By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
As we grow older, some of us get married, and some of us (usually the women) have children – whether they are married or not. There is one very important guideline for this doubtful blessing. I say “doubtful” because children originally were conceived for the express purpose of helping the family survive the vicissitudes of farming. They were also expected to help take care of the elderly when seniors became infirm and could no longer take care of themselves.
This guideline is: “Raise obedient children.” Now that can be trying and extremely difficult in today’s lenient society where physical punishment is prohibited. Society has revised the standard of “cruel and unusual punishment” for children. Anything but mild verbal abuse and confinement to an unsecured room is taboo. Discipline of children is further undermined by permissive parents who are too busy chasing the dollars that are required to raise children today and provide for their exotic “needs.” Children’s car restraints are very expensive, bicycle helmets are mandatory, and the costs for both family health insurance and minor-aged-driver car insurance are almost prohibitive. Any child’s contribution to the family income has been marginalized by the child labor laws and the second parent’s better paying employment opportunities. Nevertheless, as a parent you are still expected to produce the next generation of law-abiding citizens just like yourselves.
While you are concerned about parenting, you are also supposed to be improving your neighborhood. The well-known advertising guideline I’m referring to is: “Keep up with the Jones.” That means recycle your garbage, mow your lawn, paint your house, rake the leaves, shovel your walks, trim your trees, and in general keep up your premises so that property values won’t decrease in your neighborhood. (Or do your neighbors a favor and move out!) If you happen to rent your house, come around from time to time to see how the renters are trashing the place. Of course, if you live in a condo, go to the periodic owners’ meetings and raise “Hell” about all the things that ought to be done with the monthly maintenance fees.
Another civic guideline is: “Help others less fortunate than you.” Volunteer at the public school, give to the United Way, support the War Veterans, donate to the Salvation Army, and make sure that the Goodwill Industries have furniture and appliances to repair and resell. What is important here is that however you do this, you determine first which organizations are tax deductible. Then, if you are smart, you give away totally depreciated assets like junk cars, leaky boats, and worn-out clothes. Remember it’s the thought that counts, not the generous gift.
I don’t recommend giving anything to the nuisances that drift into the neighborhood begging. Like stray cats you feel sorry for and feed, they may not leave you alone. However, if you are tempted to give beggars some money, keep the amount a pittance or just loose change, so they don’t get the idea they’ve found a sucker. People do suffer from hard times; also from drug habits, alcoholism, disabilities, laziness, and dementia. If these happen to be folks that your local government ignores, have pity on them. Who else can they turn to but you?
Which leads me to remind you about the next guideline. It is: “Don’t get into trouble.” This covers a multitude of sins, addictions, unacceptable behavior, crime, and poverty. The last being a consequence of illness, bad investments, misfortune, accidents, unacceptable behavior on the job, and marriage. Stay away from gangs and those shady characters who are known criminals, ex-cons, bad influences, and depraved individuals. I don’t need to mention sexual deviates, child molesters, male and female prostitutes, and homosexual predators.
If you must leave home or a quiet neighborhood, be sure to lock your car doors, buckle up for safety, and have a “club” handy. Carrying concealed weapons is frowned upon, unless you live in a rural area where hunting is allowed. Since “trouble” usually involves some government expenditures for personnel like law-enforcement agents, fire-fighters, prosecutors and judges, guards for prisons, and social workers for parolees, it behooves everyone to avoid getting into trouble so that more taxes won’t be necessary to defray these public security expenses.
Aligned with that guideline is the following one: “Don’t be conflictive and incompatible.” As I have already indicated, our civic leaders want harmony and peace in our communities. This can be achieved only with the goodwill and cooperation of all of us. There will always be some of us who are unhappy with their lot in life. If these folks are aggressive in pursuing their desires, they can make the pursuit of happiness extremely difficult for others. They can sue, they can refuse to pay their bills, they can harass, and they can spoil the “block party.” The keystone to the foundation of a democracy is compromise. However, the radical left and the radical right want nothing to do with any kind of compromise. The “squeaky wheel” demonstrators may get some grease today, but they better watch out for the potential retribution from an angry avenger who wields a powerful taser.
This guideline also pertains to the bosses, the powerful, and the rich who are inclined to take advantage of their positions causing confrontations with others that lead to serious conflict. We all would like to avoid violence, disruption of normality, and harm to ourselves and our property. Since at least two humans are required for a dispute, both sides must become unreasonable for a conflict to result. Of course, the other person is the one who should yield his adamant demand, right? Not us, because then we would be not realizing our happiness. Most of us want to win, but not at all costs. Ask yourself, who will give in first?
The last important guideline of the ten that society espouses is: “Don’t abuse your religious freedom.” (God may be omnipotent, but our government has more power.) The most conflictive issues in the world today are those based on differences of faith. Secular organizations that have power over their members or citizens are frequently guided by people who have religious agendas. No one wants to be coerced by guideline number one (Do as we say) when the authority figure is an unreasonable religious zealot. (Especially one of another faith!)
Americans can worship at any religious alter of sacrifice we choose in the United States, but not in public. Pursuing the spiritual happiness of your religion can be accomplished either in the privacy of your home or in your church, but not in school, in the work place, on the sport field, or in any governmental location or government sponsored activity. Silent prayer is insidious and must be avoided in public at all times, unless you care to risk being ridiculed, harassed, and possibly orally, physically, and legally abused. Religious practice is tolerated and protected by the law of this country in specified places of worship only.
After you review these ten simple guidelines and consider their reasonability, you won’t be able to deny that we common people could fit into society much more easily if we decide to conform to them. The obvious purpose of smoothing off the rough edges of our mannerisms is so that we square pegs can squeeze ourselves neatly into the round holes made available to us by our wise lawmakers.
We want our nation to be the best example of a constitutional democracy that can be exported to other countries and perhaps other planets. (If we ever discover any that have educated beings so advanced as we are in governing ourselves.) Once we comply with these guidelines, we can use the remaining hours of our day to pursue the happiness that has eluded us while we were acquiescing to the wishes of others and trying not to interfere with their unrelenting pursuit of ephemeral pleasures.
Eight hours of sleep per day may be the maximum “happiness” we can ever achieve. Sweet dreams during repose may be reward enough, after so much effort to conform. Remember, common folk must be fresh “to fit in” tomorrow!