Culture is a strange thing. Seemingly arbitrary rules that we’ve all agreed to obey and live by. Most of us live everyday of our lives in general discomfort. Forced to live within the parameters of socially accepted normalcy. Not just for safety reasons, but also social expectations; 40-hr work week, predictable housing situations, technology dependence, marriage, family, taxes, debt. Obedience and conformity.
The peer pressure keeps us coordinated. Each age-group demographic has different social expectations, and failing to meet those expectations exposes a person to social ridicule.
Children are expected to play nicely, and go to school. Adult men are expected to be good providers for their family, adult women are expected to bear children. Society would look unfavorably at a man who stays home with children, or a woman who had a career instead of a family, or a child who is poorly socialized. Society’s micro aggressions makes life difficult for people to live outside the social norm.
So ‘live in it’ we must, or otherwise die.
‘Needless killing’ has long since been considered evil, but our culture has repeatedly accepted ‘murder’. Our justice system includes death penalties. Our law enforcers are known to use deadly force in the line of duty. Our military conflicts largely go without consequence. Our religions have long histories of torture and holy massacres. Our social culture applies ‘justice-violence’ /‘vigilante-vengeance’, yet somehow, suicide is frowned upon.
Demonstrating that our society wants us to live, but only if we’re obedient, and our culture is prepared to kill us if we disrupt the prevailing standards. It’s a fine-line. We are allowed to be individuals, but not behave individually. It’s like how gun ownership is considered an American right , but having one with you makes you a threat to society.
It’s comforting to know that living quietly and conventionally will not impact society, and our culture will continue to change into a homogeneous mass. Clearing out the abnormal variations until conformity is absolute.
All the day to day complications we experience in life will not matter in the future, and will eventually fade away from everyone’s memory. I wish people would be more transparent about the predictable suffering that goes along with life, and the inevitability of death that we all must face.
As Americanized as we get, I think maintaining some level of cultural connection is enormously important to a person’s self-identity. Having genuine ethnic customs makes a person less susceptible to the trendy nonsense of the modern consumeristic age. And knowing the historical values and cultural traditions of your ancestors influences that types of philosophies you practice as an adult.
I’ve just read a New York Times bestseller book by Thanhhà Lại, called: Listen, Slowly. It’s a multicultural young-adult book about a Vietnamese-American tweenaged girl begrudgingly spending a summer in Vietnam. The book chronicles the inner thoughts of a 12 year old girl, as she experiences a rural village in a foreign country.
It incorporates several culturally conflicting thoughts that I have personally experienced being an American child born of immigrants. I’ve always been grateful for my multiethnic heritage because of the unique standpoints it gives me, and because the Americanized kids I grew up neighboring couldn’t decide what was truly important in life. They were trendy, and wasteful, and they took a lot of things for granted.
Whereas the book observes that people in Vietnam behave differently, people are always together, everyone talks to everyone else, there are no secrets, there’s no privacy, No one complains, and there’s an inclination never to waste anything. Something I enjoyed in the book was how gracefully people accepted the concept of ‘suffering’. “[Grandma] Bà says everyone suffers from something at some point”.
The comforts of the first-world have made us picky and inefficient. Spoiled incompetent children grow up and become spoiled incompetent parents. I’ve always expected immigrant families to have stricter parenting techniques because of fewer contingency options available to them. The pressure to succeed is highest when the whole family is working together. “Co Den tay, Phai, Phat” Flag in hand, must wave it”. This enthusiasm to ‘do whatever you can’ is lost on Americanized youths, because their families merely expect them to ‘be children’, instead of ‘adults in training’.
My mom has a vision of what perfection is, and she chooses to ignore things that don’t fit into her vision. Yet nothing is ever good enough for her. She refuses to believe that the people close to her have actual problems, perhaps because she’s too selfish to think of them, but most likely because those problems don’t fit into her ideas of perfection. She has shamelessly tried to redecorate other people’s homes, or influence their choices, or instruct them on how to be ‘better’, because she feels the current state of things aren’t good enough. She acts as if she’s helping, and expects everyone to be appreciative of her ‘help’.
Another example: I have a somewhat serious allergy, yet she still brings ‘triggers’ into my house, and then innocently tries to blame various other things when I break out in hives. She pretends this allergy doesn’t really exist, because my ‘problems’ are inconvenient for her. The most pressing thing is that my brother is getting married this month. It’s is exactly the type of typical conservative-conventional thing that mother wants, and yet, she is still enormously displeased with the situation. It’s just not perfect enough for her to be happy about. It’s not enough that my brother has a home, and a bride, and the promise of grandchildren, because she wants ‘something better’. Even though she wants us to be old-fashioned [home, marriage, family], she is still incessantly trying to sway him Not to marry this particular woman. There is no pleasing her. Nothing is ever good enough.
With all the ‘baby fever’ that’s been going around, she recently demanded that I break off my relationship, because marriage and family wasn’t on the itinerary. “Find someone you want to have kids with”, she said, as if that was my primary function in life. She seemed truly distressed when I told her that I didn’t think I would ever get married. Not that I haven’t thought about it, but I think the world today is too messed up to bring children into.
Times have changed, and Millennials just can’t afford the same luxuries that our parents’ enjoyed 30-years ago. In this scenario, a ‘home and family’ are a luxury. The house I am currently renting was built in the 1960s [for less than $40k], both my parents were able to buy houses like them in the early 1980s [for less than $180k]. But now the same 50-year old house costs $550k, as is. A decent house in this city costs 1 million dollars. But my mom doesn’t see barriers, and promptly decided that I need to move out of state, for the purpose of having an affordable house, so that I can afford to have a family, and so she could get exactly what she wants.
A younger me would’ve tried to do everything she asked, but now all I see is a self-centered brat who’s always having a tantrum.
I am a healthy single adult Millennial with an average full time job, and I spend about 8% of my income on healthcare [medical/dental/vision], which I get through my work. If I were to have a spouse, it would be 12%; and if I were to have a spouse and children, it would be 25% of my income. The cost of renting an apartment in this region is between $1500-$2500 per month. Which can be reduced by splitting costs with a spouse or roommate.
It’s fair to say that I can afford myself, but I cannot afford a to have a family.
But more importantly, the costs of additional healthcare services would be devastating if ANYTHING were to change for me. If I were to get sick for a length of time, I would not be able to afford both the extra healthcare costs and housing. I would go into debt trying to pay for both, and become homeless within 6 months.
If I were to marry and try to support a spouse and child, I would only be able to afford the basics for the family [home and health]. My spouse would have to work in order to pay for everything else; the groceries, child expenses, child care, home utilities, phones, internet, cars, gas, ect. And if there was ever a time when this hypothetical family didn’t have 2 incomes, then we would go into debt, and possibly become homeless.
In this scenario, I am fully employed and still not be able to support a family. If I were to become a single parent, the same problem would occur; I would be ineligible for government aid, because I am fully employed.
I am fortunate enough to have friends/family nearby who could help me in a time of crisis, but I imagine there are those who aren’t as fortunate. Our social structure simultaneously urges everyone to marry and reproduce, while providing no resources to make it possible.
I don’t like the idea of living in a system that makes people choose between health and home. It’s too intolerant to be effective. The whole point of universal healthcare is that everyone has access to predictably priced care; but in reality it’s not, and this service is so unpredictably expensive that it comes at the cost of stable housing. We are living in a fear-based culture, where ill people are declining to seek care because of the uncertainty of the associated costs.
The bulk of my expenses go to rent and living costs/regular bills of predictable amounts: water, gas, electricity, home security, car, ect. It’s difficult to say which ones I would prioritize if something came up. If a bill arrived in my mail for some emergency health service [in the amount equivalent to 2-3 months’ rent], how would I pay for everything, and not fall short somewhere else?