Society told me so

Poverty shackles our physical reality into a prison which depletes a platform for movement. It eradicated peace in the physical and plants a seed in the hearts of those who suffer in that manner to grow and believe in a stagnant growth. The physical reality then becomes a flat surface where peaks have been mowed down. The melody played by the affects of poverty is a steady, monotonous beep that will sometimes last forever. Those who make their home here are hedged in a room that depletes movement, more in the physical state of being that is. And if one wants to or lets it, poverty infects the mind as well.

But it spells a roof ripping surge, in terms of possibility for those ‘blessed’ with the necessary means to believe, the opposite of those who are shackled by the guardians that lock people away in the confines of poverty. They have what is needed (or the access of it) to breath the freshness of air, for they are free from the confines of reality to have imagination, to do something about it. There is no lack in their predisposed trait.

Now these are two extreme positions to be in. One that lacks the necessary means to believe and one that is not hunched in their physical state of reality. On the surface, those who are stuck with their eyes living in these two spheres lack the necessary outlook to see what their positions impose.

So let me propose some thoughts for us to reflect and think about their conditions.

Those who suffer poverty, or living below the means of what society sees a somewhere below par, are actually those who have a predisposed trait embedded in them to freedom. Although being shackled by the poverty demon that strips them bare to believe in a reality that the successful live in, they in someways can or could create an alternative reality for existence. This in turn will inhibit a steady growth in how they can think, to live life in a creative way. Poverty only affects the physical dimension, it does not necessarily have to affect our inner disposition or traits. That is, if the poverty stricken, take strides in the reexamination of their state, they will eventually see themselves as free; freed from the bane and prison state of those who are slaves of success live in. They inherently have the capacity to believe in a different way and to live in a different way, burrowing an alternative dimension away from the clutter seen of the surface of society, for living.

But those who we think who have freedom, those who society looks to as successful, if they are not careful, are the ones who are actually shackled to be slaves. Shackled to be living in mediocrity. For society writes the scrip of life for them in the what is and what not. Their only pursuit is the Never-ending surge forward, avoiding any steps to plunge into the fringes of the unwanted, the rubbish that society makes of those who live below what it sees as success. Society has a way to tell people, what they should have, wheat they should desire, where they should live, how they should live, what to eat and so on and so forth.

Which poses a question for us to reflect on. What then is freedom and what then is success? Are these two traits, poverty and success, for a certain group of people? Or who owns meaning to determine those who hinge them as badges to be worn by?

I ask this not to glory in the meaninglessness of poverty or for that matter depleting value in success. I ask this because we sometimes leave interpretation of ones state of being based on stereotypical designations based on ones condition. There is a deeper reality in which we should reflect and think about. In which we should not write off too quickly. Those stricken with the sickness of poverty do not lack anything really. They need to rise above their physical shackles to see a reality other than what society lumps them in. Those who live above, who are freaking rich, should reflect steadily that they do not become a slave to how society tries to push them or drag them like stubborn donkeys to a cliff scripting their death becoming.

This is not to say that we should not help those who suffer poverty. This actually poses a question as to how we are helping them. Are we feeding them with the junk or ideology of what society thinks as acceptable, to make them be like what society thinks of them?

Or we should also ask, “are those who are rich and successful really free from being shackled or are they simply being enslaved in the system created by society at large?”

Note: This is my reflection from a post by Peter Rollins who I admire in the way that he thinks. One of my favorite philosopher/ theologian. He stretches the mind to think. Here’s the link:

7 thoughts on “Society told me so

  1. Good thoughts. Yes, Peter Rollins is interesting, though I don’t know what is faith actually is. Maybe Christian in some loose sense? Maybe thoroughly Christian in his mind? Or maybe he considers that meaningless?

    Meaning is found in Jesus. The world certainly has its view, but Jesus turns that on its head.

    1. I guess Rollins eludes answering the faith question because his tendency to deconstruct what it means, and thus offer another question in countering the need to give a definitive statement. I think he does that a lot. Nonetheless, he does form new ways in which we can communicate Jesus to a postmodern culture. While I disagree in parts of his book “How (not) to speak of God” where he infuses mystery and concrete belief, I wonder how he intertwines this with his new book “Insurrection.”

  2. Interesting thoughts. It did make me reflect further on the issues of poverty, wealth and success. Perhaps, another way to look at it, would be that while it cannot be denied that the physical state of wealth and poverty plays a role, the main issue here is really one’s state of mind towards the condition, regardless of whether one is poor or rich. One who is unable to liberate himself and his mind from his state (usually poverty but also riches) and is enslaved by society’s definition and views of success and ambition is not free. In this case, I would say that both classes in their physical state of poverty and wealth are not immune from this; to being shackled (perhaps in different ways) from pursuing their own views of life, freedom and success and are also equally capable of breaking free and creating their own, as you say, “alternative reality for existence”. It’s really a matter of whether one is willing to break one’s circumstances and those rules of society dictating how one should live, regardless of whether is poor or rich. Maybe this is an oversimplification on my part, but it also seems like a necessary point towards the discussion of the whole issue; of which I probably need more time to deconstruct and analyse more thoroughly.

    Also another thought that comes to mind is what you would say freedom is to those who are poor if once they’ve re-examined their condition, find themselves aspiring towards the sort of success similar to that of which society deems as so? Being in that constant state of “want”, would you call that freedom, despite what you call their “predisposed trait” to “freely” dictate what they want in life without being on society’s watch list as opposed to the rich? What happens then when they’ve reached success, do they somehow lose this “freedom to dictate/create” then? What’s stopping them (or the rich for matter) to break society’s rules/views and call it freedom?

    I also read through Peter Rollin’s post that inspired your post, on the freedom from the pursuit of our highest ambition and one thing that came to me while reading it is whether the issue is not really that society has told us to “go for it” but that society has defined “it” for us all this while. For instance, I use the example that he gave of a child who is being forced to visit a relative that he doesn’t really like and thus having an external limit imposed on him to pursue his happiness, he didn’t however seem to address (or maybe I missed it?) the outcome if this child had been given the choice to pursue his happiness (in other words, to “go for it”) in not visiting that relative he dislikes. Would he have been happier/be happier in getting what he wanted or in having to maintain that “inner protest”? If we look around and think about it, could we actually say that the reason for most unhappiness, discontentedness or in other words, to use his terms, “psychological poverty” is due mostly to “external constraints” from society and the like rather than a freedom of being able to pursue whatever we want? Anyway, just my two cents for the sake of discussing and further deconstructing the topic at hand. Didn’t expect that it would be this long and yet I still think I haven’t covered all my points, hahah…

    1. Phoebe,

      Thanks for your comment (my my the length but I’m not complaining). I think there is one point I did not get across here is to argue for a third way which was always on my mind when I wrote this.

      The third way, although a conceptual idea in this post, would be a way in which the poor and the successful free themselves from the dictation of society. I have to mention that dictation sounds better than “told,” I guess I was striving for “reader friendly term” haha. I find that if we follow the dictation of what society defines as success, we become slaves to the idea. And responding to your question on “what if the poor finally are freed from their physical conditions of material lack” are they not going to be again dictated society’s definition? I think the “alternative reality of existence” should now be the thing that dictates how they live and not success as defined by society. I think to get off the cycle of being slaves of the system, one has to unplug themselves from the system that seeks to control them…ala the Matrix. I’m not sure it’s something instant, but I think it takes a lifetime to learn how to unplug oneself…through critical thinking and reflection. Well, this explanation still needs a better answer but I hope I clarified some stuff there…(i hope :P).

      And about the illustration that Rollins gave, by how I would interpret the boy going to the relative thing, the “inner protest” is actually an inner protest to not be defined by the feeling of not attaining what one wants. By focusing on the psychological dimension here, I think the gist of the parable tells us that even if we do not get what we want, it should not deprive us of being happy, we still can and it is still possible to be happy even if we are deprived of the thing in which we think can make us happy. If we succumb to the pull of the thing and the thing becomes the extension if not the very reality of our happiness then it looks like we have relegated our own happiness to be defined by and alien desire. In a way it can be a way to explain Jesus’ call to disciples of forsaking themselves, carry the cross and follow him.

      Well, that was also a long response…but surely love the conversation. I like the way you think through things.

      1. Ahah, glad to know that you have no complaints about my lengthy comment(s)…hahah. Yep, having a third way to look at the issue does help to clear and answer some questions. I personally believe that while society has a way of dictating how we should live and what we should strive for in life, we as individuals, regardless of our physical state, still have the power and “freedom” to break through and unplug ourselves from the system and create our own “alternative reality of existence”. However, I speak of course, from my own philosophy on life and experience, so it does make me wonder again whether our physical state has anything to do with this. In this case, I’m referring to the points of “nature and/vs. nurture” like genetics, environment, education, access to resources, upbringing and the like; which also makes it seem like one’s financial background could also play a role. (Yeah, I find a thrill in contradicting and challenging my ownself…hahah).

        Hahah, yeah, “dictation” does sound like a more “reader friendly term” than “told”…I wonder what “word analysts”, psychologists or the people who study these things have to say about that? I suppose, maybe it’s because the word “dictation” sounds more imposing with a more authoritative tone, so while people may not like the idea that they’re under the commands of somebody/thing, they can still accept it if it comes from a higher authority; whereas “told” sounds…well, who likes to be told what to do?! The nerve?! Hahah…

        Oh, a thought just came to me that I think I would like to explore on; that is the idea of society being a sort of “collective” dictator, no different from Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il and the rest of humanity’s favourite infamous individuals, hahah. We often think of these people as evil, oppressive tyrants and yet when we come to think of it, how different is society really towards themselves/their own people/individuals minus all the physical torture/genocides/killing?

        Ah, I knew there was a point I was missing on that illustration and had to bring it up with you. Thanks for clarifying! I guess I was I was caught up with my initial premise on the “dictatorship of society”. It definitely makes more sense now, ahah. Anyway, keep the thought-provoking posts coming! Will definitely try to respond whenever I can…since you don’t mind, hahah!

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