Jan 28 2014

An Evolving Checklist for the Next Generation

‘Old men like to offer good advice in order to console themselves for no longer being in a position to give bad examples’ (François de La Rochefoucauld)

My son just turned two years old not long ago.

He is starting to assert his independence, and while it is challenging at times, I couldn’t be happier for him. This has to be exciting for him, and sometimes I can almost see the little neural networks forming in his head.

I didn’t plan to be a father.  In fact, due to complications, he was born significantly earlier than we expected. I will probably write about this at some point (I still hit PTSD-induced blocks when trying to put it in writing), but for now, I’ve been reflecting on what values I want to instill in him. If I was to write my own version of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, to pass on to him, what would it look like?

I find myself in the uncomfortable place of dis-identifying as a Leftist. I certainly support the aims and goals that the Left aspires to (I’m not about to go join the Heritage Foundation, or suddenly vote Republican), but in practice, I see too many self-contradictions and things that either don’t work, or don’t add up. (See Destroying the Village in Order to Save It, for example).  In all honesty, as much as I am loathe to appear to endorse him or his actions, I think Ted Kaczynski has at least a few points in his Critiques of the Left section of The Unabomber Manifesto. Am I advocating that mailing pipe bombs is a good idea?  Hell no. But I think if the Left were to take a moment of honest self-appraisal, it would see that his comments – while biting – are not without accuracy at times.

If the Right lost the plot long ago (which, I think most of them have), and the Left seems hellbent on throwing the plot away (which I think most of them are intent on doing through endless self-flagellation), what do I tell my son is morally and ethically right?

Maybe I’m getting old (or, maybe I’ve been in California too long), but I’m becoming increasingly of the opinion that no one “side” has all the answers.  Trying to conform facts and reality to ideology is a waste of time.  This is something that both sides are guilty of. Yes, they are. Shut up. Additionally, I can no longer in good faith stand by and agree to any theory that posits that every single human interaction is based in oppression and domination. It is nihilistic, and does not take into account the beautiful complexity of life. As Dr. Candida Moss says,

 It turns disagreement into a struggle for survival with an innocent ‘us’ pitted against a hateful ‘them.’ This polarizing view of the world not only makes it impossible to have meaningful dialogue and collaboration, but it can also be used to legitimize violence against others in the name of “self-defense.”

This is a work in progress, but if my son were to approach me right now, and say “Hey Dad, what do you believe?” this is how I would answer.  This is what I would tell him is important in life.  I will be elaborating on each of these themes in coming posts, as I see fit. I don’t claim to be expert at any of these things. But that doesn’t mean he and I can’t learn together.

PRIDE:

Pride in who you are. Pride in where you come from. Who are your ancestors? What did they do so you could be here? Where did they come from? Why did they leave? Do not let anyone make you feel bad for being who you are. You are not responsible for the ills in the world. You are only responsible for the ills you perpetrate. There is no guilt by association – do not believe those who would condemn you because you look a certain way, believe certain things, or love who you are (see RESPECT, and also give others these same benefits). Do not perpetrate ill, unless a situation calls for it. These situations, while rare, do exist. Think twice, and carefully diagram the reasoning behind vengeance. Consider the cost/benefit ratio. Sleep on it. Sleep on it for seven days. If your heart still burns for vengeance, be careful in how you execute it. Ask yourself if the object of your vengeance could do a better job destroying themselves than you could. 99.9999999999999999% of the time, this is the case.

RESPECT:

Respect yourself. Respect others. Respect those who deserve respect, and don’t waste your time with those who do not. If they mistreat you, take appropriate action. Don’t start fights, but be prepared to finish them. Know when it is wiser to walk away. Everybody is entitled to one freebie. Just as you would be respected by others, offer the same respect to them; even if it is not immediately forthcoming from them. Be the bigger person, but also know when to cut your losses. Be prepared to let them go (see PROVISIONAL ALLIANCES). Respect the land, and its inhabitants. If you find yourself away from home, respect and honor the traditions of those you are visiting. Know your own history, and know the histories of others. You can never know enough history. The more you know, the easier it is to respect.

FAIRNESS:

Be fair in your dealings with others. Expect and demand fairness in return. There are no zero-sum games. Everyone has a chance to prove themselves. You do not get a ribbon, however, simply for showing up. Equality of opportunity – not outcome. Genuinely support the attempts of others. Know and respect your own limitations.

SELF-INQUIRY:

Be open to self-analysis. Could you have handled a bad situation differently? Is an apology in order? If so, make it. Just as you may have had to let people go, others may feel that they need to let you go. Ask yourself why that is. Be objective. Be critical. Be equally prepared to understand that it may be something you did, or it may be them. Sometimes what may seem like a loss may not be one after all.

RESPONSIBILITY:

Take ownership of your actions. Admit to mistakes, and take pride in accomplishments.

PROVISIONAL ALLIANCES:

Almost every alliance you form is ultimately temporary. Some will be permanent. It is my hope that you find true love with a partner of your choosing, and that love you provide him/her will be equally returned to you. You will know when you find this person. You will learn how to not be deceived. Know, too, that organizations, ideologies, and belief systems do not love you. They are using you. You can use them, too, and ally yourself with them (and certainly join up with them if you agree with them!) Ally yourself with them provisionally, however. Know when their usefulness has expired, and apply the same inquiry you apply to yourself, to them. If an organization, ideology, or belief system you subscribe to does not follow the criteria I’ve listed above, it doesn’t serve you. Actions speak louder than words. Hold any group you join to high standards.

EMBRACE PARADOX – QUESTION AUTHORITY:

Why? Because I said so.

“Never stop learning, and always do a little more than you have to.” – Adele Gutsch Hunter

“Always read things you disagree with – otherwise you are not exercising your mind.” – Robert Anton Wilson

 

 

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