage is the selfish stage where everything revolves around themselves and their immediate needs. They’ll do and say whatever they have to in order to get their way. This phase will eventually give way to learning about sharing and its benefits. The next phase occurs when the child develops an understanding of the delayed gratification from sharing, it’s still all about the child and his needs but they can see the advantages of sharing with others. If development is arrested here then the child, I would argue, will give everything someone else has because it’s still about them and they want to protect their self-interest. Does this remind you of anything or anyone now? Can you say Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, they’ve got theirs so they’ll give ours away to everyone else. I think the folks behind redistribution of wealth and “You didn’t create that” are also stuck in this phase.
If the child can make it past this stage I believe they’ll have a chance to bring all these concepts together into a complete idea where the delayed gratification has resulted in the betterment of someone else, the improved situation for their own self-interest and most importantly they did it without taking something from someone else. The component of instantaneous gratification present in the previous phase is gone and everyone has been improved. This last part, obviously, is the hardest to achieve, shows the most maturity and is getting harder and harder to actually find in today’s society. In other words, I believe over the last decade we are becoming vastly more immature than ever in our day to day challenges. After all we do live under the greatest governmental scheme ever imagined, we can actually govern ourselves and have freedoms like no other society ever conceived. It is also true that the easier life becomes the easier it is to ignore the hardships of the past, which is to say the life lessons of the past. We are a society of doers, we do things and that’s how learn and at least in some things it’s how we improve. In education, we focus on math and science as well as philosophy, in general terms. We don’t do much with history other than revisionist history, re-write the past, try to forget the bad memories or tear down the reminders in favor of a happy place, that’s “safe space” for the younger millennials.
In truth, much of our failures are what helps us to grow and mature. What was wrong here and why should I do it different in the future? Does this remind you of anything going on right now. Heaven forbid we should be reminded of something terrible done to our fellow human beings or be reminded of an absolutely despicable belief of another of God’s creatures. (Apologies to any Atheist I might offend but I know you’ll get the idea). Who we are today is a result of what we did in the past and what we learned from it. To ignore it or worse totally forget it is to make us smaller and far less capable of dealing with difficult times or decisions in the future. Everyone will make mistakes so it wasn’t a matter what the mistake was but what we did about the mistake. Oscar Wilde put it best when he said, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde. I believe this so much it is one of the quotes on my website.
As always, the greatest gift anyone can give another person is the gift of your time because, once that moment has gone you can never get it back so, I thank you for giving me a few of your minutes. I would ask only a few more minutes by replying with your thoughts of these ideas. I believe the exchange of ideas in the spirit of Candor, Good Will and perhaps a bit of Humor or Friendly Sarcasm is the way to a better life.