Every country, every community, every family and individual struggles with the balance between societal versus individual needs. If we focus outwards, society as a whole will benefit, but at a personal, sometimes even terrible, cost. On the other hand self-centredness may lead to short term personal benefit but, unless the slack is shouldered by others, we will all, ultimately, suffer.
Because few people naturally sacrifice for the common good taxation is mandatory. Conscription is, at times, necessary. Voting is compulsory.
On a macro-level this is the difference between socialism and capitalism. On a micro-level the same model plays out. But instead of the focussing on the entire country, the emphasis is limited to the local community. The question now becomes; do I sacrifice personal and family time and resources for the betterment of my community? There is a shift in the answer to this question and the results are palpable.
I recently witnessed at a school dance party, where no-one was participating. The students were, without exception, busy on their phones, talking to their friends; or both.
When I was the same age, there was a natural expectation that we would participate; it was something we never thought of questioning.
Soon the first social commentator jostled next to me; “Can you believe this? Disgusting! Ridiculous!” Their ramble included personal recollections of earlier times where kids played outside, listened to their parents and weren’t so obsessed with their phones. The good old days
The world has changed. Children today are not the children of yesteryear.
Technology and the media usually bear the brunt of the accusations. Kids, fearful of missing something important, FOMO, remain glued to their phones as failure to be permanently responsive and connected will lead to social exclusion. Their choice is between being permanently connected or risk a life of exile as a result.
But these technological challenges are the symptoms of their new attitude, not its cause. Our children’s behaviour stems not from social media, but rather from our parental negligence.
Our children have us as parents, we had our parents. Children develop in accordance with the manner in which they are nurtured; leave the garden unattended and the weeds will grow wild. Don’t blame nature and don’t blame the weeds themselves; blame the gardener.
Modern families have outsourced their parental responsibilities to others; to technology and to minders. But the greatest tragedy is in their having outsourced the most critical parental task; role modelling. Instead of demanding of ourselves that we live up to the standard that we want for our children, we have rejected that responsibility and allowed our children to seek their own role models. Some modern parents want to befriend, rather than parent, their kids- but this in and of itself is too simplistic an explanation.
The responsibility of role modelling has proven too difficult for many.
A generation ago parents were dedicated to communal organisations; school boards, shul boards, parent-teachers-associations, rotary clubs and other leadership roles. People saw a responsibility is promoting the common good, community was part in the lexicon of family values. Nowadays the parents are at best only interested in their family. Every eulogy that I’ve delivered for someone of advanced age has contained the word community alongside the word family; in the future community will be absent.
Parenting is hard and its takes time and effort. These are two commodities frightfully barren in our lives. We are time poor and when we have the time we lack resolve. But if we are to nurture future leaders, we need to be those leaders.
The key to our children’s future lies in our behaviour today.