From 21 Feb 1976 four days before I left work at the Ministry for Conservation to commence study at Monash University.
In many ways our society has become too complex. There are people that, fro one reason or another, build up an illusion, a deceit they feel will shield them from this complexity. They are people that have not the courage, who may even be named cowards, though I feel it is not their fault to face reality. Illusion of this type can harm and retard the growth of not only the individual but of the ociety as well. How secure does the chick feel in the egg and alternatively how helpless is it once that frail shell wall is torn down.
For the chick all instinct is turned towards breaking down that wall and beginning life. Unfortunately for man the moment he is, he has the word conform thrust upon him, encouraging growth of restrictions. Morality, social mores and ethics are all hurdles one must conquer on the way to individual freedom. Society is dying, choking, its life blood stifled because these three things are not looked upon in this way. Can a man truly decide what is right or wrong for himself, when from the moment he can comprehend speech his parents tell him what is righ and wrong? Parents who have had their own personalities shaped by society.
Who, you may ask then, has set up the rules under which society functions. To answer I would like to quote a passage from a book –
“The only important elements in a society are the artistic and the criminal, for they alone, by questioning societys values, can force it to change”. From Empire Star by Samuel R. Delaney.
Individuality is important for growth. It is the very nexus of that growth, for without it there is only stagnation. In a society where the role of the individual should play an ever greater part in growth, we have only restrictions and the high pressure need to conform to shape us.
Solutions are few. Youth has traditionally opposed their parents viewpoints for as long as I can remember. In this so called “Generation Gap” lies hope.
On 25th October 1987 I wrote –
I still believe that individuality should be our most precious commodity as a society. It is original thinkers that have lead to all of our society’s advances. I did not realize when I wrote that article that I would one day read two of Ayn Rand’s books – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Both of these were concerned with the fact that society demanded that people conform to society’s ideals. Those who dared to be different were ostracized, those that were productive were made to use their productivity for the benefit of others.
It seems that the ultimate perversion to me is to make people work their butt off for the benefit of others. I cannot see how that sort of social system could work because it stifles all incentive.
Australia today seems to have too many people who believe that society owes them a living. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in social justice, but too many people seem to expect dole payments etc, as a right rather than a privilege.
I should also comment on the Delaney quotation. There is a huge difference between artistic and criminal elements in a society. Criminal elements are always destructive. Criminals of course care nothing for the rights of society nor for the rights of individuals. They are not so much interested in questioning society’s values but more in exploiting it’s weaknesses for their own benefit.
22 May 2007 - And now almost twenty years further on it is interesting to reflect from an older mans point of view. In 1976 I was 18 years old and looking at the world from a very narrow viewpoint, not necessarily wrong, but without the trappings of experience and without the knowledge that comes from that experience, nor with the respect for the elders that I possibly should have had.
In 1987, I was a father of two young boys, 3 and 2 years old, with the pressures that come with fatherhood, and the dreams that you will raise children in a world better than the one in which you were raised. I had just turned 30 years old.
Now, near fifty, I am more respectful of those who came before and who have shaped the world in which I live. I still do not believe that everything is right with this world, but I have lost the cynicism which lead to the belief that the social system did not allow personal growth, or that there was no value in anything other than the cult of the individual. I now see that there is intrinsic value that helps build society, in working for others, in ensuring that altruism is valued. There are many people, far beyond the artistic and criminal, who contribute to the well being of our lives, and who do it in silence with nothing more to gain other than the satisfaction of helping others. They are now my heroes.