Telling others what to do

Apart from telling someone to go fly a kite (which I think you’ll agree hardly qualifies as instructive narrative), telling someone what to do with their life is generally mere surplusage.  One need only examine the success which others have had telling you what to do with your life. The hard fact persists that each of us is bound to decide for ourselves what and when we’ll do something, whatever it may be and howsoever probative.  It matters not how insightful or even accurate the improving observations are, until they are promulgated by the reputed delinquent as his or her own all the wisdom in the world is wasted breath.

I have however discovered certain irksome qualifications to this otherwise incontrovertible laissez-faire policy.  The most obvious objection to its universality is in the realm of the parent-child relationship.  One is reluctant to suggest that a parent should not take an active role in the direction of a child (though I understand there are schools of thought which in fact promote such a choice, incorrectly in my view).  I would go so far as to say that a parent has a palpable duty to share with the child whatever wisdom the parent may possess regarding the conduct of the child; to do otherwise is in my opinion abandonment of human obligation (which I regard on the broad scale of ethics and the positive office which elders have towards children).  It may mollify the strength of parental responsibility to recall that instruction might be more forcefully conveyed as reflection upon the matter rather than a mandated code of behaviour.  This however is quibbling semantics.

In relationships between adults the matter of promoting self-improvement is far more delicate if for no other reason than that it is more difficult to break bad habits than it is to enlist them.  Once again even this cautionary note is subject to modification.  There are two factors at play on this score.  First, there is the risk that one’s silence, notwithstanding the appearance of minding one’s own business, is really either pusillanimity in the face of distress or blatant disregard for the needs of another.  Second, there is the equally compelling risk that one avoids the opportunity to speak one’s mind about displeasing conduct, the result of which may be the false and uninformed impression that the discreditable conduct is somehow either acceptable or tolerable.  I believe that both features require attention; calculated intervention and open frankness.  After all when it comes to the depth of communication between adults it can only be achieved if some effort is made.  Staring at a blank canvass or ignoring it altogether will hardly bring about a work of art.  This disposition might well require some adjustment in one’s thinking, as well it should.  I for one have no intention of going to my grave without having shared what little I know of the world and without having done or said what I knew or ought to have known should have been done or said.  What after all is more important than our relationships with others?  What are we saving it for?  Time is running out, let’s face it.

Many people in spite of their inappropriate conduct command a degree of “respect” which unfortunately is little more than unwilling tolerance from others.  To their face such personages are treated with apparent deference but behind their back it is frequently a different story.  Why we continue to prostrate ourselves before intolerable people is of course a good question.  I suspect we simply become conditioned to low-level behaviour and therefore dismiss it as effectively meaningless or inconsequential.  But for those on the receiving end of these misguided predators the sense is considerably different.  Granted there are some victims whose magnanimity is unsurpassed but even then I have trouble turning a blind eye to deplorable exploits.

It should of course be understood that when one takes it upon oneself to “share” with another what he or she ought to do, the ambit is confined to those associations which exist between family or friends.  Beyond that I am not so enthusiastic mostly because I think manners trump even legibility.  Besides we simply cannot be the keeper of every brother.  It doesn’t for a moment taint my sense of responsibility to restrict my personal opinions to those by whom I am most immediately affected and towards whom I have some duty or accountability.  For all others it is sufficient to tell them to go fly a kite!