Learning to Cope – a lost skill
The deteriorating nature of public discourse and the disdain with which people interact with one another have been at the forefront of many discussions in the past few years.
Bullying has apparently gone from beyond the classroom and the schoolyard to the entire spectrum of our society.
Whenever disagreements between people in a civilized society reach the point of anger and disrespect, our entire society must be concerned. As a legislator, I frequently hear people complain about the lack of cooperation in the government and demand bipartisan solutions while at the same time they “trash’ or vilify anyone who disagrees with them on virtually every social media forum.
Our political process is merely a reflection of our society. This feigned perspective that our government must be above the fray while we are engaged in social media hatred is incomprehensible.
The fallacy of logic called “argumentum ad hominem” is one in which the person is attacked and vilified versus the person’s position thereby negating any civilized conversation and resolution of conflict. This same person engaging in an attack on the person’s character or intellect is usually the same person who screams that they need a “safe space” to be protected from those discussions from those who do not agree with their position.
The entire issue of civil discourse is a topic of discussion for the US courts which has published extensive articles concerning civil discourse and difficult decisions. Embodied in this excellent discourse are the coping skills necessary to allow for that civil discourse.
Coping skills are essential to allow for civil discourse and for the advancement of society. Coping skills reflect the character of a nation.
The character of a nation and its core values determine whether or not a nation will survive. Be it the fall of the Roman Empire, the fall of the Third Reich, or most other empires, the root causes usually point to some “decay”, “self-indulgences” or other failures of character traits that are frequently rooted in Western Civilization. The loss of coping skills and that inability to accept reality will create a construct for which the society is not likely to be able to survive. The people will be incapable of coping with the problem and then crafting meaningful solutions.
A core value is your philosophy about your way of life. A core value is intrinsically who you are. The core value is your character, your leadership, and your upbringing frame of reference.
In the United States Marine Corps, for example, we teach leadership principles and leadership traits. Loyalty, justice, take responsibility, dependability, and courage are to name just a few. These principles and traits guide us in our dealings with fellow service members and the civilian leadership that we work for. They are the framework of a leader’s coping skills which are essential to the completion of our mission and the value we place on our Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen.
A society’s character are the principles or the structures under which the society functions and serve as the boundaries of acceptable behavior within a society. These boundaries can change over time. If the change is well thought out, the society will flourish. If the change is poorly thought out, the unintended consequence may, in fact, be the failure of the society.
Many Americans today are confused about our national character and how we cope with those changes. What we stand for is not as clear as it once was for many and how we interact with one another has certainly deteriorated.
The core value is central to who you are. It is central to who the nation is. It is a voluntarily accepted societal norm coming from within the individual. A core value is personal. Coping is personal.
Central to any national character is for a person to accept personal accountability for their actions.
The significance of this debate is quite simple. If you undermine a nation’s core values, you undermine the nation.
Compassion is a core value.
Coping is a core value.
Taking responsibility for your actions is a core value.
These three core values taken together and reinforcing one another benefit society greatly and set the stage for long-term survival of the nation.
When a nation loses its coping skills however the ability to take responsibility for your actions, to have compassion, to solve incredibly complex societal issues are severely undermined.
Our nation is in deep trouble. For decades we have postponed making difficult decisions. For decades our solutions have focused on what we can do to others rather than what we can do ourselves. Our nation has been failing in our ability to cope with the reality of the problems we face.
Until we achieve a mutual respect for one another and learn to disagree respectfully, our nation will never tackle our most difficult challenges. We will be doomed to failure.
The next time you respond to someone I would encourage you to determine whether or not you are acting with compassion, understanding, and persuasive logic. Your response says as much about you as it does our nation.
Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives. He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel, a CPA and specializes in corporate restructuring. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected].