Thursday, June 29, 2006

Which direction ar eyou going?

Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your
hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.
- Carl Schurz, general and politician (1829-1906)

The ideal situation for a young person growing up is to have a mentor who will guide him or her through the rigors of learning both what a craft or skilled job is about and what life itself is about. Few have that lunxury and few ever have.

Europe has apprenticeship courses (North America barely gives lipservice to them) to guide young adults through a professional course under the supervision and instruction of a master. Not many of those who go through apprenticeship programs also receive guidance in life skills.

Lacking that kind of leadership to follow, North American young people follow the money, usually taking courses at colleges or universities in order to succeed at future jobs. Without the life skills guidance offered by a mentor, many have troubles in their adult lives. They have problems with their jobs, their marriages and other aspects of their personal lives, often becoming addicts to current fashion or slaves to their work.

Having ideals to aim for is one way to get life's compass pointing in the right direction. However, ideals alone are difficult to follow unless a person knows someone who has lived those ideals successfully, has reached a special place to which they aspire. A hero.

Following an ideal that no one else seems to be following can produce a world leader. It is more likely to produce a loner who eventually has psychological problems because he doesn't march to the beat of anyone's drummer. And the boys in the band don't like it.

Following an ideal means have steely self discipline to avoid the tempting pits into which most people fall. Olympic athletes, business leaders, university professors and great painters had to follow their guiding star alone, for the most part, to get where they are. They learn the social parts of growing up as adults because they missed much of it in their adolescence.

Fitting in with the gang socially has a way of generating masses of people with modest life objectives who lack the persistence and determination to reach even them. Worse, "the gang" has ways of developing the attitude that nothing else outside of it is important.

Hence we have citizens who have no idea who to vote for on election day because they don't know who is running to represent them and they don't know the issues. They wonder why the world is in so much trouble because they have not taken the time to learn about the people of other countries, their cultures, their religions, their ways.

They believe that the world is getting worse, at least their own community is, because life is not quite as good as it was when they were young. It may not be getting worse, because their community is simply getting bigger and the anti-social elements more obvious, but they don't know that.

They are uncomfortable about their fears, but comfortable with their own ignorance.

Someone else will look after it. I don't know much about it. I don't even vote. All I care about is protecting my own.

Sadly, they don't know how to do that well either.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to wake up a sleeping population before they die in their own puddle of fear.
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