Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Teeter Totter

Don't get me wrong.  I'd love it if we could all join hands and follow the celestial Katie Couric in her divine efforts to solve world issues with the flick of her magical wand, but I’m not buying in to any solution involving the morality of public discourse without considering the condition of our society.

For a split second after the film on Thursday, it sounded like we were concluding our conversation by asking what it was we could do to “free” our society from the evil clutches of mainstream media.  I kind of shudder at the argument that we are a free society, but that only select individuals are free and it’s up to us to even the playing field for anyone who isn’t considered part of the majority.

The theory I’ve been trying to keep in mind is the Teeter Totter Theory.  (I don’t know if I’m coining this or what.  Regardless, I’m sure someone else has thought of this long before me.)  It’s the belief that wherever human life exists, there too exists the purest action and belief, accompanied and evenly met by the cruelest.  As a society, we rally around our constitutional rights because they free us to pursue these beliefs to such an extent that no other system of government in the world can really compare.  What our society forgets though, is the natural balance that must exist to support life.   

Think of it as a real life Dark Knight predicament.  You have a particular system of beliefs or morals that I’m sure we would all deem as “good” acting in support of those beliefs because they have the freedom to pursue them.  Then, you have those individuals who support an opposite system of beliefs and morals that I’m sure we would all deems as “bad” because they too have the freedom to do so.  (This is what we may be referring to when we discuss media concerns, a system of moral beliefs that we don’t agree with.)  This is the Teeter Totter Theory.  In order to provide human beings the ability to grow to their full potential and exceed expectations, you must provide freedoms that also allow them to sink as low as they possibly can.

It’s a depressing outlook, I know, but it’s important to remember that there is balance in any society and we need to be careful when we decide that we are going to limit the morally misguided through laws and protests in an attempt to tip the scale in our favor.  In our attempt to “free” our country’s minorities, we may just limit our potential as a society.  It’s just something I think we should keep in mind before we start writing congressmen and making signs.

I’m sure there’s plenty who disagree.  I look forward to your thoughts for or against, but know that I’m all for women’s rights and improving public discourse.  I just don’t think blindly following our moral values is the way to go about fixing the problem.


  1. I say this to my friends in my organization all the time; there's a massive difference between how things should be and the way things actually are. I feel like this is what Richard is driving at in this post. We can't just smile and be nice to each other and expect everything in our society to change. There are systems in place that will require long term, consistent pressures in order to change them.

  2. I think the analysis here is interesting, but I feel like it is a bit of a cop out. For the most part I agree that there is a balance in society, but I think that it is problematic to use this balance as an excuse to be inactive and accept the status quo. Rather than thinking of the teeter totter theory as a fixed entity, we should think of it as a process that exist only we do act for the greater good of society. In other words, a competition exists between the people that are acting for the good of society and advocating for progress, and the people that are acting against those ideals. Therefore not acting would disrupt the flow of the teeter totter.

  3. There will always be people who act and people who do nothing. The people who do nothing are just as guilty as those who act. I think society is filled with people who do good, who do bad, and who do nothing. I think the biggest issue within this argument is how we get the people who do nothing to do something. So if people who do nothing are guilty, does that mean there is more bad in this world than good? Probably. I agree with you in that there will always be the teeter totter within society. However, I don't necessarily agree that it has to exist, but I agree with Derek. We should get more people to act in general. That would change things.

  4. You bring up an important point Richard in the last sentence:
    "I just don’t think blindly following our moral values is the way to go about fixing the problem."

    Let's take the rise of unemployment as a problem. Morally, are we inclined as a nation to provide more job opportunities? I would think most would say "yes." However, what about the number of individuals who won't work? What about the number who are uneducated? Educated? Overly educated? Is this nation going to make jobs for all of those groups?

    Obviously this is a hard issue to figure in any reasonable solution. What my point stands on is if our morals lead us to solutions on a consistent basis. Beyond the Teeter Totter Theory, it's had to be more about bad and good and those who do nothing, remain neutral. To think of our superheros solving crime in a swoop ridding us of a problem is cute, but unrealistic.

    If we truly want our society to at least be better, to what or whose moral standard would that be? Who would be right or good and who would be "bad"? I think the theory is good in that it reveals the dynamic of two sides shifting against one another. I can appreciate the idea of motivating others who do nothing to do something if they want society to improve. However, what standard are we measured or striving for? It's so much more than black and white and grey. It's several shades and mixture of all things that makes out society unique yet very complicated to discover a single solution.