Sunday, March 14, 2004

Becoming Socialized 

by Mathew
My sister and I had a long conversation yesterday about becoming socialized as a result of my answer to one of the questions on the political compass test Steve linked to. The question asked how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity”. I clicked “agree”.

I’m sure that years ago I would have thought giving the establishment the bird was a good thing. When common sense fails, however, experience often steps in and teaches the same lesson differently. My siblings and I have always had a strong bent towards individualistic behavior which has been a blessing and a curse. Among ourselves we are famously fractious despite dozens of family home evenings about unity. Not having much regard for what other people think about you, and not thinking too much about other people causes problems in other spheres as well–some of us are over-educated and underemployed at least in part because academia tolerates a higher standard of deviation from social niceties more than the professions.

Most people never wage war against the establishment anyway, but are rather simply intransigent in the face of it. I suppose it is a form of disobedience that most youths pass through–although my own youth lasted well into my twenties. Of course the so-called establishment is not some monolithic thing that seeks to crush youthful ideals–in my life it came in various distinct forms familiar to most people–schools, church, the work place. The common thread seems to be a discomfort with authority. My wife informs me that I haven’t exorcized this demon yet–but my more rational self tells me that great governments, churches and corporations work because people find ways to voluntarily repress at least some of their individual wants and engage in a communitarian enterprises. Having a stake in the system, as writers on Middle-East politics constantly remind us, also helps. Where you find your stake is still individual. I went to law school because the job I had before that didn’t give me the kind of stake I wanted–more prestige and money. I liked the job itself well enough–I taught high school.
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