When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
– Douglas Noel Adams, English author (1952-2001)
No one likes to blame themselves for anything. It’s not easy to accept fault, then lie down nicely and wait for the consequences to assault.
That’s not what Adams is suggesting we should do. He’s recommending that we change ourselves to account for the new learning we gained by making the mistake, by committing the crime or the sin, by simply being a fallible human like everyone else.
Change is what growth is about. Change in our lives is more important today than ever before in history.
It used to be, in past centuries and millennia, that the older people were the wiser ones. In the past, the sum of human knowledge changed very little over a lifetime, so the longer one lived, the more one knew. That applied to human experience–personal or vicarious–as well as to information. That is, an old and wise person could speak to the wisdom of a younger person taking a particular action or making a specific decision because he or she would know that the way proposed did not work in the past when others had tried it.
Today the sum of human knowledge doubles every century. It’s totally impossible to keep up with it. Older people are more inclined to fall behind with their grasp of new technologies and ways of thinking. They tend to be behind the mainstream, not ahead of it. Most old people are not wise in the traditional sense of the word. They are likely backward. So the younger generations tend to ignore their advice because they don’t have the wisdom that older people of past generations were able to accumulate.
Old people today have less value to the functioning of their society and their culture today than ever before in history. The reason is that younger generations need different things from the older generation than the younger generations of the past needed. And the older ones have not changed to fulfill those new needs. Of course there are exceptions, as there are with any generalization.
That disconnect can change. But only when people accept that they must learn and continue to change throughout their lifetime.
Every change is not necessarily right. Some are wrong. Wrong in every conceivable way except that they give more power to one or more individuals. See the history of Hitler or today’s Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for confirmation. That requires older people who may have the time and the improved level of wisdom relating to change to speak up and gather people to work toward reversing or eliminating the results of the power mongers who made the wrong decisions.
Would removing Mugabe today result in the same consequences as removing Saddam Hussein did in Iraq? Answering that question well requires much greater cognitive functioning and knowledge retention than life decisions did in the past.
A few years ago we blamed Saddam for the state of health of Iraq. So the US and its allies removed him. That resulted in a war that has lasted for several years. The change that was needed was not simply removal of a dictator, which opened up animosities that captors of Saddam could not imagine. As it happened, Saddam (with his sons) was the one individual who was preventing a civil war in Iraq. Removing him removed the obstacle to civil war.
No one wants to remove Kim Jong Il, of North Korea, because even he was able to change when those who opposed him chose to work with him rather than against him. North Koreans will benefit as a result of changed approaches to apparently intractable problems. Not only has North Korea been removed from the notorious Axis of Evil list (only Iran remains on the list), but the people of North Korea may look forward to some day being able to eat a full meal. That’s a big change. It resulted from a big change in approach by governments interested in the problem with the dictator.
Blaming doesn’t work. It creates dead ends. And too often dead people.
There are no dead ends, in reality, only people who can’t change their ways of thinking enough to see other possible alternatives. As Mr. Spock said in the old Star Trek series many times, “There are always alternatives.” Seeing alternatives requires changes in thinking.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who will be able to learn and change throughout their lives because they have the right foundation to build on from early childhood.
Learn more at http://billallin.com