Why is it that we, as a nation, hold such distorted personal morals? I recognize that many (most) people disagree with that statement, but read this entire essay before rendering a decision.
What We Learn During Childhood Often Shapes Us for Life
During our childhood, we learn a lot by both watching and because of what people tell us. We learn to share (or that we should share). We are taught to help others. Some people watch their parents perform selfless acts of putting the needs of their children before their own. (Not everyone gets that experience.) We donate food, time, and money (or know that society teaches those actions as a norm).
Every single person possesses the experience of dealing with another person with a totally selfish outlook. We all know the depths of the associated feelings. It might come from parents. It might come from teachers. It might come from significant others. It might come from society.
Something else we’re taught? Look out for number one. Make sure that you look after you. Take care of yourself. Succeed. After all, isn’t success a big part of the American dream? Within reason, there’s nothing wrong with ensuring our own survival and success. We’re animals, after all. Animals want to survive.
What sticks with us most during childhood is what we tend to carry with us forever. That is, of course, unless we take it into our own hands to find a better way to live as adults.
The Precarious Balance of Society and Self
It affects everyone (except those with certain diagnosed personality disorders), the precarious balance of society and self. Women: you must have a successful career. You must be a perfect wife. You must have the perfect home. You must take care of yourself. You must have and care for your 2.5 children. You must be educated. You must give of yourself and your time to both your family and your community. You must do it all with a smile. You mustn’t be tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, or want. No, no. You must give, give, give. And also look out for yourself.
Men: you must have a great career that pays well enough to support yourself and your family. You must afford to care for your spouse. And your children. You must always go above and beyond. Don’t forget about your fitness. Always make your spouse feel loved and needed and protected. Be the perfect father. Coach all the little league teams. Don’t forget to go fishing with your buddies. Give, give, give…and also look out for yourself.
It’s a difficult balance, isn’t it? Our frustration with our inability to always balance our personal lives then bleeds over into how we act in society. We take our frustrations and our feelings of rejection and our feelings that there’s something wrong with us because we can’t do it all…and we project it onto society.
Projection and the Creation of False Reality
We take our projection of how we feel about ourselves, which could be at a conscious level or a subconscious level, and we project it onto society. That creates a false reality. Reality (as well as morals) is a subjective concept. Sure, there are some absolute truths. Humans need lungs to breathe. We die if our hearts stop beating. Math still sucks (although I’m sure some people would disagree…and there’s your first clue that reality is subjective).
You’ve seen it on social media: the barrage of attacks on both sides that show a clear loss of decency and humanity. Both sides want everyone to accept and live under their personal reality. For example, many on the right want prayer in school. They forget that there are news stories regarding lawsuits against school districts with “optional” prayer and Bible study classes because the students who decline to participate are bullied by both staff and other students. If it were truly optional and if people truly wanted to act as a light as instructed by the Bible, they’d stop behaving like such Pharisees and Sadducees. And let’s not forget that ISIL is also a big fan of religion and prayer in education. State mandated (even when optional) religious studies clearly get us nowhere. It’s a projection of a false reality.
An example from the left is a desire to move toward a more socialist idea of society. I sometimes wonder if they all slept through world history class. Do they really think that the obviously corrupt American government (as both sides recognize it) could really make the idea work? It’s not a problem of “let’s all pay more taxes and help our society and make opportunity equal across the board.” It’s a problem of absolute power corrupts absolutely. And it doesn’t matter if it’s in America, Italy, Venezuela, Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, or Germany. It’s another projection of a false reality.
Catch 22s Across the Board
Don’t get an abortion! Put the baby up for adoption. There are so many families who want a baby, but can’t have one. Oh, God, I can’t adopt. I can’t afford it. You had a baby and need help? You shouldn’t have had the baby. You should have used birth control. Don’t make birth control affordable or accessible! Jesus, there’s an uptick in teen pregnancy and STDs. Quick, let’s take out all the sex education programs from school because that should be taught at home. Everyone should be given a second chance. You have a felony? Fuck you, you awful person. You should have thought about that.
The amount of Catch 22s heavily relied upon by our society creates a serious problem with reality because we cannot have it both ways. If we want to be a country that values life, there must be resources that support that concept. If we want to reduce the number of abortions, unplanned pregnancies, and STDs, we must provide the information and the resources. Criminal justice reform must take a more whole approach. It involves more initiatives both in and outside of the home about education. It doesn’t have to be college. It can be about starting and running a small business. Of course, that’s not the total solution.
If we want fewer people on public assistance, we must, as a society, provide more opportunity and support. We must stop the narrative that those on public assistance must be drug addicts or lazy. Would you be so bold as to call our men and women in uniform lazy? More than 10% of food stamp recipients are military families.
Projects of a false reality.
Living Your Truth
There is nothing wrong with living your truth. There’s nothing wrong with holding your own personal beliefs. However, it’s your truth. You’re reading this from an Internet connection. You are somewhere with electricity or you have a smart phone. Maybe you’re in your house and you’ve just finished a meal. Maybe you’re making plans for a trip or just the weekend. Within a five minute drive from you, someone is hungry. Within a ten minute drive from you, there’s a family wondering how they’ll pay the rent or electricity or water because mom or dad or grandma or grandpa were laid off or had a medical situation they had no control over. Within 15 minutes of you, if not closer, there’s someone on the street without a coat or sweater. Or water. Or food. Your truth is not their truth. Their truth is not your truth. It does not invalidate either truth.
With the American dream centering on the ideas of hope and success, it’s up to everyone of us to provide opportunities to others. It can be as easy as buying a bag of groceries for someone you know or for a food pantry. It can be as easy as donating your time to a worthy organization. It can be as easy as modeling supportive behavior to your family as you reach out to others. It can be as easy as making it a priority in our individual lives to drop the catch 22s and the requirements we have for others to meet our standards before we deem them worthy for help.