Irrational fears, compulsion often utilized to generate blameful acts
October 23, 2008
When the Founding Fathers of the United States of America hammered out the Constitution in 1787, they were not expecting perfection from their fledgling nation. Instead, they saw the potential for many mistakes that had troubled other countries for centuries. Showing remarkable foresight and wisdom, this first American generation sought to protect the people from their government, and even from themselves.
Going by what America is like today, they certainly had the right idea – perfection is still nowhere to be found. We argue, we judge, we don’t always tell the truth and we tend to act first and rationalize later. Our culture too often fails to appreciate intellectualism, creativity, diplomacy, science and the value of a good education. Due to many contributing factors ranging from sub-prime mortgages, to Wall Street firms, to President Clinton, to President Bush – our economy is in turmoil. Finally, we have claimed to represent democracy at its best, but our social network reflects barely suppressed tension and unspoken class divisions instead.
Many of us might ask ourselves, and each other, “Why have things gone wrong lately?” There have been countless different answers to that question, often influenced by irrational fears and the compulsion to blame someone else. But I have a suggestion: look beyond the politics, the nationalism and the incessant arguments, and instead look deep within yourself. When I look at the bigger picture, I see that no system can be 100 percent successful – because human beings are not perfect either.
I’m not saying we should give up on solving our problems, or that things can’t eventually be made better. What I am saying is that there is no ultimate fix, for us or our organizations. We are all self-absorbed, conflicted, vulnerable, undeniably sexual and sometimes very dangerous beings. In the past we often saw these traits as flaws to be hidden, and actions resulting from them as sins to be absolved.
But if the traits are built right into our nature, and we have no concrete proof that complete perfection (or its opposite) exists…then do we truly have any flaws? I believe nothing is fundamentally wrong, lacking or unworthy about us. I believe we merely are what we are. We can’t be anything less; nor do we need to be anything more.
Realizing this clears a lot of things up for me. It makes it much easier to accept who I am. And I feel good about my country again, too. It’s functioning exactly as it’s supposed to: imperfectly.
So we don’t have to spend our lives constantly chasing after something better, or retreat into the past looking for “golden ages” that never really existed. We don’t have to dwell on our failings and mistakes, as long as we learn the right lessons from them. We can more effectively use what power we do have – and that is how we’ll make a difference.
We don’t always understand how completely our human nature transcends our culture, thoughts, words and actions. I think many of us are not used to stepping back from our busy, uncertain lives – looking underneath who we are, to appreciate what we are. It may be the only way to truly understand ourselves.
Not all of us will achieve that. But it’s important to remember that any one of us can.