I woke up this morning and had a flash thought about the people that surround me and their motivations and assumptions. While I was working, I was usually in a group that had the same scope of concerns; they had different jobs and different responsibilities, but we were all concerned with earning a buck, getting ahead, and taking care of our families. We all were in the American system of earning our way along and, if asked, I would have said that I was primarily concerned with meeting my responsibilities to God, myself, my family and my country; that is how I was raised, and I had no reason to either question or change that attitude.
Discussions of anything other than business were entertainment and a way to get away from business concerns for a bit. There wasn't enough time to be concerned about more than your financial situation, your family and, usually, your kids behavior. I was aware that there were people out there who were spending that same kind of time and exerting the same kind of intensity on politics and developing groups for a variety of purposes, but didn't spend a lot...if any...time thinking about their motivations and challenges or even the choices they were making. I was, of necessity, compartmentalized; I don't multi-task well. I do "bookmark' very well; I can stop on one item and move immediately to another need, then return at full speed to the first task without missing a beat. I always envied how most women I know can seem to do 5 things simultaneously...it is amazing.
But...I digress. What struck me this morning was that every person in public office, whether elected or appointed, and every person seeking such a position believes in doing good...especially those who successfully get elected or appointed. Really! I do not question their dedication to doing good things. So...how come (I asked myself) that I am so disgusted with the performance...the actions...of those paragons of virtue that hold positions of high public trust (well, maybe not so high at the current time...but you get my point!)?
My mental response was..."they believe they have some special insight and/or gift that gives themselves a special vision of 1)what will improve the lives of others and the world, and 2)a special ability to make their first belief become reality." That is the motivation. It is honest. It is almost devoutly held, and extremely sincere. There is no question in my mind about that. And yet...these people continue to infuriate me with their assumptions of truth, honesty and goals that do not merely not align with mine...but actually interfere with mine. My goodness...how can that be? They are righteously motivated; so am I. Yet we are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Why?
My reasoning suggests that it is all about two major areas.
The first is definitions. I define terms a certain way. Words have clear meaning in my mind, emotions and even in my soul. I can not always predict when something is "good" or "bad", but as a Supreme Court Justice once wrote when discussing pornography, "I cannot define it, but I know it when I see or read it." And so it is with me...and I would bet it is the same with most of you. And over the years I have discovered that those with whom I disagree define things differently; "good", "bad", "right", "wrong", "freedom", "privacy", "morality", "immorality", among many others, have different definitions for those with whom I disagree than what I mean when I use them. Heck, in some cases they don't even have some of those words in their dictionaries...there is no acceptance of even the concept. Most of them believe in power as a good thing and which is appropriately used to control others, as well as to defend themselves. I totally disagree, but at least it is an honest disagreement.
What it makes clear to me is that I totally oppose the definitions that my disagreeable co-inhabitants of the town, county, state, country and world hold...but that doesn't make them bad people. I totally believe that their goals and beliefs are bad, but the people themselves aren't...unless they pose an immediate threat to me, my family or our collective freedom.
But we all have to deal with this state of affairs. It is annoying that we don't have unity of purpose, means and process by acclimation...but that is life. We deal with it. And my view keeps me from being a "hater" and tends, with a few exceptions, to keep me focused on discussing issues rather than insulting individuals or groups.
Remember that I earlier mentioned that there were two major areas leading to the contrariness that we endure?
The second one is a bit more...how shall I describe it..."Buddhist" or "Freudian" in nature: focusing on solving perceived problems in the world around us provides a welcome excuse to neither admit nor work on remedial work on our own selves and our own lives. It is much easier to focus on and to see solutions for things around us that we see as "wrong" or that "need improvement." I can help my friends solve their problems, both personal and work-related, quite well; I have an objective ability when dealing with others and others' life decisions that I find particularly difficult, if not impossible, to employ when looking at my own life, my own decisions, and my own experiences. It is hard work. It is distasteful...even nasty. I don't want to go there. I especially don't want to go there publicly....and by that I include my spouse or family. It is too sensitive an area to deal with in the first place without the "help" of others. Frankly, I was unable to do this until I had been alone for several years and run out of other people on which to blame the events that were solely of my own creation.
So...it is tough. And it is made more avoidable by a life style in the United States that keeps most of us among people and besieged by ongoing multiple demands for our time, our judgment, and our actions. No excuse has to be made for not thinking about our existential being and motivations...there isn't time. Until you are retired...and then only occasionally...do we get to recognize, much less choose to look within and focus on our responsibility to ourselves for ourselves.
I do not think it is unrelated that so many of those who are and have been in public office have increasingly been revealed to have some fairly serious personal issues. We live longer these days...even with the stress. We can only hide from ourselves for so long. And when we can't hide any longer, it becomes increasingly hard to hide ourselves from others. And so, many of these people self-destruct in some way. Oh, it isn't always something "wrong" or "immoral". Sometimes it is just an embarrassment or what is euphemistically called "burnout."
My point is...that people who start believing in their "specialness"(yeah...a created word, but it works for me) should be required to...or at least questioned at length about...their inner journey; they should be required to publish the progress of their inner search for personal truth and existence. This would provide two very desirable results: first, it would take a long time to travel that inner road and negotiate all the twists and turns, thereby delaying the time spent by any individual in working to control and guide others; and, secondly, the reading of such a record would be invaluable to us in selecting those with whom we were about to place public trust.
At least that is the best that I can come up with today. Maybe I will reverse myself tomorrow.