If society were a parent, it wouldn’t be a very good one. It would say ‘you must eat your greens’ then make you take an up-hill bike ride past a million fast food establishments to get to the greengrocer. When you get there, the green grocer has shut down because everyone got too hungry trying to get to him and just had a pizza instead.
If society were a parent it would be a mean one. It would tell you that you should exercise an hour a day and sleep for at least 8 but then make you drive for 90 minutes in order to work for 9 hours a day, spend 2 hours cooking and eating and another cleaning and tidying.
Once you’d done all that and were ready to get down to the exercise it had requested that you do, society would say ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. Don’t you have bills to pay? Have you rung your mum recently? When was the last time you read the kids a story?
If society were a parent, its advice would be ambiguous. It would tell you to be prudent with your finances and then sit you in front of a screen on which appears, message after message, telling you about all the things that it is VERY important for you to spend your money on.
If society were a parent it would be dishonest. It would tell you that you should always practice love and tolerance then present you with a barrage of information about who we should hate and why.
If society were a parent, it would be a dismissive one. Our children question us about everything and, as good parents, we welcome those questions because we know they are an important part of children’s development . Children hear what their parents have to say, they decide what they accept and what they want to reject and, in doing so, they grow into a unique individual. Are we encouraged, as adults, by society, to grow and develop in the same way or is it more important that we conform with the status quo?
Yet despite all of this we allow society to guide our behaviour and we teach our children to allow it to guide theirs? This is where I become confused because the plain truth is that ‘society’ is not an entity. It doesn’t think and reason, nor does it possess intuition. It is simply a sum of all the thinking, reasoning, feeling and intuitive knowing of it’s constituent people. So how can it be that we so often feel so controlled by it? Who is really in charge here?.
I propose that, just like a child needs conflict with it’s parents in order to grow, so society needs conflict within itself in order to develop. Let me explain by asking you to think about how much you have changed since your children came along. What extra fears and worried now inhabit your outlook on life? How differently do you do things? Maybe you eat a lot more healthily than you used to or engage a lot less, if at all, in habits such as binge drinking and smoking? Maybe you changed your job when your children were born to something you felt would better meet the needs of your increasing family or gave up work altogether. When you really think about it you may feel that you are almost unrecognisable from the person you used to be before you were a parent. Our children change us, often for the better. Once we are thinking on behalf of a little person who holds our heart in their hand whilst they charge off into the fray of life, we see things differently. Your children challenged you and you became better for it. Society is, in part, is a representation of the outlooks and opinions of the people who comprise it. Therefore, just as children change the outlook of their own parents, so we, as constituent parts of society, have the power to do the same thing, to and for ourselves.
However another main part of modern society is media which, to me, seems to function as society’s brain. It seems to do our thinking for us. It tells us what we should think, what we should eat, how we should act and it limits our expectations of ourselves in many subtle ways. It’s advice, as we have seen above, is dubious to say the least. However whilst media may currently be the brain of society we, as citizens, are it’s heart. In human bodies, large areas of the brain can shut down, disabling the body yet the heart still continues to beat. Yet if the heart shuts down, the brain has only minutes to live. My intention with this article is to illustrate that society can be thought of as a body, be it parent or otherwise, with a perfectly good heart but a malfunctioning brain. As part of the heart of society, you hold the trump card. You can change it just by being the change.
When you were born, you were blessed certain innate abilities. You had the ability to communicate when you were in distress, you had the ability to grip onto your mother for dear life, you had the ability to understand that a face was a much more important object, than any other object you were presented with (except maybe a nipple J). You even had the ability to swim. All of these things are survival tools. You were born with all the abilities you needed in order to continue to remain alive. Parenting instincts are part of this. You were born knowing how best to care for your children. Society, as a non-entity can make no such claim. If anything, socialisation into a ‘modern society’, more often than not, serves to help us to ‘unlearn’ this important knowledge rather than consolidate it as we could be doing. Society may offer us protection and security but it also fosters dependence, indifference to things that really matter and fixation on those things that don’t. If society really were a parent, I reckon we’d all be in care by now……..
So, in raising your children, why not start to rely less on what society says you ‘should’ be doing and much more on your own instincts. It would certainly seem to make sense. Even if your instincts guide you down a path that seems completely at odds with what everyone else is doing, why doubt them? Just as our children question us and rebel against us in order to come to their own understanding of life and become happy, independent human beings so we, as individuals, should challenge the part of ourselves that submits guilelessly to the guidance of ‘society’ and, in doing so, change it for the better for the children.