“People tell you the world looks a certain way. Parents tell you how to think. Schools tell you how to think. TV. Religion. And then at a certain point, if you’re lucky, you realize you can make up your own mind. Nobody sets the rules but you. You can design your own life.”
~ Carrie-Anne Moss
We are, to a greater or lesser extent, the products of our society. How could we be otherwise? Carrie-Anne Moss, Canadian actress from British Columbia, claims that we can, indeed, become our own persons.
She rightly points out, that from the time we are born, our parents, families, schools, television, and religion – to name only some societal influences – contribute to the socialization process of each of us. We are socialized in the sense that we are trained to behave in certain ways, so that we may ‘fit in’.
Socialization of the young is a necessary responsibility for the parents and the society at large. In recognition of this obligation, governments have become the primary agent of formally educating children from the age of four or five, until age sixteen or eighteen, depending on local laws.
As children, whether we are at home, or at school, we are exposed to information, skill development, and teachings about values and beliefs. The hope is, that if children are properly ‘trained’, they will share the values and belief system of their parents and the general society. The influence of religion, which used to be very dominant in this process in Christian societies, has declined significantly in recent decades.
When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, the major players involved in the socialization process actually spoke with one voice. Children were getting the same messages over and over again. I think it is the decline of religion that has gradually caused the ‘ungluing’ of the solidarity among the main agents of socialization. Kids today get very mixed messages about what should be valued, believed, and what constitutes acceptable behaviour.
In this quote, Carrie-Anne Moss accurately sums up the socialization process and the more significant agents. She goes on to suggest that if a person is fortunate, they figure out that they can think for themselves. Authority figures don’t like hearing about that. They worry about losing ‘control’ which could lead to lawlessness and anarchy. It is a valid concern!
When a person is faced with a decision about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, they have to fall back on one of two things: values and beliefs. If a person decides on a course of action based on beliefs, they may well follow the dictates of a religion or other secular authority. In such a case, you abdicate your right to decide and just ‘follow along’.
When Carrie-Anne states that we should make up our own minds, I think she is urging us to base our decisions upon values that we have internalized throughout our lives to that point. We apply to the current situation, the relevant values, and weigh the consequences of courses of actions we may take.
This message is further emphasized when she says, “Nobody sets the rules but you. You can design your own life.” I have been a rebel at heart since I was a teenager. I resented dictates from those in authority that did not make sense, or violated my personal values and beliefs. I have found, in my own life experience, that we can also find ourselves pressured by strong persons, whom we love, to make decisions in accordance to their thinking. Standing up for yourself in these circumstances can cause enormous emotional suffering. As I consider this reality, an old saying comes to mind:
“You’ve made your bed; now sleep in it!”