Friday, February 24, 2012

Cheap Dignity .. and what it costs us

Tom Friedman of the NYTimes, in a column about Egypt, warns against some leaders' tendency to go for "dignity on the cheap." Sometimes, we Americans do not respect the tremendous drive of other countries to attain/maintain/sustain DIGNITY. We're "on top" and it doesn't occur to us that others may then feel underneath and be driven by the motivation to feel otherwise.

Friedman warns that the cheap way to a sense of national dignity is “by standing up to the foreigners,” rather than to develop educational opportunities for its young people, improve its institutions, etc.

I recognize this! In high school, we had mandatory pep rallies -- "gotta support the team!" -- and talked very much about "school spirit." Years later my sons' schools used the same diversion - identify with athletic accomplishments of the schools' teams and "have pride."

The only rebellious act of mine in the late 60s was to stop attending mandatory pep rallies in the school auditorium on Friday afternoons. I just left for the day when they began. Called into the principal's office I had no problem stating the fact that the rallies had nothing to do with my education (which I was taking good care of) and, therefore, I had no need to attend. He did not argue. I stopped attending and sold my "letter sweater." Unfortunately, I was too young to articulate for myself or others the problem with this whole "school spirit" thing. I believe now, after reading Tom Friedman and Andrew Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death), that stepping away from pride "on the cheap" is one of the most important steps I took.

In our lovely country, we are in so many ways willing to do things "on the cheap" and wind up with no satisfaction - just restless ineffectuality. A Bible verse echoes in my head through the years, especially when I see grocery carts piled high with food items designed more for entertainment than nourishment:

Isaiah 55:2 "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfies not? listen diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

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