I scribbled a while back that when I was younger I was always somebody’s or something’s someone. This heavy reliance on reference for identity is quite apparent in my homeland, where we introduce ourselves almost always as parts of something bigger, more established, and/or more renowned. I suppose it is a great way to get instant credibility and notice, but growing up in the Western world, I was never really comfortable with this notion.
For one, you are not judged for who you are as an individual, but rather as a miniature figure of whatever you belong to. Any individuality you may show has the danger of being taken as anomalies, so you consciously or unconsciously tend towards conformity to avoid being kicked out of the flock. And when it is as homogeneous a flock as it is in my homeland, even a Western-raised individual like me do not wish to stand out (pun intended!).
And two, your reputation precedes you, so you never really have to fight for it once you are put on the right track. You do not compete with others to earn your position… it is reserved for you, if you have the reputation that suits the seat. There is no sense of achievement, but no one seems to care because the assurance of a good life (whatever that is) is more important, whichever way it comes.
But it raises great caution in me that my people think in this way.
Maybe I worry because they do not see the flip side to it – that if you do not have the reputation, or you have gained notoriety, there is only devastation ahead of you. Just one slip-up, one mistake, one failure and you are off the track forever.
But these are the greatest opportunities from which people can learn and change for the better. So essentially, by not allowing to fail even once, we are taking away precious moments for growth as individuals. Not to mention the pressure we are putting on to never ever fail!
And maybe I worry because they are building the education system, the society, and the lives of our young minds in accordance with it. Good school, good job, good pay, good life – good you. Anything else and you are no good.
But such imposed goodness severely hinders the dynamics of our population. If we only have people of same beliefs and aspirations and values, it is inevitable that we as a society will have difficulties adjusting to changing times, with increasing diversity and globalization. Not to mention the difficulties we will have with people who cannot decide for themselves what is good and what is not, and will not be accountable for the consequences of their actions!
Now, I may be taking the whole matter to an extreme. I know as a grown-up that not everyone thinks this way and there are always exceptions. You can find somewhere your way out and someone who will help you if you widen your view and keep looking. But to the younger minds with confined worlds and circumscribed network of people and constricted vision, everything probably appears this extreme.
Then, maybe it is time we stopped giving out slates blackened with imposed goodness. Let us start blank, so that our tabula rasa’s will be allowed the time needed to find out for themselves what dreams they want to draw and gain experience first-hand in how they wish to draw. And let us not forget to tell them that, if it does not make them feel good they can always start over, as many times as they please just by wiping clean the slate.