Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Ambitions for our children

There is, I believe, a natural desire on behalf of parents to give their children every opportunity to grow and develop. The very notion of parenting necessitates some level of sacrifice on the part of the parents in order to open new doors for their children, doors that for many parents were shut due to familial circumstances. Their children will have the best education, primary, secondary & tertiary.
Although this ambition itself is worthy of analysis, it may be that the dreams of the parents are being lived through the children, I am rather perplexed by another less mentioned, and possibly ignored ambtion.
That our children become "Better;more ethical, more patient, more kind, more charitable & more moral than us".
Surely that is just inconsistent?
Our children's future, if we are to attempt to direct it is some way, should be pointed in the direction of making more of a contribution to the world than we have....

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

You're never 'Welcome'

Most people share a common self-assessment, that they are basically good.  We strive for the title of being considered a mensch, and many would hold that it is the value that trumps all others. 

But how does one earn the noble title?

Ordinarily it is by purely doing good deeds for, to or on behalf of others.  The more altruistic the deed, the nobler the doer.  The more anonymous the performer, the more pious the character.

This mindset has to change.

Selfless good deeds need to be replaced by conditional assistance. An offer of free-help needs to be replaced by indebtedness.
But the debt is not owed to you, it’s owed to society!
People live with a paradigm that may have been historically true, but it has lost its relevance in modernity. It is natural and rational to expect that  kindness be both graciously received with a sense of gratitude. We often hope that the recipient of that kindness also feels a natural need to be similarly kind to others. “If I am kind to you, you’ll be kind to others” goes the logic.

This is both idealistic and unrealistic.

People may intrinsically want to help others and share the kindness, but the self-absorbed nature of modern man usually denies him doing so. We have become so disillusioned that it has become sufficient if the kindness is merely acknowledged.
What society needs is a sense of obligatory responsibility towards the greater good.
How is this done?
By making people translate the benefits that have received from the society into a quantifiable, or at least qualifiable, debt that needs to be repaid.

We need to attach strings to our favours. Gone are the days of altruistic kindness; nowadays every random act of kind comes with baggage and a price tag- the price is the obligation to pay it forward.
The next time you help someone out- when they do thank you for your efforts- DO NOT say “You’re welcome”!

By letting people ‘off’ easily, we relegate an opportunity that was there to impact the world as merely an isolated deed- to be forgotten in the passage of time.

Instead of “You’re welcome” now say “I am glad that I could help you, but you have to promise me to ‘Pay it forward’ ”. “Quantify the help I gave you; put a dollar figure on it and find someone to give it to. “
Even better, make it a condition to helping them in the first place.

This seemingly trivial condition creates a joint vision and a potential movement towards making a real change in the world. My act of kindness lives on beyond the initial deed, not because of natural reciprocity and appreciation, but rather because of my having demanding that people make a difference in the world.