The older I get in this day and age, I have the inescapable sinking feeling that my parents raised me wrong.
They raised me to earn an honest living. Yet, every day I see how the corrupt, the dishonest, the cheats end up with power, prestige and sick amounts of money. They are lauded in spite of their utter moral bankruptcy and callousness. There is no sense of personal shame or guilt anymore.
They raised me to earn my wage by giving my best. Yet, every day I see how giving our best is not appreciated, disrespected and disregarded. Instead, mediocrity, stupidity and corruption is rewarded, regaled and gets us into very high places. The dirtier I am, the stupidier I am, the higher I am likelier to go.
They taught me to be trustworthy, accountable and responsible when I am in a position of trust. Yet every day I see those put in positions of trust and authority abuse it to enrich themselves and their cronies, mislead and wreck the lives of others outside their personal circle of corruption.
They taught me to be humble and respectful in going about my work; keep my nose on the work. But these days we are told we must advertise ourselves, we must tout our work and show, share and curate the effort that went into it, we must resort to hyperbole about ourselves and what we do.
They encouraged restraint and responsibility over my desires; to keep them in check and not make others unhappy by them. But every day I am confronted with those that don’t care and have no compunction in making a vast majority miserable so long as they are enriched and pleased with themselves for a moment.
They educated me that there is a time and place for work, rest, play and socializing; and all these moments are important to savour. But these days every moment is framed as economic opportunity to be taken advatange of or suffer a loss for; as if we were born just to generate income each and every second of our short lives, not live; as if not ‘generating’ income is some kind of character defect on our part.
They encouraged me to speak up and do so truthfully and with courage, but only if I have something worthwhile saying and for a good cause. Otherwise I ought to sit down and shut up. But these days it feels as if one is expected to keep saying things to draw attention to one’s self instead of the cause; the more empty cool and plausible sounding catchphrases we generate, the more of a ‘thought leader’ we are.
They educated me to know my worth but not be unreasonable about my worth, especially to those that deserve it. And yet daily I see how being unreasonable, pushy and outrageous pays off; that being fair, reasonable and respectful are hallmarks of weakness, not strength.
They instilled in me a sense of duty and responsibility over those who ended up in my care and work with me; that I had a duty to nurture and grow those under me, to cooperate, stimulate and encourage those with me, and to support, account and do all in my power to those I have placed above me. Yet, this sense of duty and responsibility beyond myself and my personnal desires is a stupid thing if wasn’t part of my marketing gig – why pass up on another banal social media moment?
That my parents imbued me with values from a different time is understandable. They grew up in different times with different values, attitudes, and outlooks. When I think about it wasn’t that long ago. My parents were born in the mid to late 1940s. Grew up in the 50s and 60s. Adulthood and parenthood in the mid-70s. Careers in the 80s until the late 90s.
I reckon much of their values would reflect those of the 50s to 60s with perhaps a touch of the 70s, times very different from the present. A time before we were perpetually short of time or had no time. A time when people met each other physically and our interactions were less mediated by technology. A time when we spoke plainly instead of speaking with calculated artifice, hyperbole and hedging. A time when we sought nothing more than to take pleasure in a moment.
All those seemingly outdated values, attitudes and outlooks are the same values they imbued me with.
In this day and age, my sense of it is these values are seen as naive, weak or outdated, or all of them. These are not the values that dominate our nation’s cultures or communities. They don’t bring success quick enough. They may be trrotted out for some public relations event; and they apply only so long as the event lasts. These are values applied in defensive situations, not prospectively in our lives and all we do.
Actually, I am convinced my parents raised me wrong and instilled the wrong values in me to be successful, powerful, admired and influential in this day and age. I feel like I am likelier to have thrived and flourished during their time, not this one – which for all its dynamism, technology, and spectacle, often leaves me with a sense of emptiness, disconnectedness and being perpetually taken advantage of.
Although my parents imbued me with these wrong values, I don’t hold it against them. Instead, I am grateful to them for them. They are fine values to live by. They may not have led me to fame or fortune, but they have led me to meaningful things: beautiful experiences, delightful conversations, great friendships and a serendipitous life; the priceless things in life. Those values led me to discover others that resonate and who in turn inspire me to manifest and spread those values.
If what amounts to being right leads to fame and fortune quickly as much as it does to corruption, cheating, stealing, dishonesty, fraud, misery, frustration, anger, falsehood, hypocrisy and the like, then I am happy to be wrong, and continue living wrongly.
But I talk about it as if I had a choice in the matter. The truth is I don’t.
My parents’ values are the ones I have and the ones I cannot help but live by.