Sunday, March 8, 2015

Carefully Taught

Rogers and Hammerstein wrote a most poignant song for the 1949 musical South Pacific.
"You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!"
There are those who believe, and religions that teach, that humanity is inherently bad - "sinful". It seems to me more likely that our "sinfulness" is carefully taught. Children are malleable creatures. They can be taught hatred and fear or they can be taught love and compassion. Humans are not born with an understanding of one or the other. It has to be carefully taught.
We are born with simple needs - to be comfortable and comforted. Hunger and a soiled bottom are uncomfortable and babies loudly proclaim so. At other times, they wish to be comforted - to feel connected and safe. These are the most basic human needs.
If, throughout our lives, all that we knew was freedom from hunger, basic comfort and feeling connected and safe, we could live happy lives. If we were carefully taught that these basic needs were most honored and to be achieved collectively for ourselves and our fellow humans, our motives would be directed in this way. Love and compassion would be the most honored values.
As a society, we teach greed and cunning. We revere those who hoard money and amass material things. You will not hear the words love and compassion as values of a corporation. The closest you will get to those words in business is respect but we are to respect greed, cunning, hoarding and those who amass the most material things. We are expected to respect power. In business, those who lack power deserve less respect - with the lowest ranks treated as castaways. Our society values the achievers which is measured by money and power.
These things are carefully taught and have grown so deeply ingrained in our society over this last generation - my generation - that the impact is overwhelming. The United States is driven by the stock market. Our elected leaders and our own futures are beholding to large investors. With this focus, decision making is short sighted. Gains must be realized today. Long term strategies are 5 year plans.
There is no longer time for innovation. Research and development is costly and takes time. The gains are not fast enough. Longevity in any form is not fostered. Fostering the needs of people holds no financial value.
As a result, anyone calling for change that would yield results 5+ years from now face great resistance. And anyone focused on love and compassion for those who lack power are dismissed entirely by those with power. These are not "good business" practices. 
The irony is that power is dependent on having power over something or someone. It requires endless consumption. It must be constantly fed with sacrifices of people or the future. Eventually the masses of dis-enfranchised grow to a point they gain collective power that cannot be dismissed. Or the entity collapses under the weight of the consumption of the few in power.
At that point there will be an opportunity to carefully teach something new. Sadly, if we would just look at history, we've already been there many times.

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