Why concern ourselves with the structural integrity of a building and be so ignorant of our own?
Engineers will spend countless hours defining, studying, designing, and testing the structural integrity of everyday objects such as automobiles, buildings, or air crafts. Tirelessly, they strive to derive structures that can withstand the forces of nature, protect their content, and last over a number of years, efficiently and effectively. With two case examples, let us then consider the manner in which we develop our bodily and mental structural integrity and if we build this to withstand the challenges and experience the joys of life.
The foundation for our bodily and mental structural integrity is laid during our childhood, a time in which the materials of our foundation – physiological, psychological and sociological – are molded and put in place for we are literally clean slates. We do not yet have mental models of how things work; for even though we might see things in action, our intellectual capacities are yet to be fully developed to comprehend and process things accordingly. We are eager to learn and absorb anything that we encounter, but without the capacity to discern whether it is right for our bodily or mental foundation.
In Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business, Postman wrote that “save for sleeping there is no activity that occupies more of an American youth’s time than television-viewing.” And what exactly is it that the young watch on the telly or read on story books, or have narrated to them? Fairy tales. Nowadays, perhaps video and mobile games may take precedence but even these are largely based on fantasy. On face value fairy tales are tame and harmless; removed from reality as possible, where perplexities are resolved with expositions of magic (wands) or superhuman powers. The placement of reality in fairy tales, if any, takes the shape of heroes overcoming villains where the obvious lesson then is an aspiration to become superheroes, to conquer evil in society by violent or magical means.
.. the pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child
Observably, kids when the situation allows demand to be bought nothing but the toys of their superheroes, so they may relive the fantasies learned, enacting what they have incorporated in the foundations of their mental structures. Which is to develop a taste for such content even though it simply corrupts their structural integrity. Furthermore, in aspiring to become superheroes, they become accomplices in propagating villains, for a superhero can only exists where villains do. An outlook of life where evil is thought natural rather than as a by-product of structural design. It is to construct the structure of a building based on wishful thinking and utter ignorance. This is worse than not laying a foundation at all. Woe unto us that a whole industry is dedicated to the production of fairy tales. As David Thoreau implied in Walden, the mental structural integrity is “instructed only in that innocent and ineffectual way […] by which the pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child.”
Why not teach the young about everyday things in such detail so that by the time we expect them to chip in, they might be thoroughly aware of our cultural weaknesses, that they might question them and bring fresh perspectives on the table?
For instance, we could make a holistic narrative of automobiles. Starting of course with the raw materials mining, shipping and refining processes, not to mention the conflicts involved, and the industrial waste resulting and its handling. Then the employment of car manufacturer workers and the work laws and benefits involved including the fact that they make far way too less than their bosses while they collectively produce more. Then the unbelievable fact that automobiles kill about 1.3 million people annually, not to mention injuries and disabilities. That in addition to using conflict minerals, they rely on conflict fuel for their operation, emphasizing here on the endless wars fought in the acquisition of oil.
As private means of transport the amount of time they are used versus parked, the amount of parking space they take, the amount of time people driving in them have to spend – waste – sitting in traffic jams, looking for parking, etc annually. That automobiles are perhaps the most un-environmental object mankind has created so far, how much carbon dioxide not to mention other gases do they emit annually? And so on and so forth.
We could be far off better in the immediate and distant futures by informing if not educating kids this way over merely about car racing and super cars, or about invisible men whose objective is to reward acquiescence once a year, haunt them in the dark or condemn them to damnation.
Here is the physical and emotional structural integrity being weakened from the foundation, even before we start laying the bricks
How about the nourishment of the body? I have observed a mother feed her children sugar free cereal meals for breakfast only to serve them a piece of cake hours later, and supplying candy, chocolate and biscuits as treats for good behavior. At the same time, the family watched the Olympics, admiring the physical strength and motor abilities of the sports men and women. Later, the kids are driven to fast food restaurant where their meals come with toy packages. My turning down a meal from the fast food restaurant, prompted the mother to opinion that it is okay to have such every now and then. How comes construction engineers have not gotten to that conclusion, to tell us it is okay to weaken the structural integrity of buildings or cars or air crafts every now and then? I could not help but wonder what aspirations for the physical structural integrity the mother had for her kids, or why she would be so bothered to feed them healthy meals only to supply the unhealthy stuff afterwards. In addition, the use of treats as means for controlling their behavior and emotions implied a mismatch between what the kids expected and what they got in reality. Here is the physical and emotional structural integrity being weakened from the foundation, even before we start laying the bricks.
Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how much effort it takes, and it cannot be easier to kick off such non-obvious addictions to sugar or the like, especially when these have been learned as the means of resolving conflicts or more precisely, leaving them unresolved. Structurally, it is to use wood where reinforcement bars are required or mud in place of concrete. A builder who has had to reinforce a building with poor structural integrity may affirm this, that it is easier to build afresh than to attempt to strengthen a structurally poor building. Inescapably, there is not much to like in the character of kids raised thus, for they are simply maladjusted to the realities of life. It begs the question: Why concern ourselves with the structural integrity of a building and be so ignorant about our own? It spells utter betrayal on our part as adults for kids are fully trusting of everything they learn and from adults.
.. the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures
Thoreau in Walden was not convinced that the old have something of value to teach to the young: “One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.”
I have eaten junk food, spent countless hours reading novels, binging on the telly, amusing myself to death and I am barely able to see the nitty-gritty of my life, leave alone concern myself with only that which can truly reinforce my structural integrity.