Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dependence and Expectation

When I determine those things on which I rely, I can make a number of choices. I can choose to refuse these dependencies and go without. I can choose to produce what I need. I can find these things in others. I can use a number of tactics to get these things, or to cope with their absence.

Sometimes we deal with others as equals. Sometimes there are those subordinate to us, and this subordination can come in many forms. Most of us in the world are subordinate in terms of office, rank, and position. All of us are subordinate in some way naturally, but natural hierarchy is mixed, incomplete... Without a social structure that raises up some traits over others, it's hard to say which traits and which combinations are truly "fitter" than any others, and in any case, the history of slave rebellions would tell us that even with a social structure there are few safe bets.

So what about when we find ourselves subordinate to others? We may tell ourselves that we can interact with these forces in a rational manner. Indeed, in the American context, it is a national myth that man is strong and independent. Ask yourself what the respectable, powerful man looks like. Perhaps you'll say "the boss," the CEO, the proprietor, and that is a common ideal, but what is more frequently accepted is the man who works, who is paid. Having a job defines the worthy and the strong in our society. It shows that one has "made it," that one can "stand on their own two feet."

It is very interesting, the conflation that has taken place here, and the avoidance of part of that status. You see, work can indeed be noble. Labor, effort, striving, these can all be quite good. And yet it is not work and accomplishment that define the man with a job. It is his employment, that he has been chosen by those who are more powerful than he is for purposes he may make his own, claim as his own, see as one and the same as his ultimate goals and yet--how can they ever be? What equality in mission is there to be between warlord and soldier?

I'm reminded of Orwell. "The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside." And perhaps it is wrong. Perhaps we do exist as soul and body. I've just seen too much linked between them to think them truly independent. The body cannot go through motions unaccepted by the mind without a great cost.

Even if we take the notion that one can join forces with those stronger and remain separate and sovereign, there remains one more dimension to dependence, and one which we might well think of when we consume, when we toil, when we live by the products and the dictates and the customs of others rather than our own. It is the dependence on things remaining as they are, the dependence on the word of those with whom we contract. This can be mundane or it can be very great. We can be sold happiness or entertainment in a film or an art product or a food and regularly, I would almost say ubiquitously, we can find ourselves cheated. We can work for decades in accordance to what we are told is expected of us and find the goals change not as a result of our actions but choices made many miles and tax brackets away. We can say we know what marriage is and discover that it is invented anew every day with every choice. We can discover that others do not behave as they say they will. We can discover that things may have seemed one way, may have been one way, but they are really another, or fast becoming another. We may find that the future we hoped for will never come, that it is fast vanishing even in our memory, and soon it is no longer even a blueprint or a mocking dream but a featureless feeling of bitterness, denial, and loss.

All can and will change, and we don't know how it all will. We strive for control and it is easy to mock others' desire for control while receding into nihilism, itself a false defense against loss and despair. The fact is that only the Buddhists and the discordant have it right, and all the rest of us, who strive and demand and hope for something or something else to be, who put forth effort to control our little piece... Maybe the answer is getting a little stronger. Maybe the answer is depending on ourselves a little more. And maybe the answer still isn't total independence, but changing who we rely on and changing what we believe and changing what we expect of others. I don't see an end to dependence, but maybe we do better when we rely on those who can rely on us.


  1. I have to say this is so full of good thought-provocation that I'm frustrated by my current uber-slow typing, because I want to say a lot in response but cannot hunt-and-peck for very long.

  2. I'm glad it offers some food for thought. It kinda annoyed me with its formlessness, but eh--internalization of order and all that. Anyway, take your time as far as thought and expression. I sure do.

  3. formlessness = provokes free association... which is a value, to me at least... things that are too linear tend to bore me in many cases.

    intellectual * (independence + impatience), I guess.

    thanks for blogrolling me!

  4. Oh, no problem at all, man. You've cited me, so I figure it's the least I can do. Helps me keep track of you, too.