Following in Footsteps
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Following in Footsteps • Posted: Sep 09, 2011 09:57:59Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Pictured above is a mother in the tradition of mothers and teachers that raised me. Following her is her nearly grown son. Almost anyone can see the resemblance. The consequences of genes are hard to avoid. But upbringing has consequences too. It tunes the senses, establishes priorities, and inspires purpose. It also does a lot to establish self-worth. Take a look at the posture, carriage, bearing of these two. I think you'll see something interesting. You won't see arrogance. You won't see shame or fear. You also won't see cunning or deceit or greed. And you won't see want or envy. What you will see is an attitude of "not less than, not better than, but just as good as anyone".

That kind of attitude is antithetical to one of exceptionalism, that someone is "special" in some way. It's also antithetical to the notion that someone, anyone, anything can keep you down, hold you back, prevent you from achieving your potential. It's not antisocial or anarchical. It's not elitist or paternalistic. And it's not uncaring. It simply means that if you want something done, you'd better get busy and get it done. It isn't a crime to ask for advice or take lessons from what's around you, but the work load is up to you, you alone.

The whole point of that kind of attitude, of course, is to foster and encourage competent and responsible independence. Not total self-reliance and not dependence, but someone armed with enough skill and knowledge to flourish on their own if necessary, or as a valued member of a team, or even as a team leader if called upon. And that isn't the same as having highly developed specialized knowledge and skills, although expertise is not precluded. It's more along the lines of being able to handle whatever is thrown at you, like a ball player being able to play more than one position or a musician displaying proficiency on several instruments. We all appreciate a star or an expert, but what happens when that star or expert finds themself out of their element? Might they prove competent filling in wherever needed? Would they survive just fine out on their own?

These days, there are a hell of a lot of people out of work. Many have cultivated highly specialized expert skills and knowledge. Finding a position similar to what they've been used to is not going to be easy. Further, there are masses of young people preparing to enter the job market. Most have very little to offer in terms of specialized skills and knowledge. Neither group has been adequately prepared to rely on versatility or their potential for independent action. The unfortunate result for both will be extended periods of unemployment. And, no doubt, both groups will similarly point their fingers at 'the system" for failing them.

The so called "system" they point to certainly could do a better job of nurturing and cultivating its citizens, preparing them for the ever changing world we and they now face, encouraging them to mix and match according to a sustaining vision of society's needs, instead of just for personal profit or survival. But it hasn't. The thread that runs back through mothers and teachers like the one pictured above has been lost.

I earnestly suggest we try to find and pick it up again.

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010