Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Acrobat

I seem to be going through a bit of a personality shift in recent weeks. For as long as I can remember I've had a certain view of what's fair and what's equitable, a gut feeling I suppose. Although I didn't know it at the time, I believe(d?) that a Meritocracy was the fairest of all the ideologies I've been exposed too. I've always felt that all people should be given equality of opportunity. Everyone, regardless of current or historical status, should be provided with the tools to succeed in life. It is incumbent on the State, all States, to provide the best educational system possible to their children. It is also incumbent on the State to make absolutely sure that the parents of these children - the adult citizens of the State - raise their children in such a way as to allow them take advantage of the opportunities available to them. It is then, in turn, incumbent on these children (when they become adults) to be model citizens and repay the State by obeying it's (tax) laws so that the State can continue to provide (and improve) the opportunities available to future generations. It's also incumbent on the State to provide all adult citizens with the tools to improve their lot if they weren't able to take full advantage of the education system as children, but are willing to try again. That's quite a basic approach to Society, but it's what I believe(d?).

The issue would then be what to do with those who refuse or abuse the opportunities they've been given. I suppose I've always felt that a system of punish-then-provide was the best approach. The State can never give up on any of its citizens but that does not mean it should adopt a softly-softly approach with those who err. I suppose that, using my logic, someone who breaks a law - any law passed by a democratic state - is automatically anti-social (to varying degrees, of course). Therefore the law-breaker should be punished appropriately. At a simple level surely those who are guilty of being a threat or danger to others (murderers, rapists, thugs) should be imprisoned. Those who are guilty of defrauding the State (tax evaders, corrupted officials) should have their ill-gotten gains, and then a whole lot more, confiscated. Short-term imprisonment to send a message should also be used. But my point here is not about crime, but about rehabilitation. Even these people deserve the chance to reform and contribute to society. Compassion and assistance for those who have erred to re-integrate into society is essential, even if no desire to reform is evident in the individual. If the individual errs again, the process is repeated again clinically - the State should never "give up" on one of its citizens or allow emotions to deflect it from its duty.

The goal is, therefore, to ensure that every citizen is given a chance to succeed. But (assuming that equality of opportunity actually exists, which, of course, it does not) what if they don't want to take that chance? Indeed what is success? What if a person chooses to live a life that isn't what is considered to be the norm in today's society? What if one decides that the modern idea of success is not one's own? Surely in a democracy we cherish individual rights? "To do what we wanna do!..." So when do we decide we must curtail freedoms in the interest of society? If an able bodied, relatively intelligent person eschews a life of labour in a factory, or whatever, should the state support that person with welfare? Should society empathise with a fellow citizen and support their lifestyle choice or, by choosing not to contribute to society, are they relinquishing their citizens' rights? By the same logic, therefore, can one not seek to earn their fortune and do with it as they please, regardless of supposed duties to society? Can individual freedoms and diversity co-exist with a sense of community and social responsibility?

I've raised certain points here that I want to expand on: Individual Freedoms; Parenting; Community; Success; Career; Socialism. I'll have to come back to each over time...

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Running to Stand Still

This morning is kind of like writer’s block for me. I have plenty to do, but I can’t do anything. I’m feeling quite lethargic. Talking to an ex of mine on Saturday she suggested that I was going through a “Quarter Life Crisis”. I cringe at the very thought of the idea. What is it that makes the affluent believe that they always have some problem that needs to be given a title and a package and, lo-and-behold, a solution (that costs money, of course). How selfish am I to believe that things are anything other than pretty damn sweet?

You see, I’m feeling sorry for myself again and I don’t really know why. I’m now convinced that alcohol is a depressant so I’m going to try and prove it to myself over the coming weeks. Saturday just gone, 15th, was the first night since Saturday 1st that I had a drink. Despite having a few social events to attend in the coming weeks (work leaving parties this Thursday and Friday, a night out with work buddies from my old job in Limerick on Saturday, an Ireland international football match on Thursday 27th and a Race Meeting on Friday 28th) I intend not drinking until the Bank Holiday weekend of 4th June with the exception of the night in Limerick. I feel the need to make that night an exception because I haven’t seen those lads in ages and it just doesn’t seem right, somehow, to not share a drink with them. Anyway I’m going to be studying my mood over these next 3 weeks to see how it changes (with obvious deference to circumstances of course). I should point out that I believe myself to be quite even-tempered and am not prone to outbursts when things appear to be going badly, whatever those things may be.

That doesn’t resolve my immediate problem, though. Even now, as I type, I was looking out the window at a glorious day, with blue skies and wispy slow moving clouds, and I thought “I’ll go for a game of golf after work” and, no sooner had I formed that thought, I was immediately thinking “No, I couldn’t be bothered”. I’ll just have to snap myself out of it, I suppose. As much as I would like a magic answer to my current state of mind I don’t think I’m going to find it. I need to start listening to U2 again. For some reason, when I was a bit younger and listened to their music non-stop I never really liked the song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. I don’t know why, I just didn’t, but I’m going to make a point of listening to it this evening. I don’t think I need to expand on the reasons why!

I’ve started to read a book by Alain de Botton called Status Anxiety. I’ll say nothing yet other than I’m hoping it answers some of the questions I’m not even sure I’ve thought of yet. In the meantime I really need to cop myself on and get motoring on doing a bit of the work I’m being quite well paid to do…
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