“Without stirring abroad, one can know the whole world; without looking out the window, one can see the way of heaven.“
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (Book II – XLVII)
“Is this on the test?” is probably one of the most down heartening things you hear as a teacher. This fixation with testing is destroying education and personal growth. We’re creating a series of people unable to apply their knowledge, or to even understand what they’re talking about.
Unfortunately, the above tallies with the values of the society we’ve conceived. I could be described as a utopian anarchist, like Tolstoy without the religious connotations. Sadly it is not something I ever expect to happen within my lifetime, I’m not daft. The values of society define who we are, condition us into performing in a certain manner, but it doesn’t exist in isolation. You can change the world around you.
What we need, with respect to the world, is an understanding that for humanity to thrive, we have to ensure a basic standard of living for everyone, not simply through the luck of where you were born.
The society you live in allows you (in general) to enjoy the fortune you were given and it’s only right that we should all provide proportionately to make sure it remains stable and something we can all both respect and admire. Wealth is losing the respect it once had, the numbers are moving beyond the imagination.
The rest of the world can see us through the window of the internet, they can see the standard of living we enjoy and they want to come in. But we complain about them and blame them for all ills when they do. Globalization, the internet, social media and the improved technology is blowing the world open. We have to consider more than ourselves; try as we might to protect our resources and ensure our tribe thrives, the situation is becoming intolerable for those who are excluded. Both internally and externally.
Before we can even contemplate a more truer [anarchic] freedom, we have to rein in our excesses. I’m a big admirer of Henry Thoreau. Now there’s a man who understood balance!
Marxism has become somewhat outdated in the west; the switch from manual labour to office based work muddied the concept of the working class. During this process (~30 years), people in their confusion believed this would be an end to fixed work lives (they were right, to their misfortune), that they could be the masters of their destiny (they were wrong). Mass education flowered, universities thrived and people chose courses based on poor advice “Do what brings you happiness, because you’ll do it well“.
Even the working classes bought into this and did degrees in non-essential subjects, wracking up the worst thing in the world when you’re at the bottom of the pile: debt. It was Caveat Emptor, but to those working class who lacked decent advice from parents who’d long given up on education as a viable route to mobility, they didn’t know better. They have their responsibilities and will pay the debt, but will remain embittered about the experience.
We compounded this with rampant consumerism, an ideal far beyond the boundaries of most people’s pay packets. If you can’t keep up, you lose. The inability to be what society expects is where this inchoate anger (and rising mental illness) is coming from that the Trumps of the world are capitalising on. We’re a long way from Thoreau’s peaceful wilderness now.
Always keep digging, looking for the answers. Society is amorphous and it needs good people to shape it.