That’s the Discipline

I’m not going to go into what triggered this one, but suffice it to say that it’s enough under my skin that the only way to expel this without a therapy appointment is to write it down. Why am I sharing it in a blog? Because I want an answer.

I don’t want agreement, I don’t want disagreement. I want to know why.

Why is it that the concept of discipline is so foreign to us now, as a culture, that we not only shy away from it but are horrified by the concept of its application? Look, I get it. It’s hard to be disciplined when iPod McWorld is at your fingertips and you don’t have to compromise for anything or anyone.

You only hear what you want to hear, see what you want to see and all the rest. The world exists only as a means to make your life more fulfilling and happier.

Maybe it’s our quick-fix mentality? We not only expect everything to be fixed in short order, we live a long term plan of being irresponsible with our bodies and our minds and our souls because we consider it our right to have it fixed for us. I don’t need to worry about eating healthy food because the morning news will have a story about how I can put in sixty seconds of effort to look like a supermodel!

Smoking? Oh, it’s not your fault, it’s the tobacco companies. Let me tell you a little secret as a former smoker: I chose to take that first smoke knowing full well the consequences after seeing my dad have a heart attack when I was 11 and hear surgery when I was 12. I did it anyway. I know that quitting sucks. It’s horrifically difficult. But sometimes you have to suck it up and do something difficult to fix things. I chose to take that first drag, and my eternal penance is that I had to make that choice to give up something I really and truly enjoyed doing. But I did it, and anyone can do it.

Maybe it’s our abdication of responsibility? Living in the DC area my whole life and now working in the District I’m morbidly fascinated with the ability of people to shift the responsibility for their choices and actions. It’s not just the politicians either. It’s always someone else’s responsibility to clean up the kitchen counter at work when sugar and cream and water are spilled all over it. It’s someone else’s job to worry about something you could take care of in less than a minute.

If you wander through life thinking always that your choices don’t carry consequences, then don’t be surprised when you have to deal with them. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Being stupid when you’re a teenager or in your 20s is one thing. Being stupid in your 30s means you should have your voting rights taken away.

Is reality TV a symptom or a cause of our mentality, or a little of both? I have trouble deciding on that. Eventually, as we see irresponsibility glorified (Jackass) and the idea that “happily ever after” is the end of a whirlwind “romance” (Bachelor/ette), we get numbed to the idea that no one’s going to bail us out of the bad decisions. And as we see people become celebrities based on idiot behavior (Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Ray-J, et al.) or get out of consequences from idiot behavior because they’re celebrities (see Lohan, Lindsay) maybe we’ve created a feedback loop. Or more of a downward spiral.

All I know is that there’s a lack of discipline from where I stand. Discipline not as punishment, but discipline as in self-control.

As parents, we run a disciplined house; even now Roo Bear is learning that there are consequences to her actions and that sometimes the only choices she has are between two, one of which is only slightly more desirable but both with the same general outcome. I wonder sometimes if we’re giving our children a huge advantage by teaching them to live responsibly, or crippling them among their peers because they will instinctively limit themselves while Rome is burning and everyone else is having fun.

Yeah, I know I’m sounding old and grumpy. Maybe I am getting that way. But discipline is the foundation without which no one can properly stand.

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2 thoughts on “That’s the Discipline

  1. Two things – one, there’s no need for self-control or discipline in our entitlement-rich culture. I should be able to buy what I want, make the money I want, in the career I want, live in the house I want not because I’ve worked hard and earned it, but because I DESERVE it. Ask most people (especially our generation and younger) just why they deserve it, exactly, and you’ll get blank stares. This is why so many people have massive credit card debt and part of why we got into such a mess with the housing fiasco. Watch an hour of TV and see how often you hear the phrases “you deserve it” or “you’re worth it” – especially in ads aimed at women. (The subtext, of course, is that your worth comes from the things you have… but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion).

    Second, in this post-modern, relativistic age where people believe there is no absolute right, wrong, good, bad, truth, etc. concepts like duty, responsibility and honor are often seen as outdated. If I’m just living my life the way that’s “right for me”, then naturally that way is going to be the easiest possible – and if that means some things are harder for you, well, too bad. If there isn’t an external set of values and ideals, why should people put themselves out? Why NOT just take the shortcuts or shift the blame or grab the credit? I think about the difference in the WWII homefront and most cities and towns today… then, doing scrap metal drives or planting victory gardens or joining the military or working in factories was what you did because there was something greater than you worth doing it for. It’s a whole different world now, and not for the better.

    Such a sad place for our society to be in, and I hope we find a way to re-establish the concept of those absolute values, that there are things worth sacrificing and working for, and that it’s so much more satisfying to work hard for something and earn it than it is to just take it. I think it might be up to parents like us, instilling those values in our kids… hopefully there are others doing the same.

  2. I disagree, but only slightly.

    The real culprit, as I see it, is a general lack of respect. Why worry about having any self-discipline (or virtually any other self-reflective trait), if you plan to disrespect whatever anyone else might say to or about you?

    Generally speaking, the whole idea that the 80’s was the “me” decade missed the mark by 20 years. People are too self-absorbed to be concerned with respect of others, which devolves into a lack of respect for themselves.

    It’s paradoxical, because how can you be concerned with the self, but not respect the same, but it really is there.

    I commented to a person in the store the other day that her language, being shouted to a friend 20 feet away, was inappropriate. Her response was “Oh, well. Maybe you should mind your own business.” I was pressed for time, or I would have pointed out that I couldn’t help but mind hers, because she was tossing curse-leaden comments about the contents of her friend’s purse across the store. But such a discussion would have been a lost cause, because this woman simply has no respect for anyone, including, by her appearance, herself (15 pounds of attitude crammed into a 5 pound sack).

    Why worry about exercising any discipline about one’s language, when you, as a default, hate everyone around you?

    The best that you can do, aside from maybe trying to point out an individual’s behavior (which in my experience has had very poor results), is to make sure that those who will be where we are in 20 years have the values whose absence we are bemoaning. Teach your kids discipline, sure. But more than that, teach them respect.

    Otherwise we might end up with things like presidents who are looking to ” know whose ass to kick”.

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