Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Does everyone need a "relationship" before speaking out?

One of the key concepts that I carried over from my involvement with the Rosenfels community (formerly the Ninth Street Center when I got to know it in the 1970s) was that of “balanced” and “unbalanced” personalities.

The latter, of which I am an example, tend to value their independence and “personal autonomy” (or “individual sovereignty”) and insist on being effective in following their own goals, as chosen specifically by them. In some cases, they like the recognition that comes from individual accomplishment, such as “getting published” or reaching some milestone in a career, whether that activity comes from public performance (acting, giving concerts) or from scientific research on novel problems (say, the ultimate problems of basic physics, for example). Personal recognition and self-driven accomplishment can become more important than having “a relationship” (even than getting married and/or having children). The freedom to work and express oneself while alone and without supervision becomes important. Some people (Phillip Longman, as in earlier postings) would see this as excessive self-absorption. Others see such internal focus in some people in a culture as essential to discovery and progress.

One particular problem occurs when “unattached” people express themselves: others are likely to become suspicious of their motives and purposes. Others may believe that the singletons want to step on their toes with “truth”, or may become untrustworthy in the future when circumstances change (as in the posting Sunday). We see this particularly with the Internet today. Indeed, most of the problems involving “online reputation” (especially the sundering of reputations of others) come from younger people who have not yet experienced marriage or making their own commitments to others. There is a feeling that someone who is clearly accountable to others (in some emotionally real sense) is more trustworthy. Jealousy, while usually seen as a pejorative, might be seen as a good thing in some people, evidence that one is committed to others somehow, and not just a dilettante. Family responsibility transcends making careful choices and gets (especially now with eldercare) gets into areas Dr. Phil hasn’t covered yet.

All of this can become legally significant, when we consider the “implicit content” problem, that is likely only to increase. Likewise, we know, as from experience in areas like auto insurance, that people with commitments are sometimes better risks. All of this was familiar “moral territory” in the past, most notably expressed in the 1970s and 1980s by some conservative authors, especially George Gilder (“Sexual Suicide” and “Men and Marriage”).

Of course, we all know that there are plenty of ways people do very bad things when they do have responsibilities to protect families. Look at war, racism, financial corruption, and particular forms of greed, and “conventional” jealousy . These are all older, pre-Internet sins, still played out in the soap operas.

All of this puts me on a hot seat, at least in these current strange days.

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