In discussing the reading for today's class, the five of us at my table started talking about how the attitude towards children changes depending on the politics and social norms of the time, as well as where you are culturally. I commented how here in America, we are very into Democracy...and Capitalism. I trailed off thoughtfully.
"They're not really the same thing," J, the guy sitting next to me, agreed when he saw me struggling to make sense of what I was saying.
I struggled because it seems to me that Democracy has taken on new meanings lately. I don't know if this is really a new thing or if I only just now became aware of political and social trends (probably a mix of both), but it seems as though people throw around the word "Democracy" in order to prove their entitlement to...everything. Anything should be allowed. After all, we live in a free country. We believe in Democracy. It would be un-Democratic to suppress any way of living or state of being. In this country, all deserve to have money. All deserve to succeed. All deserve to live comfortable lives. All deserve to behave however they like so long as it does not harm anyone else. All deserve everything - in the name of Democracy. In the name of Democracy, there is a desire for automatic entitlement to things without earning it; people believe they ought to have things coming to them just because they live on American soil.
Similarly, Democracy suddenly seems to stand for an overabundance of Political Correctness. It is like there is a warped idea of what it means not to discriminate against others. We are so afraid of stepping on anyone's toes that we have made ourselves ridiculous. Our pride and common sense has disappeared and we have become a community of people-pleasers, no matter who those people are or what they stand for.
Is this what the founding fathers of America meant when they created a Democratic system of government?
"No," I told J. "I think Democracy and Capitalism can be related."
I explained what I meant. To me, Democracy does not mean everyone gets free reign. It does not mean people can have whatever they want because it's a free country. To me, Democracy means everyone has the opportunity to have such things. You still have to work for it. There is still a need for competition. That's where Capitalism comes in. No one is entitled to anything. Those who work hard will rise. Those who do not - well...sorry. I feel as though America: the Land of Opportunity has somehow morphed into America: The Land of Entitlement. Entitlement is not what this country is about. The freedom in this country is the freedom to compete, to be heard, to matter. Everyone in our society is allowed to compete. Everyone is given a voice and a say. Everyone's opinions and individual successes matter. In other societies, certain social and economic classes are suppressed, are never allowed the opportunity to rise, to succeed. In America, all can do so. All can rise. All can succeed. But they have to work for it. And the more we compete, the more we all succeed as a society. That's the relationship I see between Democracy and Capitalism. Democracy (among other things, like the right to vote) gives us the opportunity for all to partake in a Capitalist society.
Part of our reading for class talked about children developing a sense of self. This is true not only for children, but for adults as well. Before we can become effective members of society, we must have a certain self-awareness. We must understand what precisely makes each of us individuals.
Individuality is precisely that: a sense of self. Being an individual is not being not-others; it is not going against the norm. That is not having a sense of self, but rather wishing to be not whatever anyone else is. A true individual is one who is, not one who is not. The individual is one who is true to him/herself: who truly thinks, feels, and behaves according to what he/she believes is true and correct. This is not a reaction to others, but a reaction to yourself. This is a sense of self.
A society made up of those with a true sense of self is a society of individuals, and our nature as individuals leads us to healthy competition. If we are truly such a society, we will be one that is self-aware, and therefore critical, constantly growing and trying to better itself. We need to see our strengths, and we really need to see our flaws. We need to be aware of who we are, what we stand for, and why we stand for it. And we need to keep our rights as individuals faced with opportunities, we need to take those opportunities, and we need to work towards a better world.