Just Another Word
March 30, 2009

We have become a lazy people.

I am not speaking about bloggers. I am not speaking about the U.S. Or the U.K. or Canada.

I'm speaking about a good portion of the Western world.

Chances are this is not really a new thing. I probably shouldn't have said "become" a lazy people as I'm fairly certain this is not a new trend by any means.

I think, however, that with the increased emphasis on the concepts of "freedom" and "democracy," we've perverted those terms into something meaning "I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do." We seem to have lost sight that freedom is a responsibility not to ourselves to make ourselves as happy as possible, but a responsibility to build a community.

Naturally, I'm not talking about everyone, and of course, it's difficult to talk in generalities because there are always exceptions. I'm one of those people who as soon as I hear a declarative "This is the way a thing is," I'm looking for the exception to prove that sentence is not fully true. Oppositional, I suppose. So I'm going to admit up front this is not true for every single person nor even every country in the Western world.

But I think it is a large enough trend to be concerned. We have taken a few phrases that we like of political rhetoric surrounding freedom and democracy and turned them into an excuse to do what we want when we want. Furthermore, what many have learned from genuine efforts to create good self-esteem in children and young people is: I am most important; my happiness is most important; I can do anything I want to do; I should do anything I want to do; if you do something to inhibit my attempts to do what pleases me, you're against freedom and against democracy and probably a terrorist to boot.

While many of those statements are true, they are only true to a certain degree. Yes, I am pretty darn important to myself - but I don't live in a vacuum. If my happiness involves something against the law, how can my happiness be "most important"? It might be most important to me, but obviously the community in which I live thinks my happiness is not so important. If, for example, my happiness involves seeing how much stuff I can swipe without getting caught - things are not going to go well for me. I'm damaging the community around me. I'm not respecting the happiness of those around me.

Naturally, that's an extreme version. A smaller one (and one that is actually true rather than hypothetical) is I enjoy listening to my music rather loudly. A lot of us find happiness in that. It can be rather exuberant to lose yourself in the moment, own it.

But your freedom to listen to your music as loudly as you want might just interfere with your neighbor's freedom to live in a peaceful, quiet surrounding.

We have a responsibility to balance our freedom to do what makes us happy with the compromise required to live in community.

It's not just unfair to tell your neighbors, "You knew when you signed the lease on the apartment that I listened to loud music. If you don't like it, leave." It's not just unfair, it's irresponsible. You do not have the freedom to cause unhappiness in your neighbors.

I think we often forget that. We've become so centered on the individual that we want a political candidate to talk TO US. To OUR issues.

Really, though, politics is not about one candidate or one politician. Well, it shouldn't be anyway. Politics should not be about the individual, it should be about finding a way to build community. It should be about knowing there will be compromises - many of which we feel impinge upon our happiness because it's not exactly what we want.

And here's the really tricky part. Building community, understanding that politics is about compromise, does not mean that we don't speak up when we don't agree with what's happening or what is being decided. But there should be a balance between working for change and just being pissy that we didn't get our way.

We have to decide to act and to be proactive ... not simply react. Not simply whine, I'm unhappy. After all, everything is amazing. But we focus on what is not making us happy. We focus on the crappy economy, on our crappy jobs, on not having enough stuff, on not having enough space for our stuff, on how we're not appreciated for the wonderful human beings that we know we are ... but are we appreciating those around us? Are we appreciating the stuff we do have?

Or are we reacting because that's how we've been taught to live our lives? React to the news, react to the economy, react to people who have just absolutely FORCED us to not be as happy as we could.

Take some time today to appreciate someone who doesn't get enough appreciation. The person in the cube farm who's always so quiet. The crossing guard helping the kids across the street and who always holds you up when you're running late EVERY morning. (Because you know, it's sooooo the crossing guard's fault that you're late and they know it and they're obviously not helping the children get across the street safely, they're obviously out to get YOU.)

Hell, even your boss. Take one minute to act with deliberation today and appreciate just one person whom you usually complain about or don't even notice. Decide to foster community and decide to help someone else pursue a little happiness.

Live deliberately today and remember that yes, you do have the freedom to tell your neighbor to move if they don't like your loud music - but you also have the common sense to remember your responsibilities to live in community with others.

It's not all about you.

Posted by Red Monkey at March 30, 2009 5:19 AM | Blog | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Trish said:

Very thoughtful post - gave me some pause - and that's a good thing. I think you brought up the one important thing - it is NOT all about us -
I really liked this - it's one of those things that's gonna stick in my mind all day - and that's also a good thing!


March 30, 2009 9:14 AM


Anonymous said:

Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and conflict; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths...

April 8, 2009 5:58 PM
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