Thursday, February 12, 2009

How a Government is Like a Parent

So I got to thinking...I hear all the time, being an American, how the US doesn't treat its citizens the same way that Kuwait does.
"Kuwait takes care of its people better than you do in the US," they say.
After hearing variations on this theme again an again, I found myself reflecting on the notion of 'taking care of' and all of its connotations.

I grew up an educator's child, and this afforded me a view into a world that was at once mine and also not. Being part of a world of highly privileged people and in some ways being one myself, just not to the level of some of my counterparts, I became an adept observer of life.
So many of my good friends worked diligently to get the highest grades, participate in athletics and extra-curricular activities, and generally polish themselves into well-rounded, educated, cultured people.
There were some other of my friends, however, who coasted along not worrying too much about their grades or their future, for that matter. For them, their family dynasty was awaiting, and they needn't be bothered so much about the interim; they knew they would be taken care of.

In the end, after college, where some friends attended 'A' list and some 'C' list, and the early learning years of careers, both types of my friends ended up as 'successful' people, meaning that they were still a part of the economically privileged. Often they ended up living in the same neighborhoods, driving the same cars, having children in the same private schools, and being members of the same country clubs, but owing to the decidedly different modes of arriving at that point, some inherent difference between the two types of people must exist. How is this difference manifest, and is it significant? My short answer to that question is a decided yes.

And here is where my analogy starts to come into play. You see, my friends who were never encouraged to worry about developing and educating themselves never evolved that much and remained much as they were in high school: self-involved, self-serving and inward-looking people. That is not to say that they weren't nice people, but they just never got much beyond their own little world and their own needs. I also noticed that they carried a dependence on their family into their adult years that rendered them juvenile in many ways.

My other friends who worked hard to get where they were understood the value of hard work, and that there are many ways of solving a problem. They had a sense of accomplishment that could never be given to them by anyone. In short, they had evolved; they had come across a problem, set a course to tackle it, and they had achieved their goal. They had learned that they could stand on their own two feet.

The funny thing is, both kinds of friends had loving, well-meaning parents, whose only goal, I feel sure, was to take care of their children. And there are many ways to skin a cat, so to speak, but in the end, what is most beneficial to the survival of a species, is to produce productive, contributing, creative, compassionate individuals who can do something to make the world a better place to live in, if even in only some small way.
It ultimately falls to the parent to decide what is the best way to encourage such an outcome.


intlxpatr said...

I read a study somewhere that parents who set high standards/expectations for their kids have kids who live up to those standards and expectations. i am sure there are exceptions, and I worried a lot obout burdening them too much, but in the end - we ended up with good adults, aware adults, interconnected adults.

The truth is, being a parent is hard, and because they don't come with operating manuals, raising good children is hard work!

Interesting topic, Carly. How do we raise good citizens, one's who will pick up their own trash, mind the rules of the road, etc?

Carly said...

Hey Intl.,
I believe that too about expectations. I saw it too as a teacher.
What I am interested in, is how a parent and government can actually cripple a person by providing too much for them. I have and continue to see it all the time.
But you are right; it is so difficult to be a parent. :) Thanks.

Bobby Pastures said...

Carly, I had not read this excellent entry. I think that you are hitting some points that I am vitally interested in at this time. Do we receive curses as well as gifts from our parents.

Bobby Pastures sends.

Carly said...

Hey Bobby,
I didn't see your comment either. :) I agree, and what is really pertinent to our lives here, is looking at the relationships of parenting and government as comorbid in the difficulties that people face as individuals and communities.