Sunday, July 24, 2011

Getting On

I visited with my sister-in-law (or maybe my ex-sister-in-law) yesterday.  She was married to my brother for forty-two years, but they separated in 2007 and later divorced.  They had four children, all grown, and now scattered in different locations, none nearby.  She lives alone in a small two-bedroom apartment in an adjoining municipality.

I don't know if anyone's life unfolds as they expected it too.  We end up living in different locations, having careers that we sometimes fall into more than plan, with partners who came along at the right time.  Relationships are built on fulfilling one another's needs, sometimes held together by a sense of commitment, obligation, or simply convenience. Even when you've been together a long time, the relationship is vulnerable.

My sister-in-law and I talked about what older people often do, our histories, family members no longer with us, things we remember more than plans for the future.  We discussed her Mother and Father, her younger brother who died suddenly last year, some of my family members. (I don't discuss her relationship with my brother or his new life.)  We also discussed whatever small plans she has (her patio garden, decorating), her health, her old friends (and any new ones she might be making), how she gets around, whether she's able to get the things she needs. Her knees are bad and she has some trouble walking distances. She's lost weight, which she attributes to giving up junk food.  She says that she suffered a nervous breakdown after the separation, and I wonder whether she's fully recovered.  She says that she has unlimited, free long distance calling and talks to her children; but she's not active on the internet and I wonder why.

Getting older can be a little sad, not always the "golden years" that we hope for.  Some people cope with it fairly well, as long as their health holds up.  With others, you worry.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Liberal vs. Conservative

Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis, "of freedom") is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but most liberals support such fundamental ideas as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, free trade, and the freedom of religion. These ideas are widely accepted, even by political groups that do not openly profess a liberal ideological orientation. Liberalism encompasses several intellectual trends and traditions, but the dominant variants are classical liberalism, which became popular in the eighteenth century, and social liberalism, which became popular in the twentieth century.
Liberalism first became a powerful force in the Age of Enlightenment, rejecting several foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as hereditary status, established religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The early liberal thinker John Locke, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights and the social contract to argue that the rule of law should replace absolutism in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property.

Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes it to be a legitimate role of the state to address economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding civil rights. Under social liberalism, the good of the community is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual. Social liberal policies have been widely adopted in much of the capitalist world, particularly following World War II. Social liberal ideas and parties tend to be considered centrist or centre-left.

By Contrast:
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to the way things were. The first established use of the term in a political context was by François-René de Chateaubriand in 1819, following the French Revolution. The term has since been used to describe a wide range of views.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dreary in Vancouver

I suppose if all I have to do is complain about the rain in Vancouver, things can't be that bad.  After all, about  one-third of my Facebook friends are leading miserable lives (according to them), either struggling with relationships, health problems, finances, drugs, loneliness, or what-have-you.

The irritations in my life are always temporary.  Right now I have the deck half-stained and can't continue, because it's been raining for the last three days.  Pretty small problem.

On the other hand, some of my "friends" struggle with divorce, relationship break-ups, chronic health problems, unaffordable health insurance, drug addiction, isolation, unemployment, anger, depression, etc.  It seems to rain on them continuously.

Some individuals seem to be able to "right the ship".  Others just seem to lurch from one unhappy situation to another.  You would like to tell them to analyze their situation, cut out the bad habits, make a plan, follow it up.  But it's usually not that simple.  Bad habits, refusal to take responsibility, inability to "move on", are ingrained.

I suppose I've experienced things in life that would depress others.  But I've always had as a first principle never to let myself get down, never to dwell on misfortune, never to be without a plan, never to put the control of my life in the hands of others.  If one thing doesn't work, try another.  Maybe I've just been fortunate.