Imagine a man who was born in a time where the prevailing wisdom was that his country was perfect, its institutions were infallible, authority figures were all knowing and should always be obeyed, you should do what you were told and not question anything. Imagine a man who was born in a time where the prevailing wisdom was that his teachers were on par with an Oracle, that they are more than human simply because of their profession; that cops, firemen, soldiers and government figures are never to be criticized; priests, reverends and rabbis are never to be questioned about anything. You are to listen to what they say, shut up and obey. Imagine a man who was born in a time when the prevailing wisdom was that any questioning of any authority figure was considered outright rebellion, not to be tolerated at any cost. You are always to do what you are told. Obedience is key. So as life progresses, this man always strives to do things “right”, always does what he is told, never questions anything, never strives for anything more due to fear that he will ultimately fail, “failure” of course being defined by those “above” you.
Contrast this with a man who was born in a time where the prevailing wisdom of the previous generation was proven to be a lie. His country was not perfect, it was not infallible, its institutions were found to be corrupt to the core, authority figures were not only concerned with their own power and position and would be anything to maintain that privilege. Teachers were no “oracles” but human beings capable of the same stupidity, corruption and power mad attitudes as anyone else, people who would often ridicule young children because they felt superior to them. Cops were found to be engaging in criminal activity, who sometimes beat their wives (as was the case with my next door neighbor while growing up.) Your government leaders were found to be criminal, corrupt and sometimes downright insane. A child growing up under such circumstances is liable to be a little suspicious of authority, will come to learn that the previous “prevailing wisdom” is all but a lie. You begin to question everything. You learn at an early age that people are not to be trusted merely because they were in a position of “authority.” After all, what did that mean?
The two people described above are first, a friend of mine who I have known for well over twenty years and the second is obviously myself. We were born of two different generations, although we are not that many years apart in age but the differences in our age has definitely lead to two completely different experiences and different interpretations of American life. Recently this friend of mine and I had a falling out of sorts. I don’t know why. He just suddenly went silent and stopped talking to me. I still have no idea as to why he is upset with me after a month long “silent treatment” (which I find utterly infantile) but it allowed me some time to think over our many conversations over the years and the reactions they brought on. Here are some of them:
- I was not “living responsibly” because I often take trips to other countries when I really don’t have all that much money to begin with. Yet I do it anyway, being that my thinking is if not now, when? One must live life or do his/her best to do what makes them happy. So, in essence, my quest to live happily was to live “irresponsibly.”
- My pursuits in music, writing and art were not “legitimate” because I wasn’t earning a living off of it. In other words, I was “not pulling in the dough” so therefore what I was doing was merely a “hobby” and not an act of creating anything or doing anything “serious.” Of course, that view would be completely different if I were rich because of it.
- I had no real love or respect for my parents because as a youngster I had done some stupid things. I disobeyed them at times and did what I wanted to do; things such as partying, cutting school, doing what I was told not to do. Following my own path meant that I didn’t love or respect them. If I truly did, I would have just obeyed and did exactly what I was told.
- I was “prone to conflict” because I would question things or have an opinion about things that were contrary to the “prevailing wisdom.” It meant that I was always looking for a fight merely because I had my own opinion, which didn’t agree with others. My distrust of authority figures made me an “angry” person. So I guess if I just obeyed and did what I was told and not questioned anything, that would have made me a “happy” person.
- I was naturally “rebellious” because I didn’t take the word of “authority figures” at face value; that they were just as capable of engaging in criminal behavior as anyone else. Again, it would be better if I just did what I was told and didn’t question anything.
This is just a small sample of it, naturally intended to lash out at me in a very passive-aggressive manner, with the hopes of generating a reaction. It never did. I understood the differences between our experiences which of course influenced our perceptions of the world. And even though I never agreed with his perception, I never once tried to tear him down for it.
So what we have here, essentially, is a simple conflict of visions and differences in perception. So what? Are we tp perceive life in the same way? And what difference does it make whether I see things one way and another sees them in a different way? Experience definitely influences perception and to be sure that one’s perception isn’t clouded by bad attitudes and/or flights of fancy, one must think and observe and that means to have an opinion – your own opinion. Some people in this world do not like that. They want you to be obedient, non-questioning and non-threatening. And there’s very good reason for that. A thinking man is a dangerous man to those who have a vested interest in maintaing things as they want them to be. History has shown this time and time again.
In the end, I’m sure my friend and I will reconcile but there’s something driving this and I cant help but think, after thinking about all the things that were said over the years during our conversations, that this may have something to do with it. A conflict of visions that are somehow pushing his buttons in a way he does not want to acknowledge. So, to him, this is all my fault and I must be punished for it. Rather than just accepting me for who I am (as I do him, regardless of whether I agree with his perceptions) I must be punished for my own attitudes and view of the world. If this is in fact what it’s all about. It seems to be judging from these past conversations. But it just goes to show you how differences in perceptions, what “truths” we decide to accept in this life often have an effect in other areas, “truths” that are laid out not by your own judgement and thinking, but “truths” handed down by those who have a vested interest in telling you what the “truth” actually is.
Copyright © Julian Gallo, All Rights Reserved
© 2011, Julian Gallo. All rights reserved.