Friday, August 19, 2016

What Do We Aspire To?

This morning I awoke, rolled to my side and read the clock: 7:11. I smiled and said to myself, "It's going to be an auspicious day.

Why? I'm not a numerologist, a fan of the convenience store, nor am I superstitious. It just felt good to start the day day on one, positive, smiling, note. But perhaps, the morning smile was triggered by a quote and the consequent observations it has induced over the past few days.

I'm studying an excellent piece of journalism written by Scott Anderson for the New York times. The title is Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart. In the piece, Mr. Anderson highlights the lives of six people from different Arab countries who have endured the upheaval of rebellion, war and loss of safety and peace. In the stellar introduction, I read a short paragraph that has resonated and caused me to pause and ponder over the past few days. Mr. Anderson proposes that one problem of the Arab world was the tendency to be a culture of grievance. They were defined less by what people aspired to than by what they opposed. They were anti-Zionist, anti-west and anti-imperialist.

The statement of reflection has caused me to be more observant of my surroundings and my personal attitude. Although the reference is macroscopic, many nations, millions of people, hundreds of years, it also has a very microscopic allusion--to the individual, to the one person~~to me.

My friend in an eastern state has volunteered to work the polls on November 8. At her orientation meeting, she was warned to expect angry voters. Angry because they are not happy with the candidates. It is not only the presidential contenders with a propensity to be their own culture of grievance, but our entire political system is turning into such. Instead, we NEED aspirations. We are crippled by focusing on all that is wrong with the other candidate, with the democratic or republican congress; we must, in order to survive, we must aspire to: reducing the national debt, creating equality among all people, bringing peace to inner cities. Mr. Anderson also believes that a culture of grievance is a smoke screen to deter from what is wrong, what we don't want to fix, or even what we believe we cannot fix.

The senior class at my school is currently plagued by a small group of students who had a grievance with a change in the curriculum. In the beginning, their intent was to facilitate a change for the better, but when it didn't change according to their naive demands, they evolved into a culture of grievance with all the offshoots of disrespect, stubbornness and the possibility of damning their own ability to learn.

The Arab Spring of 2003 was looked upon with great hope for the liberation of the Arab world. Countries such as Syria and Iraq had thrown off the heavy cloak of oppressive dictators, yet instead of embracing a functioning and fulfilling form of democracy, they created a fertile environment for Osama bin Laden's al-Queada, which gave way to the incarnation of ISIS.

How do we overcome this culture of grievance, and more especially a personal culture of grievance which may tempting and hard to resist? First of all, legitimate grievances can be an important course correction and culture of grievance vastly differs from a grievance. We discover a problem, or we're apprised of a problem; then we grieve and in that grief and complaint, we search and ultimately find "the fix." This is how relationships end, bad bosses are fired and the leaky roof gets patched. Fix becomes the antidote, not just an anecdote to the aspirations that lift us from tenuous, even dangerous, situations that lead to episodes of great whining and finger pointing.

When we stay put in our culture of grievance, it means we have accepted the misfortunate, but accepted it with dire consequences.

What happens when we can't find the fix? Or we may be too small to influence and inspire? Some circumstances, like the presidential election are beyond my ability to change. But after November 8, there should be a respite, or the worst possible scenario: a substantial growth in the culture of grievance. If only we could come together as a nation and aspire to overcome our different political views and become a culture of support, cooperation and success.

We've seen what happened to the Arabs.