I'm so far behind with my e-mail that I had to let this one simmer for
I feel a lot like you about "if there are no values...maybe I should just
"opt out" of the human race"... Someone wrote something like... (maybe it
was you-I've been in a production rush and am losing track of almost
everything) "Values are the one thing unique to humanity".
I see a constant struggle going on before my eyes between those holding to
values, and those who wish to dispense with them. It doesn't seem to
matter that the cause and effect relationship between action and result
are very well known. (example: sexual promiscuity results in unwanted
pregnancie, disease and the like. The "fun" of it seems to over ride
It seems that there is a determination among many to blind themselves to
the idea that values are anything to be concerned about. I'm not talking
about religion based values either, although that also comes into the mix.
Yesterday was independance day, I heard a lot of talk from many viewpoints
about freedom. It seems that to many, freedom in america is "freedom from
responsibility". "I can do what I want", or "nobody can tell me what to
do..." In this case, the value seems to have nothing to do with reality.
So if you adopt a set of values, it's ok if they quietly reside invisibly
in your head, but if they come out in the open where others can see them,
and they are in any way "different" from whatever it is that american
society at large believes, and you (brace yourself) dare to stand up for
your personal value, you can get seriously hurt. The one value that seems
to hold solidly is: if you have enough money, you can get, do or buy
enough legal support to make a successful stand, either that or if you are
poor, but can tell a satisfying sob story that the media can use to sell
newspapers with, then you can also make a stand.
One of the greatest "sins" in america is interfering with someones
freedom. This puts parents in particular in a very sticky situation. On
the one hand, society requires parents to control their children, and in
many places (where I live) a parent is often required to pay fines and
even go to jail for the crimes of their children (somehow this is
supposed to make the parents behave more responsibly), but... If the
parent raises a hand to confine, control or (god help you) discipline
your child... then you go to jail as a child abuser. Sounds like a set
of values that are at cross purposes with each other.
I know several families who are in desparate struggles and are losing
their property (kids walk in the house and take what they want), and
being fined and threatened by the authorities, and don't have a clue how
to get out of the situation (they just pray for the 18th birthday to come
Society says, "spanking a child is abuse" and there are many examples of
children who've been beaten to a pulp, left with serious physical and
emotional scars as a result of physical and mental attacks made on them by
parents. On the other hand, children have died by running into the street
because the parent can't impart any respect in them for the danger and are
prevented from resorting to making them afraid of their parents wrath,
until they gain enough maturity to understand WHY the parent said, "stay
out of the street". We want "nice children" who respect each other and
authority, Well how are they supposed to gain this respect? They need to
be taught. But if the parent has no way to enforce a standard or a value,
does that parent really have a chance of imparting values to the child?
On top of this, there are whole groups of people (those who were born
around World War II) who were taught very overtly that to discipline a
child was the right thing to do and they were being socially derelict if
they didn't (my parents were of this generation). Anyone born in the
1970's and later has been taught that to raise your hand, is evil. Those
of us born in between have (the transitional generation) have a confusing
mess to sort through because we were actively taught things from both
camps and now we don't know for sure if anything is true, or safe, or
I watch the news media playing on peoples emotions in this area of Values.
There have been sensationalize events where someone makes a dumb mistake
and they are portrayed as the most evil person on earth. The anger
towards that person may or may not be based on the truth, but we will
never know because the media coverage is pretty much "black or white" and
the emotional surge from the public pretty much judges the person in
question and facts don't really seem to matter. The focus on a value or
lack of value can be whipped up by the media, and ideas we once held as
normal are now painted as horrific. And of course the biggest element
missing is the idea that people are going to make mistakes if they are in
the process of learning. Isn't that one of the messages in the Learning
Organization liturature? "If you aren't making mistakes you are not
learning". Well some areas of life are not safe to make mistakes in.
A minister in a church I once attended used to ask: "Which is worse? For
a child to make a mistake when he or she is young, and experience the
results and learn from it, or should we protect our children from mistakes
until they are 18, when the "little" mistake results in their wrapping a
car around a telephone pole-and they wake up dead? No one can learn about
the results of their decisions without the experience of making decisions.
Being able to think is both a value, a freedom and a discipline. Values
are in my eyes, not just lofty ideals that make our society pleasant, but
life and death issues that can make us or break us.
Allowing what I regard as "the low end" of human nature to define our
values (what you described as "slugging it out" or "Que sera, sera")
results in a value system that is based on "flavor of the month" and hype.
Certainly not on reality that we can measure and describe (like I tell my
young son... "the law of gravity applies to you too". If a value shifts
it's meaning every other day, then we are all villians. No matter how you
choose to live, sooner or later the shifting waves will mark you as a
violator. (if I sound a little hysterical-well I've been a little too
close to some of this "stuff" lately and it's causing me to wonder if life
in a communist country might not have some merit-at least there you know
what to expect-and if they kill you, at least you know why).
So Rol, I appreciate your thinking. I don't feel like quite such a lone
radical, that at least what I'm thinking about (or in this case-worried
about) isn't so far out in left field.
Michael Erickson <email@example.com>
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>