Shaw Was Right. It Begins with Family
George Bernard Shaw wrote; "Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to this country and to mankind is to bring up a family." This is a task that my wife and I have gladly taken on.
My wife, myself and my nearly three year old daughter all work together to bring up our family; we work together to accomplish tasks and we all participate in making decisions. Wait - your three year old daughter helps make decisions?
Well, to be more accurate her participation is both direct and indirectly direct, depending on the situation.
When my wife and I chose to live a healthier lifestyle - even before she was born - our daughter was indirectly directing our family decisions. When deciding how to best spend our time together my daughter always has a say in that; "Daddy, I want you and mommy to come outside and we'll play tag and make sand soup."
If I tell her we need to get some groceries she helps to decide if we go to the store first or play first, and whether we take the bicycle, walk or drive.
Family decision making like this is not new or even uncommon. Like many families, we make the most important decisions of our life, the ones related to our family, in such a way as to be inclusive of our whole family's needs. We do our best to remove individual motive and try to consider all angles.
This is more than just decision making, this is how we organize: based on the situation at hand. My wife, daughter and I are all equal in our family with all of the responsibility and freedom that comes from equality. We all have an opportunity at leadership based on the needs of that moment. As the father and breadwinner of my family I surely could try and assert dominance but, unlike generations past, I realize I do not have all of the answers. I know that my family's needs are greater than my own.
For the old "head-of-household" model to work there can't be equality. That model depends on one person dominating the others. Without equality, selfish desire takes the lead instead of family needs.
The media remind us daily of the effects of selfish desire. Not just at the family level but at the level of communities and countries.
When I consider George Bernard Shaw's quote I think about how family is the building block of society, how it always has been. How the old ways of command and control have caused so much needless suffering.
So how would our actions affect society if all families are brought up using a model of equality; putting the needs of the whole ahead of selfish desire?
I believe when we do just that we will contribute to the greatest social service ever - the unselfish service of the common good.
Andrew Miller is a WOSU Commentator and host of the blog - Elephants on Bicycles.