Monday, August 31, 2009

Society vs. The Individual

First off, no this isn't political. It's just some observations noted from comments by another blogger Scott on some posts I read, as well as a conversation I had over the weekend with a good friend of mine.

Scott and I have traded comments on other blogs considering the issue of strength of personality and manliness today versus that of previous generations. When it comes to issues of being stronger willed and more mechanically adept I have always come down on the side of older generations, who I felt were able to deal with physical hardships that came with a pre-modern society. They were able to fix things up, like vehicles and houses with a certain sense of efficiency coupled with necessity, as they didn't have the money to throw away the broken, nor the will to waste anything. Today, we have products manufactured with so much electronic equipment to tally up calculations and/or run our daily lives. Scott has countered that while some physical labors were mastered more by those generations than the current, social influences, including global communications, information exchange, and a litany of societal needs and pressures are probably far more complicated for the older generation than the younger. And in itself, the young mind is better at shifting its adaptations to constant change whereas a man of the depression era would pretty much break down mentally, not being able to adapt. (not exactly his words, but a personal characterization of his thoughts) To an effect, it is hard to remain statically 'real' in this everchanging world of ours, and for those of us who are somewhat set in our ways, it can make life difficult. But no worries, if we start feeling overwhelmed or bad about things, we always have the latest pharmaceutical to re-balance our brain chemistry!

Today, you find endless opinions abounding from every Tom, Dick, and Harry in your life. You should do this, don't do that, whatever. Anyways, my friend, Adam called with a question as to what he should be doing with his life at this moment. And of course, you all know me, I have tons of antiquated and personally biased advice to hand out with or without being asked. The sooner you all listen to me, the better my world will be! HA!

Adam has had a lifelong dream of learning the martial arts of all varieties, and eventually opening up his own dojo to teach others the same disciplines. In the course of some of his training, he has met up with a lot of people from the police department in his area. All are saying he would be a good fit for the department. With his size, strength and go-get-em attitude they say make a perfect candidate for him joining the force. However in this area, Philadelphia, cops getting shot apparently is a semi-regular event, and he has heard the same officers who have been trying to recruit him, echanging stories of this officer or that officer from whichever precinct having either been killed or wounded in action.

With certain financial responsibilities for his cousins in his care, he looks at the financial aspect of things, as the officers tell him, that the dpeartment will pay for his training academy time (along with the paycheck) and he would be starting out at around $60,000 per annum. He has money coming in, but its more of a money in-money out situation, and the police paycheck would greatly help out in that arena. At the same time, if he takes on the police duties he has to put his dream on hold that much longer, and to boot, he hadn't really considered being a police officer that high on his priority list. He was looking at the money now, versus happiness later, if he survived it all in the first place.

I too, in my security gig, have faced pressure to change my position at times. I have had my supervisors trying to get me to be a supervisor when an opening had arrived. I looked at the money and initially thought that things would be much easier with my pay going up by a prety high percentage. But, at the same time, it would have bought me less sleep, or higher child care bills that would cancel out a large portion of that pay increase. I would also be looking at a lot more stress than my current position gives me.

I think part of the pressure to change wasn't selfless on the part of the people doing the recruiting. Like a military recruiter, there's always a benefit to the person trying to talk you into it, whether its money or personal. For Adam's situation, I don't know about money going into these officer's pockets, but the knowledge that they might have a good fitted person that may end up being their partner and someone they know they can trust to back them up from the get go. In my case, as one of my supervisors put it at the time, he would have less to worry about when he wasn't working because he knows I would do the job much better than some other possible applicants. Not that I don't mind helping this supervisor out, he is a great friend of mine on top of being my boss, but the stress that comes with the job and my inherent need for underlings to operate in a very exact manner of my expectations would only further complicate my life.

I find that oftentimes as persons, we see ourselves doing one thing or another, despite our strengths and weaknesses, because thats where see ourselves. And then you have outsiders (society) who see us in a certain way, whether by our decision on how and what to expose ourselves to them, or by some potential they see in us. It might be for our own benefit, theirs or both. Its hard to say. But as I said before, EVERYONE has their opinions of what one should do, and a certain segment of those who will push and push and push to coerce you into following their plan for you.

In this day in age, a lot of people let the money do the talking, and worry about consequences later. But sometimes, you have to wonder if the money is worth it, worth sacrificing yourself and your dreams to do some job or career that you don't really care for, just because the money will be there NOW, instead of passing on it and seeing how your preferred option might take you through life.

Don't mind me, just some of the wierd stuff that passes through my mind in this complicated world. Personally I'd like to go back a few decades when it all seemed a whole lot simpler. Which begs me to ask...back then was real life like a sitcom, where all your problems got solved in a half hour?

2 comments:

scotterb said...

Good post, and cool new layout! Your post reminds me of something in my past. Back when I was 25 I was working in DC for a Senator (Pressler, R-SD). It was a great job, on paper. The money wasn't bad, but I was making contacts, and could have had a life as a "DC-insider" if I had wanted. I got junket trips to Greece and Turkey, and had met some world and national leaders. I wrote speeches for the Senator, amendments, and the like.

So when I decided "this life isn't for me" and was going to quit and head back West, almost nobody agreed it was a good idea. My dad thought I was throwing away opportunities that lots of young people dream of (which is true, I'd gotten my foot in the door and was in a position few achieved at that young age). But no. I didn't want it. I quit. Six months later I was working as a night manager at a Rocky Rococo's pizza. My dad had to explain to his friends why his legislative assistant DC yuppie son was now doing shifts at a fast food pizza place in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. To this day I am really thankful that my 25 year old self had the courage to do something I wanted, but almost every one and every bit of logical argumentation said would be a horrific career move.

A decade later as I was finishing my Ph.D. at Minnesota (I didn't stay in the pizza business for long), my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At a bar on Lyndale Avenue, we drank rusty nails and talked about life -- a rare kind of conversation for him. He told me that he had thought I was absolutely insane to quit that job, and only as he thought then about dying did he realize and respect that I did what I wanted to do, and not what was expected of me, or what he and others thought 'best.' As a typical son wanting his father's approval, that was the kindest thing he could have told me in his final months.

Mookie said...

Scott,
Thanks for the input on the post and the layout. Decided it was time for new pics.

I was a bit disappointed with my post. I had an idea in my mind what I wanted to say, but my usual style of writing whatever thoughts casually flow into my brain as I type sort of took over. At least you got the drift!!

Not sure how i'd feel about working in a pizza place. I've always been partial to mom and pop cafes, but as much as I like them, they pay way too little to even give serious consideration outside a last resort.

Still working on ideas in my head with regards to my community renewal program I mentioned on my other blog...always welcome to suggestions/help of any kind.