Monday, November 2, 2015

The role of family in the internet age

Bald eagles, which mate for life and raise their young together, are one of very few animal species that have some form of family structure. However the complexity of human mental abilities conjures up behavior and social, as well as family structure that has inter-generational consequence; it plays an important role in preserving culture, behavioral patterns and even social stability. In hierarchic societies families were the bastions of safety and security, the means to hold onto power, position and wealth. It was the life insurance policy for the middle class and the poor. The family could be a tool to increase influence in society, and spread political power (kleptocracy). In families not only money, but occupation and titles were handed down. Family could cushion to a great extent the individual from natural and social dangers, hooligans, bandits and local rulers. Since in difficult times only the family provided security, inner conflicts, the family needed to be beyond criticism. Individual problems needed to be well covered and hidden from the outside and nonconforming members became outcasts, who were shunned and disgraced. This irrevocable connection between the individual and the family greatly restricted personal freedom.

In democratic societies the economic role and nepotistic importance of family has gradually decreased. The elderly does not have to rely on the family, because the societal safety net provides pension, health and end of life care on a level unmatched by the family care. Instead of being handed down, occupations are becoming the expression of individual talents and creative mental potential. Young people do not expect nepotism and family connections to help them. They chart their own path  and often leave their home town behind.

As connections and inherited finances will play less and less important role in individual success, the institutional role of the family will certainly continue to decline. When family is not a source of financial security or societal position, covering up weaknesses and deficiencies are no longer necessary; the family can open up to become safe islands of nurture and love. The love and caring within the family that flows out into the community lifts up everyone. This is like raising the water level in the bathtub; everyone benefit. When we try to reserve money and influence for descendants, it is like creating walls in the ocean. The energy spent creating demarcations stifles the spirit of those, who inherit. Posh inheritance might extinguish creative energy, the spark of originality and lead to mediocre comfort. A trust in the social environment and democratic future allows some intellectual billionaires, such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and others, to give away their wealth. With the increasing trust in our social world, the social distance will decrease further, and lead to a better society supported by fast paced medical and technological advances. Progress, which lifts everyone, is only limited by our imagination.

Picture credit: Talento Tec 

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