working together for social inclusion in America

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shadow of Knowledge

I recently had a chance to observe firsthand how knowledge is passed on between old and young professionals in the hospital. Older nurses shadowing younger ones with tips on care, and older surgeons shadowing younger ones in the OR to make sure they learn the techniques well.

Since I was the one on the operating table, it was comforting to know that the shadowing surgeon had done thousands of these procedures.

Now that I'm home recovering, I was thinking what a waste it is in our society that the skills and knowledge of all experienced people are not so valued. Were we not wasting so much money on pointless wars, we could employ every senior or elder in the country to help younger people prepare themselves to become more expert in their chosen field.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What Has Been Lost

After centuries of diaspora and displacement, identities are increasingly complex. For those whose tribal identity has been extinguished -- as in most Europeans of North America -- what's left of this essential human function is often a confused mixing of inherent cultures, combined with a vague and transitory identification with place. For settler societies, states, provinces, regions, and watersheds provide a shallow-rooted attachment to landscape and sometimes historical notions of belonging, but circumstances outside our control can easily diminish these bonds.

The synthetic modern cultures that have replaced ancient, more holistic ones are thus poor substitutes for the integrated social systems that once nurtured all humanity. Finding meaningful and purposeful alternatives outside this systematized social support has been attempted many times, but absent the political autonomy required to pursue a more coherent agenda, most gains are never institutionalized.

Resistance to the prevention or destruction of a holistic identity, without an appreciation of what has been lost, is usually futile. Understanding tribal systems and the history of cultural development helps.