I grew up during a time when smacking kids were normal, where bosses are king and where there isn’t so much nuances when it come to things like authority, gender identification, the needs and wants of individuals. It wasn’t ideal, because we were sacrificing many things for the sake of progress, adherence and the general population was not educated enough to know the impact of some of our behaviours.
As we become more affluent, the culture slowly shifted to a more sophisticated one. We now made progress in knowing that there are so much more to gender identification, that smacking kids are not the best way to bring them up, that bosses can be toxic and work is just a way for us to earn a living. I generally think that these are good progress, to a certain extent.
Looking at how things are progressing, sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if it is good if we go all the way to the other extreme. Can we still work effectively if now “work is just a way to make a living”? I cannot imagine that a doctor, citing work-life balance and mental health needs, refusing to operate on a patient who immediately needs such care, though I think it is also time we look into how can we sustainably manage the workload of many professionals who are overworked excessively, in a way that it is no longer healthy and in fact, dangerous. With today’s focus on mental health, I cannot imagine how much worse it is in the past, through this generation also faces a new problem on its own – constantly being connected to work and the speed of how fast things are moving.
Are we able to bring up our kids to be socially responsible individuals who can survive in a world that is sometimes unfair, brutal and emotional? For instance, I may teach my kid that violence is not an option, that we should never resort to violence no matter what. But as a parent, truth to be told, if someone were to hit my kid, I would want him or her to be able to defend themselves. Or to know that as inexcusable as it may be, sometimes, when you push beyond a certain limit, you will get punched in the face.
Extrapolating this to a bigger context, there were many who thought that an outright invasion would not happen today in our modern world. But it did. Human brains are still fundamentally consisting of first a reptile brain, then a mammal brain then finally the human brain. Considering that I am now in a military career, this is even more relevant. Are we able to be primitive about things when we have to, to understand the abuse of power, brutality, unfairness and survive in it despite our development?
Culture is a scary thing. In the past, many outrageous things were acceptable. Today, we know better. But before we swing into the other extreme, I think we need to have a careful thought on what is the world we want. It is important that we understand not to take these important things for granted – Peace, stability, job opportunities, a healthy functioning economy, resources, and a world that is rational and functioning. It is also timely for us to review our policies, to reach new consensus on what is acceptable work commitment, behaviour and attitude, because as a manager on the ground, I do think that there is a detachment between our policies and people.