Aug 13, 2011

An Integrated Life

  HRM Jennifer has a particular fondness for the painting posted above not just because of the composition, nor the skill, but for the attitudes expressed. People in the fields pausing in their labor as the procession passes by. No church is seen, but faith is everywhere. Prayers are not 'over there' or 'in that place', but everywhere and at all times. When HRM Jennifer first saw it she said,
   "That! That is what Edan is about - an integrated life!"
  Much has been written about the dangers of separating the aspects of life one from another. Hannah Arendt in particular theorized that the simplest manner to get an average person to commit evil is to simply declare it 'official' and segregate it from the rest of the person's life. Many experiments over the years have shown this segregation of life, this disconnection of work from family, of ethics from labor, to be capable of persuading normal people that evil is acceptable.
  But this separation can lead to a more pervasive and subtle breakdown, the isolation of ethics from virtually all aspects of life is just the furthest example of the isolation of the various aspects of life one from another. We learn in schools, but nowhere else. We pray in church, but nowhere else. We are kind to our own family, but no one else. We expect our children to be truthful but lie to our boss about being sick. In such a milieu moral relativism must result because our morals are relative within our selves, first.
  Now, some argue that the Enlightenment is to blame, other that the Enlightenment was the outgrowth of the beginnings of this trend, but such differences are, in the end, moot next to the fact that the general culture now elevates the separation of the elements of life to a crowning virtue. Not just the separation of church and state, which is repeated ad nauseum, but the expectation that politics (and science) is separate from standard moral judgement. A political candidate who appears to have a religious affiliation that is more than superficial is expected to announce that such attachments will not influence his or her political decision. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this is the obvious relief felt by such a candidates supporters, who often applaud their favored candidate's announcement that they will never allow their moral convictions to influence their political behavior!

  Once this isolation of life is entrenched the society which embraces it begins to collapse and the members of that culture who most closely grasp separation are the most baffled; why do fees and taxes that impact parents reduce the number of children? Why should reducing regulations on business's ethical practices decrease workplace safety and increase unemployment? Why did the creation of incentives for single mothers lead to an explosive increase in out-of-wedlock births? Such people are literally incapable of realizing the consequences of actions; and why should they? Their culture, education, and society all repeatedly tell them that ethics is over there, work is over here, politics is somewhere else and they all stand isolated from one another.
  This is why so many in our modern culture simply cannot grasp the critical importance of family to society. They cannot grasp that society is simply family writ large. Again, why should they? "Family" isn't at work (where 'family issues' can cost you your job) nor school (where the 'family' is just an extension of the educational apparatus to ensure homework is done) nor politics (where loyalty to party is supreme). Taxes, laws, policies that weaken or destroy families?
  "Who cares?', they say "The family is just an outmoded symbol used by social conservatives."
  And then they bemoan the fact that crime is up, and businesses are unethical, children aren't being educated, and nothing seems to get done anymore....

  The nature of the Edanian government is an attempt to avoid this; leaders are part of the community and the relationship between the governed and the political leadership is explicit and personal. But as we build our own, unique culture we must remember this painting at the top; faith and family are part and parcel of everything we do. Whether we are farmers or programmers, nobles or commoners, parents or clergy we are part of the family of Edan.
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