A Question of Future 2
A Question of Future 2
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
Society seems to have lost its connection with itself. Community does not hold the same importance that it used to. Today we are so tied up with accumulation that we rarely even know our neighbours beyond our immediate vicinity. Community has all but vanished, and one reason that has attributed much to this unfortunate reality is fear. Today we are bombarded with visions of crime and conflict, and we have lost faith in people. We don’t trust any more and that truth has affected our attitudes towards issues of not only security and safety, but also human interaction. We carefully choose our friends and those whom we deal with in business and on a social level. This insidious negative conditioning has delivered us to a world where no-one is trusted until they have proven that they can be.
How few people will stop for a broken down car on the side of the road, worrying that they could be in danger? How many polite drivers do you find on the roads, willing to give way to you and perhaps add a few seconds to their own journey as a consequence? We have become lost in a world of fear and mistrust. It may in some ways be warranted, given the escalating crime and conflict, but the problem is that if we continue to feed this monster of fear, we simply propagate the current reality.
Community is a concept that should be encouraged and one that can help overcome the fears and build a confidence and pro-active interest in those whom we share life on a day-to-day basis. Sharing is the key to embracing those individuals who tread our streets, buy from our vendors and whose experiences are on many levels much like our own. Community itself encourages family and recognises it as the base living cell of our society. It is a collection of families, who mutually share living and positive goals about how they want the community to look, how it should work, be secure and prosper so families have a more positive and safer environment.
These days, we cast a vote for local politicians whose job it is to represent our wishes. But in all honesty, most of us know little about the people for whom we vote and apart from the process of election, we rarely have any contact or say in what happens in our community. So why is this? We are exhausted from working to preserve our wealth and comfort, and simply couldn’t be bothered to take part. We simply let the politicians do what they do, what they are paid for. But without our much-needed input, just whom are they representing?
Again, our inaction has created a community without us being a part of it. Everything has broken down because of our priorities. Because we have chosen money and amassing material accoutrements and status, we have unconsciously cast aside what are important- family, community and society as a whole. Our apathy is the root cause of what is now happening with governments, churches and the like. We cannot sit back and expect the community we want without, one, having a say in it, and two, taking some responsibility and action toward the changes that need to be made.
Democracy can only be as good as the number of people who voice their opinions in support of it, and the process for which it stands. Without the real input of the masses, we are relying on the politicians to take care of business, take on the burden and deliver the goods. This is where the problems begin. Without our vigilance and a clearer form of political accountability, how can we expect our wishes to be fulfilled? Is this scenario acceptable to you? Are you prepared to trust those so-called squeaky-clean orators of the ‘Blarney’? I sure as hell am not, not the way it is right now.
The only way to change the current system, is to keep those politicians honest and see what they’re doing and why. We need to be interested in our community and to use the power that has been granted us. We need to care for our neighbours and take an active part in events and issues about our community. Sitting back has never been a solution to change and now, with all the current upheaval with crime, break-ins, gang warfare, drug and alcohol abuse, our participation is needed more than ever.
In this new model of democracy, I believe the local councils and associated politicians should have a broader agenda within the community, being the only governmental system apart from Federal. Politicians should be involved in all aspects of government process and change, both as the community representative and as resident, leading their community by example. Having politicians locked away in council chambers is no longer enough and under this new democratic model these politicians will be the face of community and those responsible for daily life within each municipality. In essence, this is supposed to be the present circumstance. But this is not a perfect world and without our scrutiny, many politicians have become lost in their personal motivation for service.
So, I believe that community should be rebuilt, with a hands-on group of councillors taking part in all aspects of life within their given areas. Community residents must take part and become more involved within the community structure and a strong family emphasis is a fundamental part of that development. By working on supporting the family unit and then extending that into community, we will have moved positively toward a healthier society. And with stronger values and with a sound support network we will have the base in which to deal with today’s ever-increasing social problems.
In a society where fear has been an ever-present influence, we have to some extent become intolerant of everything that is foreign or not understood. With fear as our guide we can so easily barricade ourselves behind an impenetrable wall, in an attempt to protect ourselves against the unknown. In this way our fear has led us to mistrust anything or anyone that is not of our own belief. This judgement has done nothing but promote the fear of race, religion and creed, and has eventually segregated the world further and further.
As technology has brought the opportunity of interaction and solidarity, fear has parted us, caused us to create division and develop mistrust. We are overwhelmed with visions of crime, of religious hatred and political conflict, and as a consequence form an opinion of particular religions, cultures or politics. But in reality, what we see is only one representation of the truth, one account of reality through one viewpoint. One cannot form an honest opinion after witnessing but a few criminals, or extremists acting out some twisted agenda. Surely we cannot judge an entire race, the devotees of any religion, or a political ideal from the actions of a few lunatics? But this is exactly what is happening.
Those who have survived the Second World War brought back with them a certain view of their enemy. For example, in New Guinea and various parts of South-East Asia many allied prisoners of war experienced the cruelty of their Japanese captors and understandably returned home with an innate hatred for the Asian race. This intolerance was quite often handed down to their children, thus propagating racism. The Holocaust is another circumstance that has procreated racial hatred. These examples are extreme and one can understand that such circumstances would require much time to heal the wounds. But there is a lesson here, and we should be learning from it. Hatred and war create nothing but death and misery, and judging a few and blaming the race, religion or whatever simply continues the misery.
Difference does not mean better or worse, right or wrong, and should be at least respected. Freedom to pursue what life has to offer, is surely what all human races should be afforded. To segregate, judge and limit someone else’s ideals is to accept it being done in return, as a consequence. Tolerance is therefore the answer to a balanced and peaceful world solution. Dividing the world in any way will continue to create disharmony. It is time that we, each one of us, take responsibility for our own views and not adhere to what the group dictates. Tolerance is in our hearts and I believe, is the way toward peaceful solutions, not only to our communities’ social problems, but also toward a harmonious world.
Intolerance is an effortless road. It is so easy to believe and agree to the negative, to be an ally to your own kind and run with the crowd. Haven’t we heard this before?
-‘Those damned Asians are taking over the country!’
-‘Bloody South Africans, they’re so arrogant!’
-‘Blacks? They’re all drunks! Can’t trust em!’
-‘He’s a rude pig! He must be French!’
These kinds of statements are so flippantly used that they can become a part of our thinking, and unconsciously we can become part of the problem. Before spurting out the next cliche we should perhaps look at where it has come from and decide that we would rather be a part of the solution and not promote this racism. Change must come and it is our responsibility to initiate and to begin a new positive cycle.
One trigger for our intolerance is stress. We live in a fast paced world, where much is expected of us and the pressures of daily life are far greater than they used to be. Because of this, many of us live on the edge, ready to snap at any point of conflict. Behaviour on the road has become an ugly and insidious problem that demonstrates this reality. We have become intolerant of aged drivers, young drivers, Volvo drivers or just about anyone who does something to annoy us on the road. Of course, we ourselves do, have done or will do, all that these drivers do to enrage us, but at the time that is not so clear. I have always adhered to the principle that if you are courteous to other drivers, you’ll get the same consideration back. For me this work fine and rarely do I come across rage on the roads. Mind you there are always exceptions.
So I suggest that we practice tolerance on the road as an exercise. If we can keep our cool there, I think that we will be on our way to accepting tolerance. As they say, a journey begins with a single step.
One social change that has impacted on society, because of technology and the nature of our competitive world, is the personal need to conform to the high standards that are being portrayed to us as normal. This driven need to not only fit in, but to be seen to be keeping up and to strive for perfection, has created a whole new set of socials problems. Anorexia, Bulimia, Depression, Neuroses and a plethora of psychological disorders are but a few ramifications of this unrealistic presentation of perfection.
What we see in advertisements, films and television is so manufactured to appear perfect, that we by comparison, can seem far less than acceptable. Models, actors and media personalities, the people that we admire and look up to, are often in reality so doctored and misrepresented that our perception of reality can become distorted and our expectations all but impossible.
Those faces we see on the front of fashion and women’s magazines are sometimes 10% photograph and 90% artwork. Bathing beauties are often elongated, their hips trimmed using computer programs and given that perfect tan with the touch of a key. Reality has little to do with most of what we see and perceiving what is normal for a human being to look like, is like thinking that Homer Simpson is one of your neighbours. You may have seen the article about Jamie Lee-Curtis, who deliberately had her photograph taken without make-up or any tricks. People were horrified to see what this young woman looks like without all the technological support. She made a statement and it proved a point
So is it technology that has a lot to answer for, or is it society itself that has taken self-image to a new and disastrous level? The fact remains that it is we who buy the magazines, who watch the shows and buy tickets to see the movies. Technology has simply glossed over the stark reality to glorify the human form and to use aesthetics to sell. It always gets back to dollars doesn’t it? Look at this investment- between 1998 and 1999 magazine sales in Australia increased by a phenomenal 70% to a sale value of more than $420,000,000. The irony is that we, who support these images by buying the magazines, can be so negatively affected by their nature.
These ridiculous expectations have created human beings that have to live with constant failure, not being able to attain the represented model for looks, ability, wealth, personal success and the like. With the pressures that are placed on all of us these days, it is no wonder that we have so many psychological problems in our society. We are all internally confused about our roles, our responsibilities, what is expected of us and how best we fit in to a society that is in a constant state of flux. The images that we are continually being presented with, and the bar being so constantly raised, has created a new generation of people unsure about how to deal with the world before them. The huge increases in youth related health issues and even suicide are a testament to the pressures of life today. The stresses that are being experienced by our children are tremendous and should be looked at and dealt with far more than they have been.
Depression among the young is a frightening reality that is ever increasing and can lead to dysfunctional adult lives and even suicide. As I have stated before, with 90% of youth suicides, some form of mental illness is present, and a large percentage of that is depression disorders. Our children are directed into their relevant study streams and secondary education, but are they being taught enough about real life, about their feelings, how to handle stress and the complex world they are about to embrace? From what I can see, they are not to any extent. In fact, I believe that more than in any time in history, our children are far less prepared to be able to deal with what will confront them in life. The current social problems associated with youth, including drug abuse, gang violence, rape, general crime and high dropout rates suggest this lack of readiness.
Of course, all kids are not going to fall by the wayside, but with increasing numbers leaving school without the benefit of completed education, and in fact with many even classed as illiterate, one has to question the system. More and more are slipping through the cracks, and what is being done to help them? UNESCO as well as the World Bank has undertaken many studies on literacy, globally. Over the last ten years in America the figures for illiteracy have only fallen by 1.2%. Parents blame school systems, schools blame state and federal funding, legislators are demanding different curricula, and educational authorities claim that parents and caregivers should take more responsibility for literacy. Even worse, findings in Australia deemed that almost half the adult population can be expected to have difficulty coping with the information processing of everyday life. If you take away the most obvious negative literacy indicators like migrants not speaking English, you still get 14% of English speaking people operating at this same low-level of literacy.
In summary UNESCO found that nearly one quarter of all 16-65 year-olds in the world’s richest countries are functionally illiterate. That one piece of information must tell you that there’s something wrong with the systems of education. The National Institute of Literacy has also announced that more than 113 million children worldwide have no access to primary education, something with which we in the ‘lucky country’ must be appalled.
Many teenagers in our so-called developed societies be more worried about wearing the right ‘brand’ clothing, than passing an exam that could eventually affect the rest of their lives. What does that say about our society and the pressures placed on our children? Again, the barrage of advertising that is directed at our youth is relentless, and image is one key factor that is continually being reaffirmed as all important. You’re not ‘cool’ if you don’t wear this or smell like that, or you won’t get the girls if you don’t drink this or do that. These assertions are ridiculous and for a teenager, who is in an emotional state of flux, these images of whom you should be, how you should act and what you should do, are akin to brainwashing. It is like an indoctrination into a ‘lost society’.
Many kids are beginning to think that these superficial focuses are far more important than relationships, family, education and a viable future, leaving them slaves to a false god called ‘image’. Then, when pressures are placed on these children to attain scholastic results, they find themselves wanting, having been lost in an unrealistic world. Feeling constant failure is not what a pubescent teenager needs. They need encouragement, understanding and a firm hand to give their fanciful thinking some parameters.
It’s a scary world out there, competitive, stressful and offering no promises. Combine that with pressure from all sides of the equation and you end with many kids that are scared ‘shitless’ of the future. So what is to be done about this ever-increasing problem?
Like all solutions to social problems, the work must start from ground level. Parents must be more aware of what their children are facing and guide them intelligently through these tender years of development. The world must be put into some perspective, and parents cannot leave it to television and film to do that. The models for behaviour, respect and action must come from parents and not friends, rock stars or TV. Communication is the answer and these lines of communication must be clear and open between parents and children for there to be an understanding of the problems confronting society.
I believe the education system as it stands, is a long way from the mark as far as guiding children toward both employment and a favourable role within society. The skills needed to deliver confident and positive youth into society at large are not being taught within the education system. At least what is being taught is far from satisfactory for children growing up in such a competitive and hostile world. Self-image should be developed by learning about yourself and the world and being able to function positively and with confidence. Self-image should have nothing to do with products and unrealistic portrayals of how we should be.
As far as governments are concerned, they do little to arrest these social problems, allowing advertisers too much scope when it comes to what they can present. School curriculums need developing and life skills need to be further added to the educational mix. There needs to be a massive initiative, not only to children but to all Australians, about the stresses that are affecting so many of our population. Government needs to be more concerned about health issues and the issues that negatively impact on our country’s production. Issues like ‘depression’, ‘youth suicide’ and ‘mental illness’ need to be further addressed and further programmes funded. Back in the 80’s governments began to close down psychiatric hospitals and residential institutions, stating that much more humane forms of community-based care would replace them. These promises were never kept. All that has happened is that to the governments, these patients are now invisible- ‘out of sight and out of mind’. Rates of severe psychological distress among adults have increased more than half- from 8.2% in 1997, to 12.6% in 2001. Rates continue to escalate, particularly with young people. Now in Australia, some 20% of adults and 14% of children and teenagers experience mental health problems each year. It has been estimated that 62% of people with psychological disorders do not utilise mental health services. Reasons include fear of treatment, the cost of practitioners, and stigmas associated with mental illness. It is further believed that less than 1 in 6 people with depression and anxiety disorders receive adequate medical treatment. Even GPs are becoming less of an option because of changes in cost and up-front fees. Attitudes have to change.
Today’s living brings its own unique set of problems and many of them can be prevented. Education and strong lines of communication from a government who cares far less about votes now and more about whom we can be tomorrow, is needed.
The Cost of Modern Living
I believe that living today is neither easier nor harder than it has ever been. The reality is simply that circumstances are unique, each age offering a new set of advantages and challenges. In the 21st century, and in the so-called free world, technology has taken over our lives and more than in any other era, many of us live within an unyielding cycle of self-imposed financial striving. We value comfort and acquisition far greater than any other aspect of living, leaving the reality of our existence far less clear in our own eyes. The competitiveness of the world has taught us not just to better ourselves but to be better than everyone else.
Being flawed beings we have unconsciously become results oriented only, not understanding the value of process. Sure, our intentions may be honourable- wanting a better future for our families, a bigger more comfortable house, an easier road for our kids. But what has been the cost of our striving, our incessant struggle for wealth and stature? Ironically, it is family.
Succumbing to the false need of ever-advancing technology, trying to keep up with peers and maintaining the dictated ‘image’ we suffer through money hungry advertisers and corporate marketeers, is all too common within our so-called advanced society. Basically we have lost the plot.
We wonder why there is a breakdown in communication with our youth, when we as a race have chosen to spend nearly all of our time acquiring wealth rather than talk to our kids.
Remember when your kids were young and you’d buy them a really expensive present, only to see them play with the box the present came in, for hours and hours. Why didn’t we learn from that? Kids don’t want a real rocket ship- they want too fruit boxes stuck together, the real adventure living in their minds. What they will become in life can depend on how they use their imagination, the process of creative thought that can elevate us all to great heights. Yet we take away this opportunity because we think our kids should have a PS3 or a Game Cube, just like their friends do.
To me, my family is my only real priority. Work and my personal aspirations are important of course, but compared with my relationships with my wife and kids, they pale into insignificance.
Life itself does not demand affluence and nor do your kids, even if they tell you different. Surely, all they want is to be loved, to be safe and healthy, and to have the opportunity to follow their own dreams. Of course, one has to survive and therefore earn money and contribute to society, but what we need is balance between what we need to do and what we want to do. I’m not saying that striving for financial goals is in any way wrong, but if we are compromising our own family in any way doing so, I believe that our priorities are misguided. What often happens in life, is when we refuse to look at something, we get a solid tap on the shoulder. For example, how many stories have you heard about the workaholic businessman who has a heart attack and completely turns his life around, suddenly realising different priorities.
Unfortunately, being so caught up in the hectic lives that we lead, many of us don’t see what we’re doing until it is too late. The kids want, want, want, because it is what they are accustomed to getting from parents just keeping the kids off their backs, and from marketeers who want their dollars. Do you realise the advertising aimed at our youth? They want it and the parents pay for it, even if they have to do overtime to get it. There’s a big imbalance there and you don’t have to look far to see it.
It is all about priority and learning to attain some balance in life. The problem in the 21st century is that we are constantly confronted with carrots on a stick. They are enticing us to have this or that- conform to some image or generally to fit in to what is being portrayed as acceptable or necessary in our society. The real problem is that much of this so-called conformity is unnecessary, and is more about people filling their coffers with gold.
The price we can pay in this century is losing hold of our real priorities and becoming lost amid the stress and pressure of modern living. Reassessment is the only answer I believe, and to open the line of communication with those whom we love. For it is they who will make our lives complete, not money, nor property nor power.