Sunday, July 04, 2010

Celebrating 'Interdependence Day' instead

Independence? That's middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.

- George Bernard Shaw

I've been thinking a lot about independence recently.

I find it strange and contradicting how our society craves and covets it; we seek it for ourselves, we demand it of others, we hope to instill it in our children, we even toy with the possibility we can squeeze it out of oil.

As a group, we define Independence as freedom.

Dependency, on the otherhand, is little more than loathesome. Yet in trying to avoid it we tend to forget what it is that really makes us strong -- the fibers that weave us together.

Maybe I am focused on this line of thought because I am a mother, and as a mother my success is largely based on my ability to raise children who are capable of making their own way in the world. Without me.

From the moment they take their first steps, they are essentially walking away from us.

Maybe I'm angry at Disney for always killing the mother (or in rare instances, the dad).

Maybe I'm just jaded, thinking the real desire for independence is all about money.

We are so focused on money - acquiring wealth and accumulating stuff - we don't see what this "savings" cost us.

Maybe it's as simple as realizing one person's independence is another person's lack of purpose. Planned obsolescence engineered by progress. We are all just one modifier away from becoming a dangling participle.

It's not as if I want my children to need me to tie their shoes or balance their checkbooks when they return from college to live with me for the requisite 2.75 years until a low-wage job or ill-advised significant other takes them three states away. But I don't want them to forget they are part of something bigger.

I'm just not sure that independence has anything to do with capability or capacity for success. Ultimately, I wonder if this passion for independence has more to do with the erosion of those qualities. I wonder if in trying to set ourselves apart we are tearing ourselves asunder.

Standing on our own two feet gives us the courage and the strength to do amazing things. Yet, we fool ourselves if we think we're untethered. It has been through the strenth of groups, such as unions fighting for fair labor practices, that has made it possible for individuals to experience independence.

Yet we declare independence from the drudgery of everyday life with the same convictions. … We declared independence from agrarian society and got factory farms; we declared independence from caring for grandmother in her old age and got squalid nursing homes. We declared independence from the cost of someone else's efforts and we end up finding ourselves unable to support our way of life. We declared independence from paying a living wage and found our jobs outsourced.

We demanded automation and declared independence from thing from which we can never be free: Each other.

Freedom has a price, and it's steep.

Red states. Blues states. Me states. You states.

Maybe, on this day, it's time we celebrate our Interdependence for a change.

Because in the end, perhaps now more than ever, we are all connected. We're all in this together.

I think about all of this as I watch my kids grow into themselves. They may walk away, they may run, but I will always be a part of them. And the fact that I am in their DNA will dawn on them when they least expect it. They will have their "Oh My God, I sound like my mother" moment one day, too.

Wherever I am at that moment, you can bet I'll be taking some of the credit

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