Thursday, November 17, 2005

Actors and Foundations

Throughout time, there has been a rather rigid sort of social system encapsulated in any one society. With respect to your future, it has been relatively determined throughout the ages. Apprenticeships, guilds, unions, all coalesce around the fact that your future, as an individual, is pre-determined, i.e. you were born for a particular occupation, and that is your future and there is not much you can do about it. People even were sedated into the thought of occupational pre-destination. For a long time this system existed, and no one thought to challenge it.

However, the growth of society has broadened our conceptions of personal freedom in relation to our own occupation. Now there is an ability for people to mold themselves to a variety of positions in this society. Any one person can become anything they want to. This is exemplified in the “American Dream:” anyone, no matter how humble they are, can rise up and rule the world. This is a freedom, a flexibility that we strive to, that we feel we are entitled to. We are now almost as actors, as Nietzsche would say. We are able to change, morph into any role we see fit for ourselves in this society before us. We are able to experiment, adapt, and move amoeba-like into new crevasses in this society. It is a very empowering feeling, to be able to have that chameleon-like power conferred upon us, and we use it freely for our personal betterment, as befits a capitalist society.

But, there lies a failing with this sort of thinking, one upon which we as a society are perilously gaining ground. It lies in the form of being too fluid. It is a great power to be able to assume various roles, and to be able to adapt when some new opportunity or misfortune presents itself, is immeasurable (how many blacksmiths from the 15th ,16th ,17th ,18th century were able to easily change jobs if they were injured? Or just didn’t want to follow in their father’s footsteps?). But in our curiosity to become greater actors, to be better able to mold ourselves to our own personal ends, we find a problem with our general society. Our own personal gains are not by definition related to that of society. Thus as we become more ethereal workers, gravitating towards our own gratification, the larger roles of society remain unfulfilled. Then there is an issue with the very foundation of the society upon which we rely on for our substance, for the structure of our own life.

Now I do not recommend going back to pre-destined existences for everyone in our society. It is the degrees of freedom that have been introduced to this society, which enabled us to be the innovators that we are. The computer upon which I write these words was created due to the fact that people had the gumption, and the option, to leave one facility in the society and seek out another. That is a gift many previous societies lacked, and paid dearly for it. However, we must be careful we do not lose too much, move too far towards the ephemeral side of our societal beings. We stand to lose a lot. First, we lose, to some degree, our ability to perform the jobs that we are situated in. This may not manifest itself all the time in every person or every occupation, for the ability to morph allows us to fit the mold that we are required to fill to a greater degree. However, at the same time, this ability to move, the necessity to be able to change and adapt, to pursue our own personal benefit, holds us back from being as good role-fillers as we could be. When you are always concerned about what is immediately around the corner, the present suffers. And that, in its most simple version, hampers the essential roles of this society, and their ability to be productive and innovative in their furtherment of this society.

Along that thought there is a fundamental lack of foresight that we develop. In being actors, moving back and forth, experimenting with our being, changing, always becoming something new all the time, we discourage the development of people who have the courage to plan for the long-term future of a society. Again, when you are focused around the corner, who knows what path that will become in two blocks? We become a society of transients, and we lose those persons who are known to Nietzsche as “architects,” people who work to orchestrate the future of a society, or a civilization. We need these people, especially found amongst our politicians and advisors, directors, etc. because they are the ones who have the vision and the will to make our necessary sacrifices plain so that we may prosper long into the future. We need these foundations of society, like a house needs a strong, laid-out cement floor. Without it, the house of cards we build will be subject to the whims of the future, both internal and external forces that we are unable to control. Our shortsightedness will have led to the spiraling of seemingly trivial issues to forming large maelstroms of our own demise. And thus, our newborn fluidity in life, our upwards mobility and increased personal directions, have the potential to take away the planners that we so desperately need to stay focused, and help the rest of us achieve a future we know dimly of, but which will be richly rewarded in years to come.

1 comment:

Behjat said...

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Will writes: My take? Well, I've pretty much been a no show of late at Ed Tech Insider, because of time constraints, yes, but also because it doesn't feel like home, somehow.
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