Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Stuck in the Traffic Circle of Life
There's no end to the cliches about making choices or decisions in life. With relative wealth and mobility, we think more in those terms than believing we're just in the thrall of fate. Whatever our will or desires, we are limited by the fact that we fall somewhere in the continuum between those masters who are prepared and are in the right place and time, and those in the lower ranks or in traditional societies who have few options and just struggle day by day.
We are individualistic to an unusual degree, and forget that family and class determine most everything elsewhere, as in Italy, India, and much of South America and Africa. There, you're fortunate to move into a family business or landholding because jobs are scarce and connections determine everything. We're a nation of existentialists, though; we 'Muricans think we determine our own futures through education, vigorous effort and ambition, within a strangely contradictory straitjacket of conformity. Some find a way.
Very much like cooking a fine meal, it's a combination of timing, preparation, proper equipment, ingredients and learning from experience. But you're not a gourmet chef. What if you felt you had no adults you could really trust, no choices other than getting a steady job were discussed, and you weren't sure you understood the goals anyway?
Naive and uninformed: I remember thinking when young, from the lessons of television's Sergeant Friday, the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy, that crime was always punished. Then you find out that half of murders go unsolved, and probably 10% of those prosecuted and convicted are innocent. You'd be surprised how many of our and the Silent Generation got their ideas of history from John Wayne and the Old Testament. In the course of re-educating yourself you wonder how anyone could have made good and productive choices while operating on a basis of misinformation and myth. And yet, for those who just believe in the Mighty Oz, things can work out pretty well.
Not only is that shaky mental and social ground you're standing on while trying to make decisions, but since Freud's theories have been so successfully used in political and corporate propaganda over the past century, your unrational side is, every waking hour, being relentlessly manipulated. No wonder most working class people stop learning and growing around 18, and the more educated do the same around 30.
You might decide to make a big change to see what falls out because things are really going nowhere where you are. In retrospect, that's just desperation; faint hopes for fortuitous change are like falling backwards into a swimming pool before checking to see if it's filled. After a few of those, you become very, very careful about making choices, knowing all the while that no one ever found anything by setting the limits so close.