There are many in life (arguably most of us) who accept things for being the way they are—albeit we may grumble a bit – and just get on with the business of survival. In fact, most of us, whatever about our limitations in other ways, are remarkable good at feathering our own nests. We justify such behavior by talking about the importance of having a career and being properly rewarded—and our actions may be disastrous to society as a whole, and epitomize greed, selfishness, and short-term thinking (and destructive of the environment) but, if such behavior is the cultural norm, who are we to change the system?
It’s hard not to respect such practicality, but I confess it is not the way my mind works. In truth, I spend a great deal of time both researching and thinking about matters which bring me no personal benefit at all—except intellectual satisfaction. Even then, it doesn’t make me feel superior in any way—I have no wish to score points (though I certainly did when I was younger)—but instead, these days, I’m quite satisfied with the exhilaration that comes from the process itself. It’s detective work—and it’s fascinating.
I don’t know why this is – there is not obvious clue in either my background or upbringing – but I have been questioning the status quo since I was very small. Frequently, I have been right, but I will admit that this tendency has got me into considerable trouble on more than a few occasions – especially since I have rarely been deterred by the power and status of whoever I was up against, or by the all too predicable consequences.
Strangely enough, you don’t need to say much, if anything, for the conventional to detect contrarians like myself. The conventional seem to have highly effective built-in detector mechanisms to filter out those of us who are disinclined to “go along to get along.”
But perhaps “disinclined” is the wrong word. The real reason why contrarians and iconoclasts like myself behave the way we do is because our natures drive us to do so. Many consider us trouble-makers, and government institutions, corporations and academia go to great effort to keep us out, but, for all that, we are necessary to society because we drive change—and without change society atrophies.
Institutions know this, and their leaders regularly make speeches about the importance of innovation and the absolute necessity of encouraging creativity, but they lock shields and become defensive when faced with the reality. After all, the status quo has elevated them to where they are, which—by definition—reflects well on the status quo, so why change it?
Where the U.S. is concerned, it seem to me the need for fundamental change is self-evident. On the other hand, I don’t yet detect the kind of massive groundswell of public opinion which could push such change through. Indeed, a rising stock market, a healthy housing market, fast food, meds, and the distractions of the internet seem to be all that is required to keep “We the people” adequately supine.
True, there is much dissatisfaction with Congress, and a significant proportion of the population is financially stressed, but the primary concern seems to be to return to the good old days prior to the Great Recession—and business as usual.
I feel like Don Quixote, and that arguing for fundamental change in the U.S. is about as futile as tilting at windmills.
On the other hand, one of the interesting things about societal change is that it has a tendency to happen when you least expect it.
Let me state for the record that I expect it.
Now let me find my horse and lance—and get back to tilting.