Here’s the ‘tldr’ for what follows:
Blaming someone, instead of helping them, is one of those choices we make. Not responses or instincts, choices. When we help instead, we have decided we will be better, and be “with Aloha.”
I’ve been doing my best to keep my politics off this blog, yet there are spillovers, and my Twitter profile proclaims, “Be fearlessly authentic in standing up for your values. ‘Don’t talk politics’ no longer applies. Clarity in values expression does. Be Aloha.”
In addition to our value of month studies of Ho‘omau, I have been intent on this: The 3 C’s of 2017: Change, Congruency, Critical Thinking.
Therefore, with that for context, welcome to the lastest issue of Sunday Mālama, when I allow myself to go off the beaten track of Managing with Aloha. As always, those who are still in the “Don’t talk money, sex, politics, or religion” or anything uncomfortable camp may feel free to skip this one.
Change, when Challenging, and its Culprit
My reading choices and study time have expanded quite a bit in recent months, as I, someone who has ‘careered’ herself into becoming a workplace culture coach specializing in value alignment, continue my own studies in cultural anthropology and sociology. I’ve lived a lot of years and am well past the half-century mark now, yet it seems there’s still so much to learn.
The reason for lifelong learning is, as it has always been, the constancy of change. Life is not a static proposition with fixed parameters and variables. We ebb and flow into times of tempests and periods of calm. 2017 has started feeling like a full blown tempest of societal unrest.
The culprit is us. We humans are complex, and we can be a hot mess.
I’m a wife and mom too, and those two roles will always be first and foremost on my mind, and within my Kuleana, my sense of responsibility at its most basic level. So I am firmly planted in that time of my life where that philosophical question, “What will be the quality of life we leave to our children?” is never far from my mind, or in plans I make with my husband.
Getting Ahead, Generosity and Intolerance
This is how I remember ‘getting ahead’ from when I grew up, even as a teenager in the 70’s and throes of the Viet Nam War:
“Half a century ago, economic opportunity and upward mobility were available to many white Americans, regardless of where they lived and what kind of education they had. They could graduate from high school and find a job at a local factory and make a good wage, or graduate from college and sit behind a desk and make a slightly better wage. About 90 percent of kids born in the 1940s earned more than their parents did, according to work by Stanford economist Raj Chetty.”
—Alana Semuels, America’s Great Divergence, The Atlantic
It really did feel this way; we trusted in believing it. So we trusted in the ethic of hard work too, expecting there would be a payoff waiting at that light ending our tunnel. To ‘pay your dues’ first, and reap the rewards later, was a real thing.
My children, both now young adults 29 and 32, don’t feel this way, and never have. They say their circles of friends largely have the same beliefs, the primary one being that to get ahead in this world, the ethic of hard work still has some credence but it’s not enough, and you’re likely to need some help.
Be okay with getting some help. Accept it in humility and with grace.
Be more than okay with giving help. To give help to others is a good thing.
My kids are exceptionally generous. They give more to charity, and support more worthy causes than I ever did. To them, to “need some help” is much more normal than it was to me. To them, needing some help at some point in time is to be expected.
Semuels’ article on America’s Great Divergence covers more variables as to why and how “A growing earnings gap between those with a college education and those without is creating economic and cultural rifts throughout the country.” As I consider the “America 1st” tempest of so-called nationalism we’re in, my own thoughts gravitate toward how this generational difference in expectations of getting ahead, has ironically increased both intolerance and generosity at the very same time.
Children of some privilege, like my children, could grow up to be more generous. Depending on the whole of their family values, they could grow up to be quite happy with having ‘enough’ and then sharing their excess instead of banking more personal wealth.
Or not. Again, the whole of their family values matters.
Children with no privilege, particularly the privilege of higher education and its larger prospects, can grow up to be intolerant of sharing for a pretty simple reason: They cannot share what they feel they do not have, and have little chance of ever attaining.
Or not. Again, the whole of their family values matters. Stories abound of exceptional parenting, teaching, and coaching which has successfully overcome this trend.
On Point of View, Conservative versus Liberal
This will likely surprise those who feel they know me now in my current activism, yet it’s my whole truth: When I was in college (imagine 1972 – 1976… yeah.) I was sure I would turn out to be a lifelong Republican. This was me: (source of definitive quotes to follow)
“Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. [They] believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.”
“Republicans work tirelessly to cut government spending and to eliminate government waste. Republicans believe individuals should control both their own and their government’s pocketbook – the people should authorize all tax increases. Democrats believe that government knows what is best for individuals.”
That last line rung truest for me as a non-belief: No way would I ever believe any government would ever know what was best for me! Government’s role was to assure my freedoms, and that was it.
I especially hated the whole notion of welfare, because I believed that everyone should work hard to get ahead, when they physically could do so. Further, it was always possible as long as the desire and self-discipline of motivation, and the willingness to work hard, and have a consistently good work ethic, was within them.
And there’s the rub. It was possible then. I could blame feeling quite self-righteous because the world view of the time supported my opinion. The only people on welfare (or so I believed) were derelicts, degenerates and bums. My intolerance was strictly about work ethic, and judging someone unfavorably if they didn’t have it. And if they didn’t have it, it was only because they chose not to.
Looking back, I probably would have believed this too, as I do now, however there was no need for me to focus on it, and no need to ‘go soft’ on my expectations regarding the then-universality of getting ahead:
“Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. [Liberals] believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.”
It’s different now. Before, our anti-welfare target was laziness. Now however, it is hopelessness.
Sadly, we have an abundance of social ills to alleviate, and a plethora of civil liberties and human rights to protect and defend. More people are in need in the America I know, than has ever been the case in my lifetime.
On Blaming instead of Helping
My intolerance now, is with blame, and how unjust it is to blame the less fortunate, less privileged, less educated, less ‘elite’ if you really must go there.
“Things That Are Not Elitist: Liking art. Reading books. Knowing history. Being aware of other cultures. Feeling compassion for others.”
I never became a Republican or a Democrat, protecting my right to independent thinking instead. I no longer want to abolish welfare as I once did; I just want it smartly given. I’m perfectly okay with giving the homeless free housing and medical assistance on my taxpayer’s dime; I just want them given a helpful hand too instead of a free ride in the way the Chinese proverb says— “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” (Sorry my fellow Christians, it’s not in the Bible).
The way I prefer to think about it though, has nothing to do with being left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. I want to grow old being as satisfied with good enough, and as tolerant, generous and charitable as my children.
To help others, is to be a better person, plain and simple, good and right.
Almost always, those who are quick to blame first (trolls on attack online also come to mind), don’t know the whole story, and need to learn it, or learn to be open-minded.
As ‘Ike loa has taught us in Managing with Aloha, education matters with learning to learn, and being patient enough to fully know something; the subject itself may turn out to be far less important.
Seek First to Understand
is to stand under
which is to look up to
which is a good way to understand”
To understand in this way, you have to go there, where you can stand under, and look up with an open-minded willingness to learn, and to stop blaming others for whatever misfortune they happen to have fallen prey to.
However, we don’t ‘go there’ as much as we need to.
When tempests get stormy, we look for safe harbors. As Alana Semuels described in her article, we gravitate toward others who are just like us: We ‘self-sort’ and voluntarily segregate:
“As college-educated people cluster in cities, they have less and less exposure to people in places like Connersville. And people in Connersville have less exposure to educated people like those who live in Indianapolis.
“I guess I surround myself with like-minded people,” Elle Roberts, a 28-year-old African American social activist who lives in Indianapolis, told me at a local wine bar. “People closest to me tend to be liberal, and we tend to congregate in urban areas.” Roberts, a graduate of Purdue University, moved to Indianapolis from a mid-sized town in northwest Indiana. I went with her to a poetry slam in the basement of a club in Indianapolis on a cold night where dozens of people, mostly minorities, were hanging out.”
“Connersville exists quite separately from this world. One Connersville resident, Brendon Friend, 22, told me he liked the area because “there aren’t many black people here.” In the small town, there are two places people go for entertainment at night: Mousie’s, a bar and restaurant that serves dollar drafts and and cheap wings on Mondays, and Pizza King, a family restaurant where teenagers congregate. Most of the people I met in Connersville told me they spent their leisure time either with family or outdoors; hiking, hunting, fishing, riding four-wheelers. Almost everybody I talked to owns their own house and car and had children young. “It’s just easy to live here,” Clay Smith told me “Everybody knows everybody.”
We can’t continue to let our self-sorting and voluntary segregation be this ‘easy.’ Diversity is something to be celebrated, not something to be avoided.
That may spin off into another Sunday Mālama… for now, work with me on stopping blame and fostering generosity instead. Be tolerant of getting a helping hand, and learn to extend yours in help to others as well. It’s Mālama. It’s Aloha. It’s who we are when within our Aloha Spirit.
Sunday Mālama has been when I will share my off-the-workplace-highway scenic route kind of posts. Not as a normal weekly feature, but whenever they seem to be writing themselves.
You can access the Sunday Mālama archives via this category link, also residing with my site footnotes.
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Talking Story with the Ho‘ohana Community.
Preview the updates in Managing with Aloha, Second Edition, just released Summer, 2016
Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business
Our value immersion study for the months of January and February 2017:
HO‘OMAU; Love the one you’re with.