Guest Opinion: Boxed in

There is an old song, "Little Boxes" sung by Pete Seeger. Some of you may remember it, and if not, you might check it out. It is about a controlled society in which conformity and "groupthink" are a way of life. The song starts with the lines "bo...

There is an old song, "Little Boxes" sung by Pete Seeger. Some of you may remember it, and if not, you might check it out. It is about a controlled society in which conformity and "groupthink" are a way of life. The song starts with the lines "boxes, many boxes, little boxes made of ticky-tacky" describing some of the early housing developments but also referring to programming conformity into the society.

In many ways it describes what is still occurring, but now in a more finely tuned way. We have a boxed vision of this nation piped into our daily lives by advertising and the mass media. Information is censored so that little is allowed that does not support that vision or that point of view. Information about the rest of the world, including workable solutions to real problems or ideas coming from outside that structure are pretty much ridiculed or excluded from the narrative.

There are a series of ideological, economic and philosophical boxes that have been erected to limit and enclose our society. These are self-contained, windowless boxes that do not allow unorthodox opinions or outside information except through the carefully censored electronic filters. And when we do receive them they have been manipulated to produce the desired results and ideas. There is really no contact with the outside world, nor any direct contact with the realities of life, only the manipulated information and images.

We are continually told that the basic premises of these boxes are actually the pillars that hold up the universe and to disturb them in any way will risk destroying the very universe we depend on for our existence. The result being that we have people running around like Chicken Little declaring that the sky is falling if we even suggest that unfettered free-market capitalism has flaws, that the invisible hand of the marketplace is, not so invisibly, handing over all the wealth and control to the most self-centered and greedy among us; or that there might be other perspectives besides fundamentalist Christianity, or that democracy is more important than profit, or that human concerns for our fellow citizens who are vulnerable is a positive position to believe in.

As with all boxes, these boxes have been constructed to serve those who are in control of the society at this time. They contain ideas and ideologies that support the indulgences of those in control and are there to assure their survival.


In the process of establishing these boxes, they have also destroyed several other boxes, boxes with doors to reality and windows to the world of experience. These are the boxes that used to contain valued workers, valued citizens (not dependent on wealth), boxes of dissent, boxes of inclusivity and boxes of research and science. All of these are now seen as somehow subversive and troublesome and therefore needing to be removed from existence.

Meanwhile we have been taught that we are powerless, destined to work within those boxes only with the tools the boxes allow. The result is that we struggle with ineffective tools to expend great amounts of our time, resources, and energy working in a system designed to prevent change.

It is time not only to begin to think outside the box, but also to walk out of the box into the realities of the world and to see that these boxes not only do not support the universe, but they have tried to pretend they were the extent of the universe. It is time to see them for what they really are, simply shells to keep us from experiencing the world for ourselves. We will also see that we can find solutions working together for common ends and can even revive our founding principles of democracy once again.

We will see we can construct a new structure - a livable and sustainable place for our entire society to thrive once again, breathing fresh air. We will learn how to deal with a world that contains much good; learn not to be afraid of new ideas, change and differences; learn to trust again and get acquainted with our neighbors who may be different but add value with their unique perspectives. It will be a vibrant and living structure with windows and doors. It will be a structure that has the ability to change and adapt to new realities as we find better solutions. It will recognize that sometimes things do not work in spite of our best intentions and it will be able to adjust to incorporate changes that work more effectively.

This is an adult response to the real world, daring to operate in the realities of the world, knowing we can find solutions, willing to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work we need, not only to survive as a human race, but also to create a sustainable future for ourselves, our loved ones and the world. This used to be the American Spirit and the American Dream. These are not concepts that can be contained in "Little Boxes."

Bob Passi, Baxter, is a retired empowerment consultant and educator

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