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Monday, September 10, 2007

The death of character.

Where has all the character gone in today's' masses full of individuality? There was a time when one's character had value. It would seem that the only measure that matters today is reputation, and we all know that we can manipulate reputation with a facade. However, character is built over one's entire life. It is nearly impossible to fake. Does anyone even care about character? Or are we happy as long as no one messes with our koolaid?

Who, what and where come to mind when thinking about the pursuit and development of one's character? Who is teaching or modeling such a destructive behavior? What good was it anyway? And where are we supposed to learn character, the internet? Group think is in and your character is not welcome. Why can't you just do what your told? Who do you think you are to oppose the group think?

Words that once were used to define character, like fortitude, perseverance, steadfastness, courage, integrity, are now dismissed from history and only revisited in dictionaries as a side note to a past era of men and women. Today, character is defined by your IM buddy, your "My Space" web page, or how you can truncate an entire sentence into a row of meaningless letters, "myob","brb". The future is about cloning character-less persons who can conform to a group's way of thinking. After all, character is just too independent and causes too much trouble for the rule makers. If you have spent anytime developing your character be warned, you wasted your time, unless you are looking for a fight. Look around you, anyone who dares to display any form of character are considered misfits, malcontents, rebellious, and delinquent. You can succeed today with no character whatsoever. Yep, character has been killed, and no one is looking for a suspect.



Anonymous said...

Must say that I agree with you on this. The world has come to rely on the internet to raise their children. We no longer have children who are individuals and have as you said character. They are all computer driven clones living off myspace and facebook instead of actually speaking to each other.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree anymore with this passage. It seems as if everyone is starting to fit in one mold.If you dare speak your mind or do any steps different you are in the wrong. What if the interent crashed or something went majorly wrong with it? Everyone would be running around aimlessly because they know no different then the " brb's" or the " gtg's".

Anonymous said...

i mostly agree with you about the internet but not so much about the whole myspace thing...myspace does basically let you be who you are by letting you choose your music your background and even lets you say what you have to say on it...however i do agree with the fact that parents need to stop raising their kids off the computer and in my opinion also cell phones. when you see a year old girl walking around texting on a cell phone it just shows the parents giving in to anything the child wants...which then as you said...makes them a preverbial "clone" and makes them look less like an induvidual and more like everybody else

Anonymous said...

I dont know if i agree, i really dont understand what myspace or IM has to do with a persons character. Yeah some people take the internet and stuff over the top but there are other people out there. You just dont see them on the myspace or IM. Also you cannot clone people to have a certain personality, people will have their own personalities no matter what their DNA or genes are.

Anonymous said...

I agree in this passage with you. it very interested to read this

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you on this subject. All the character in todays society is dead. What you do does not matter its only what you have and who you know that is important. Almost everyone is hiding something about themselves and most of those people are to fake to let anyone know about it. People especially youth are all hung up on the internet communication and many of them live there lives through sites like myspace. Every facet of their lives are posted so everyone knows what the like or what they do and a lot of the time they make themselves appear different to the viewer. Almost anything you can see on those sites is either fake or exaggerated all the worlds character is gone and i am not sure that it is ever coming back

Anonymous said...

I would also agree with you on this. The internet has made it easy for anyone to find character thats not there own. Which is probably going to be the same as the last person who logged on to the internet, which means theres no independency and why cloning is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

In today's world people have little or poor personality. The building blocks of one's character are in poor quality. Everyone is grouping alike and there seems to be no difference in the make-up of one's individual traits. Its scary and cautious to speak out what you stand for and believe in. In this world today in which we are witnessing frontline, the power to flourish uniquely is difficult. We have the internet which is rapidly increasing the amount of people conforming to the same ideas and lack of independence. Goes to show much is closely related to cloning.

Peajay said...

Nop! TB this time your wrong. (I can't believe I just said that). Character is there if you look for it. You have character, I have character. Fortitude, perseverance, steadfastness, courage, integrity and honour are words that I try to live my life by, I am not however, rebellious, a misfit, delinquent or malcontent. In my opinion I am a normal, fairly happy individual who is just trying to do their best in life. I believe you to be the same, as are the other members of your family, your friends, your colleagues. In your claim that character is dead you fail to look beyond those you think represent today's lifestyle, in doing so you do an injustice to those that have had their character forged by experience of trials and endurance. Character is about self respect, it is unassociated with ephemeral trivialities like myspace. Character is shown to others including our youth by actions and example.

gogo said...

The internet provides an incredible amount of information and it allows a good portion of this world's people to connect and communicate like they have never been able to do before. In that I think it's a great tool for communication, like the old-fashioned 'pen pal', as long as it doesn't interfere with a person's actual 'real' life.

However, I believe that people don't always present their true selves...for various reasons. It's easy to hide all of your blemishes behind a keyboard, and keep the less desirable traits anonymous. Many already hide behind a facade in real life; there really is no accountability via cyber-space. So, does the internet culture support a shallow character development based on half-truths, make-believe and triviality?

Many people, I think, are influenced by the herd mentality...many are more concerned about fitting in than standing out. We have texting rather than the eloquence of the written word. Are we shortcutting our thoughts from getting to a deeper cognizent level as well? Are the days of 'my word is my bond' or doing business 'on a handshake' gone? Many questions...I'll think on this some more and be back, TB.
Good Post!

Talking Bear said...

Anon #1-#8, thanks for the comments, #3, the My space comment was used as a reference to the internet movement as a whole. I could have used on-line dating, or the like. To me this movement steals away one of the most important elements of character building; direct social interaction. Character development is a process or measure of how one deals with others while staying committed to one's beliefs. Dealing with conflict is much more than telling some to stop typing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Thanks again, and I hope you share some more of your thoughts here at SBH.

Talking Bear said...

PJ, first of all I want to say that you are a sweetheart, and I am glad you disagree and that you stated so. Now, get a box of Kleenex because I am going to blast your statement out of the water.

How can you state that there is no correlation between character development and "ephemeral trivialities like myspace. Your very next statement,"Character is SHOWN to others including our youth by actions and example", is my point. The interaction between individuals has been drastically stunted by the internet. People are picking spouse via the internet. In our childhood we played with neighborhood kids, we experienced conflict; we struggled through daily life which forged our overall character. We had teachers, parents, church leaders and the like teaching moral value which helped define, or give us way points to orientate our character with. This process of forging character is vanishing. Yes there are many who have forged character around us. But, when school districts spend millions of dollars on a curriculum called “character counts” to try and bring back basic awareness of character, and the US Military spends countless funds on teaching values because they state that today’s recruits are value void, I would have to say there is a big problem with character today. When we spend assets to teach today’s law enforcement officers about morals, values, principles, and character, there is a problem. When you ask someone “what do you believe in” and they have no answer or they are afraid to answer with a politically incorrect answer, there is a problem. When people are willing to sacrifice their beliefs in order to be accepted, or to just get along, there is a problem. These are all signs that our foundational understanding of personal character is dead or dying, weather we want to admit it or not. The fact that we have social groups called the silent majority should scream to us that character has left the building. To state that I belief in this or that but never stand my ground is the absence of character. To keep quite when we know deep down that we should be screaming about some injustice is the absence of character. What is sad is that I could go on and on with examples of the death of character.


Talking Bear said...

P.S. I would rather my readers attack this post than just accept it. But I think most are going to come to the same conclusion that I have and agree, and that is a sad statement to where mankind has found itself in this age of information and alleged enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

You prove a very valiant point of view, but you are wrong to a degree. Even though we don’t see them, there are people who are filled to the brim with character; it’s just that the media chooses to ignore them for something that will grant them more money. Don’t give up hope.

Talking Bear said...

Anon #10 thanks for the encouragement and the ray of hope. I do realize that there are persons out there with character. As you put it, it's just that the media chooses to ignore them...”. That simple fact should tell us something about our culture. Maybe I should have said the value of character is dead? However, either way is a huge concern for me. Would you agree that the “system” seems to be discounting, dissuading, and disapproving of individual character development?


Quiet Man said...

"Character is not made, it is revealed".

My definition of character: qualities that define one person from another, moral and ethical traits, and description of a person's attributes, traits, or abilities. This is my definition and the basis for my comments.

Although the statement about character is not a favorite of mine, I really like the analogy of the redwood trees made by Talking Bear and I would like to add my own analogy twist: If you look at a sample of the tree, you can see the growth rings. Some growth rings are thicker than others, some are denser, and some are more porous and fibrous. During some years there is more water and the tree grown much faster and develop more. Other years are drier with denser, harder, and thinner rings, with less growth. I would like to think of the thinner, harder rings as the years without both parents or with troubled parents and little growth. The segments with the larger rings are those periods when there are solid parents or intervention other family members, good community programs, good teachers, church, or others that provide a positive example.

I think that some want to define it only or mostly in the context of bravery, intestinal fortitude, etc. I do not, I wonder who is the bravest, or is one braver that the other.

A man that takes a job as a store clerk, minimal wages, but the work is solid and constant over a job framing homes where the work might by temporary, but the pay is higher? This is a difficult decision to make. What I consider a boring job for one that is interesting, but the possibility for being out of a seasonal job higher. I suggest it takes guts to make this decision and once the decision is made, if it is for the lower wage to stick with it until a constant higher wage can be found takes character. This demonstrates good character to me.

A mother of three that takes a job at a fast food restaurant or a secretarial position, both with minimal progression, to feed their family and work in a mundane position (in my opinion) to feed those in their care. This demonstrates good character to me.

There are many potential examples, these are just two. I believe these provide a good example of the direction of my thoughts. In these examples these people are feeding their families. Good character … I say yes. Were these people always the best citizens of the community, possibly not …

This is interesting if you accept this as an axiom, I do not wish too do so. It has even been use to hurt and been upsetting in the past; you should have hear it as I have heard it. It implies to me that someone does not immediately measure up to someone else’s standard. Does this then mean that person is not good enough, and cannot ever attain that standard; and whose standard it that? Does them mean I or someone else cannot have character? Do we see folks born and raised in gang areas grow up, move out, and have a good life; I suggest yes.

If a young boy or girl takes a piece of candy from a store shelf and eats it, is it that a lack of character, or can the child learn? If mom or dad takes some kind of corrective action, not hurting the child, but emphasizing the correct conduct for a person in the best way possible for that child, and that lesson changes his or her pattern of behavior for the remainder of their life, would that not be molding that young persons character? So we can be “made” by the sum of what we learn.

If what has been suggested is true, anyone that steals is always a thief? The axiom: “once a thief, always a thief.” I suggest not.

If you start life across the tracks, you can not develop and move to the good side of town? I suggest you can, and be as good a citizen as anyone else.

I don’t think that it matters how we communicate (Myspace, blogs, etc.) as long as it is appropriate. We have books from the past written based on the letters or writings of some individual, what is the difference with the Internet? It is just another method of writing and communicating. I have been to look at Myspace twice and have not seen any inappropriate material, but then I was not looking for it either. It is what we select to read and what we do with the information. There are some documents, books, articles, etc. that I do not want in my home, but if we do not discuss the issues in the documents, books, articles, in whatever forum is available (and appropriate) to us, how do we make the appropriate choice? Just like getting along in the community with others, driving a car, mountain climbing, science, etc., we must reach out for those boundaries and learn right and wrong.

If young men and women live in a small town somewhere with minimal resources, how do they know of the injustices that occur if they don’t read some of the works of Dickens, Dubois, and Mark Twain to name only a few. If you don’t read the words of the terrible leaders of history, bad as well as horrific, how can you make an informed decision? I suggest that the Internet is not the issue, providing a leadership example so that informed decisions can be made is the issue.

I have read the works of:
Marx, Engle, Mao and made the informed decision that their work is not good. (Oh my! Should I be damned for reading this? I think not.)
Jefferson, Franklin, US Bill of Rights, US Constitution, and made the informed decision that this work is good.
There are many other examples of good and bad, some not entirely good and not entirely bad. I have only chosen some of the most recognizable.

“Character is about self respect, it is unassociated with ephemeral trivialities like Myspace. Character is shown to others including our youth by actions and example.” I think you are correct, but only patricianly. Character is about self-respect and through self-respect, dignity and respect for others (I would suggest that Hitler had self-respect, but I don’t think his character is proper to emulate). The temporary nature of Myspace is immaterial, it is how we use the information that we see.
I suggest that we not get hung up on the symptom (don’t burn books (Myspace), that has been tried), but look at the cause. My parents were not with me always, but they provided me with appropriate examples and I eventually did very well. I see others doing the same, some with rocky starts, but develop well based of what they see of others around them.

It certainly is quicker at times to take an easier path (burn the book, eliminate Myspace), but at what cost, not necessarily monetarily, but to one’s self.

Talking Bear said...

Quite Man, I really enjoyed your outstanding comment. I will disagree only with the issue of the impact I feel the internet is having on social development, which I think is in part an important component to the establishment of one's character. I, in no way was advocating the “burning of books”. I do believe that the internet is a great tool for learning. In my original post “The death of character” I wanted to voice a concern that some are starting to mistake being a character for having character. Putting on a costume may make me look like a character but in no way does it give me character. When young people can create a false identity or personality because they do not like their true one, I think we create a possible void for true character development. As you quoted PJ when she said “character is about self respect” I think you both touched on a huge issue. How many folks respect themselves today? How many folks lie about their true self or nature? When a 12 year old school boy creates a My Space identity of a 21 year old gang member who is all about sexual escapades there is a problem. Here is where I think things like MySpace exasperate the issues discussed above. MySpace is not the problem, but it is, I think, a signal of stormy skies on the horizon.

Quite Man said...

The comments were not directed at a person except the Redwood analogy in a different post of yours, I liked it.

The analogy to burning books was solely mine, and from the response, as stark and horrible a thought as I wanted it to be. I did misinterpret the use of MySpace, I immediately thought of pornography, not the example you have provided. I have heard of the pornography more often and your example did not come to mine, thank you.

Talking Bear said: “I will disagree only with the issue of the impact I feel the internet is having on social development, which I think is in part an important component to the establishment of one's character.”

I am going to make a comparison here, not attack an individual’s comment. I don’t think that you are considering the good the Internet has too. This is an excellent exchange of intellectual ideas and we are having on the Internet, via this blog. There are good blogs and there are some that should not express the diatribe they espouse.

Your example is just role playing. But don’t jump at me here. I am not blaming the child or adolescent, but those that he is trying to emulate. I played cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, and war (Americans against the Germans). This is role playing, but we must not stop communications, but change with it and through the scope of lawful actions influence change in others.

Should society press the off switch to MySpace and others like MySpace? I don’t think so.

“I think a signal of stormy skies on the horizon.” Yes, I think so. Doesn’t change make us all cringe a little? For many of us we would like to keep the comfortable life we have. If I was born 300 years ago a little change would be a lot. Now we have more change in a decade that we had for hundreds of years before the turn of the century. We would all like to keep things the same, but the world around us changes and we must change with it. That does not mean to lower ourselves, but try to bring other with us.

Were we always the sweet and kind people that we are today? I look at my past and see myself as hard, cold at times, and to many phlegmatic. Even with this self portrait, I do not think of myself as unchangeable, and I am better than I was. My youth was very rocky, I was a trouble maker, but I did have two parents throughout my youth, and without the foresight of a few, I would have been in great trouble.

But I made it, and I am doing well. I did it. I took the right path. I made a choice. And there were so many other paths that were presented to me.

I don’t have an easy solution, but I believe that more parental involvement is the key. What if your Dad is a gang member with tattoos all over his neck and body, you love Mom and Dad, would you not want to emulate him? This is a real dilemma. This has become the child’s life and now we expect the child to change all that he has accepted as life and a way to live? This is a tough job.

I choose to be a role model and will be there when I can. I can’t be there for all, only some. When I get up in front of a class, which is the small window of time that I have during a day, I do the best I can.

Quiet Man said...

After I posted my previous comment I read it again and aside from the spelling error in the second paragraph "mine" should be "mind," the comment in the fourth paragraph does not read as I wished it to read. This blog is a excellent blog, but others make demeaning comments about people, etc., there is where my comment was directed.

Talking Bear said...

QM, I am more than willing to hear objections to any of my posts. I post them as thoughts to my perceptions. I have no illusions to the fact that my perceptions are 100% accurate to reality, nor are they meant to be taken that way. In fact, your honest dialogue is exactly what I am seeking.

I love the fact that you see MySpace in such a positive light. I agree that there is a lot of good on MySpace, as well as other internet exchanges. I never even considered the pornography aspect. I work with many “challenged” youth who use MySpace. Many of them tell me about “issues” involving this medium. You may not be aware, but many youth are actually going out and acting out crimes that they talked about before hand in the MySpace type internet forums. In fact they are posting video of the crimes on their MySpace page as a way to verify their participation. Law Enforcement has solved crimes by viewing some of these pages. My only issue with such things as MySpace, and it is no fault of MySpace, is that false realities are created. Because many youth have not developed character they begin to believe in these false realities and commit acts that ultimately affect the rest of their lives.

You are right on the money, so to speak, in the need to be role models. I personally have more respect for the tattooed person who is committed to his/her beliefs and and has the integrity to their character than the church “go-er” who wobbles in their character when things get sticky for them. I have met some pretty solid people with tattoos.

Talking Bear said...

QM, I also realize that the traits I value in someone’s character may not be valued by others. This existence of different valued variables makes it difficult to say, I think, what good or bad character looks, sounds, and acts like. This would lead me to believe that good solid character is going to look different in different settings. I think this is one of the reasons we have wars?


Soaring Eagle said...

I believe this to be true too. In my travels to the portions of the world that I have seen, I find more in common than different, mothers and their children, fathers and their families; mothers smile and cry over their children. There is nothing more basic than this family value. The remainder is simply a set of rules imposed on us by the society in which we live. I work from the assumption that many of us do not understand this concept and believe they are wrong. (The word “they” in this case is anyone else not the same or believing the same). And, I mean “wrong” in a strong way, to some this means to ignore them, to others it means taking from them what they have.

This very weekend I had an experience I will share. Anyone reading this can place it in their schema of society’s relationships. Also this is presented as a snapshot in time, not as what necessarily has to be an outcome. I certainly do not want to present the belief that all is lost.

I addressed a young man about why he was walking and not running with the group. I should explain that I work with a group of youth as one of the staff. He smiled and made a comment which I cannot recall exactly, something about not caring. I asked him why he felt he should not be part of the group and he looked straight in the eyes and with a motion of one of his hand over one wrist pulled his sleeve up and then did the same with his other wrist showing tattoos on both his wrists. He then said, “I’m not one of them”. What he showed were gang tattoos on both his right and left wrists.

I do not talk to this person as the adolescent he really is, but as a young man. With him I talk to him as a father to a young man, and away from the group. When I do, although we can be seen but not heard by the others, he takes on a different attitude. He is receptive and attentive, at least for the moment. I believe that if we could move this young man to a different setting, he would follow the leadership of a good role model. Unfortunately, I think it is too late for him, he has his tattoos and a child, he is not eighteen yet, and I believe he will soon be institutionalized because of his past actions. The role models he will have there are not going to be good.

What the heck, it’s just a single kid, focus on the others. I believe most, if not all the other youth in the group will do well and have good lives; this one I think will be lost. At least lost to the part of society that we wish to be a part. Take note I did not say “is” lost, I do have hope, but I do not have any more tools in my tool box to get this job done. I do think it will “click” for him, but too late. I must be prepared to move on. I am not being cynical here, but like the climber who got his hand stuck between rocks and eventually severed his arm at the wrist to save his life. I would guess that he dose not regret what he did, but wishes every day he still had his hand.

What has this got to do with the death of character? I pose this question: Why isn’t there a set of bleachers with cheering fans coaxing them on, onward to the goal line? There are only four coaches with the team on the ground. The coaches are not family or anyone that cares for these adolescents as a family should. Where is everyone else?

(If any other member of the group reads this article and recognizes the group I am talking about, they should not feel left out. The coaches and team have a small organization structure for support and without them the coaches would not survive the season, but the picture that I wanted painted is the adults staff standing tall on a warm green field with a team of youth, no parents, no one else, no bleachers, just alone ... )

Talking Bear said...

SE, It is good to see you here at SBH once again, I can honsetly say your input has been missed. Great comment. Do you think that the reason there is an absence in the blechers is because most people just do not uderstand the importance of the process of personal development, or how that process effects our entire life and the choices we make?

Quiet Man said...

“‘Character is not made, it is revealed’. May be we all have a seed of character buried deep inside of us.”

This concept brings into consideration the convention of nature or nurture. I have witnessed changes in people, sometimes radical and intense changes, both while in the military and in civilian life that has me leaning toward nurture. To say character is not made is to assign character to the gene pool that were given, leaving us with no choice, and rendering those that may fail to a destiny of never measuring up to the character standard, and not having the chance to develop character.

Character is made, and it is revealed. It is first up to us as adult family members and second as adult leaders in the community or society to develop our youth. Regardless if it is charging that hill or being on the staff in an office somewhere and using the corporate computer to do homework while being paid by the company. We must first conduct ourselves in a proper manner and demonstrate the character that we want from others.

What do you think: nature or nurture? There are two office workers in one office working and one leaves. The other office worker finds a ten dollar bill on the floor; keep it or ask the coworker if it is their ten dollar bill? Character counts. I don’t believe we are born with the concepts involved in character, it is abstract, and you can not touch it. Character is learned and developed.

“I do believe that we need to experience life's struggles (or conflicts (added by Quiet Man)), but that experience should not be so extreme that it destroys us.”

“Pampering children does not help them grow and condemning them only destroys their growth.”

“A computer screen generated conflict will not produce the type of interpersonal struggle needed to germinate one seed of true deep character.

I think that the three quotes from Talking Bear above are dead on target. I believe the computer screen (and television (added by Quiet Man)) trains us to react to a situation that we have previously practiced or witnessed, just like playing any game; with no fear of consequence, no pain, no discomfort, either to the player or the character that was cut or torn to pieces in front of our eyes. Character is more than playing the game; it is living by the rules that allow us to participate in the game (society).

“Exposing children to enough struggle (conflict (added by Quiet Man)) to start that growth without destroying them should be of goal for today's youth. The question is what should that exposure look and feel like? Many people act like any struggle is a bad thing for today's youth.”

I want to understand the phrase “goal for today’s youth” to mean “goal for today’s adult family members and adult leaders in the community or society to develop our youth.” (Regrets if this is not the meaning Talking Bear wanted, it is however, how I would define it). Again, Talking Bear is right on target. There is no real conflict or struggle for most young people to have to deal with today; food and shelter are provided, and what it takes to have and keep it taken for granted, it is their right not something to be earned (give it to me, it’s mine). Most youth today are taken care of by parents with child rearing left to television and the Internet with minimal parental or family supervision. Shooting people or chopping them with swords, stealing cars, and shooting Cops, as an example, in a video game only makes it easier to do the same thing on the street without any fear of consequence, no pain, and no discomfort at the moment of the incident. This is only one of the video devices today that are doing more harm than good and is just another broken window in the neighborhood, bringing down our values.

Soaring Eagle said...

That is a good question. My take is that they mostly do not have a clue. Some are not as educated as their children will be after high school. The adolescents we work with say things like: why should I, my mother and father did not need to go to school, they have jobs. My uncle is in prison, he is okay. Or the one young man that told me that his father, brother, and uncle were all in prison and that he expected to go there too, he would be with family. I firmly believe that these parents are doing the best they can, but are using the same tools given to them by their parents. That might have been all well and good back 50 years ago when playing outside to the order of the day, but now the way we were just isn’t good enough anymore. There have always been adolescents that are difficult and I don’t think any single solution with fit.

Now you next question is going to be how are we going to give them more parental techniques for raising the children. What we do now is the best I have based on the time I have to give.

What if we asked the parents to stay and watch the first two or three hours of each Saturday?

What if we, prior to the next Saturday, provided the tools that they would need for next Saturday when their child would be tasked to excel?

This could be risks that we could take. The world would be watching us and with the support of the parents we might be able to move quicker, teaching points for all, not just students. There would of course be times when we want to separate students from parents, but at other times, bring your blankets and lunch, parents participate from the sidelines.

Soaring Eagle said...

Update my comment in the previous post, first paragraph from "... parents are doing the best they can," change to "... parents are doing what they have learned,"

Talking Bear said...

QM,SE, Thanks for the great comments. I think you are both right on target and understand exactly what I was trying to draw out from my readers. I really look forward to your input and thoughts on post that intrest you. TB

You "guys" are great, thanks for the insight you bring to this blog.

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