Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Power of Negative Role Models

TheWife and I have been having conversations recently about the best place to raise the short people. We're in an area in which the funky folk density (FFD) is significantly deficient and we dream of living in a place where our bumper stickers arouse less ire and the shorties would have less of a sense that they are being raised by weirdos...or at least weirdos who are comparable to more of their friends' parents.

This led me to think of my own path and wonder how much of who I am was defined by the positive influences, the people and values I accumulated from my surroundings, and how much was due to negative role models, to that which I rebelled against. I grew up in a wonderful place surrounded by wonderful people, some of whom are regulars here. In addition to my family, I had an exceptional crowd that I ran with in my school days. There were always interesting arguments on every topic we could wrap our young minds around (and some that we couldn't, but still argued about anyway). They were good people, smart people, funny people, caring people. I owe much of who I am to their influence and love them all dearly to this day.

At the same time, I was a nerd in an upper-middle class suburb and the ruling class in that school were the Heathers. They were cliquish, materialistic, fashion-conscious, shallow, and nasty. There were bullies. Life was not easy in many ways and the presence of the cool kids was always there. Our group defined itself as much negatively, in terms of not being the in-crowd, as we did positively, in terms of our own identities and interests.

So this leads back to the original question. How much do we profit from having those around us who provide living examples of how not to be? Are we more strongly formed by that which we aspire to include in ourselves or that which we are repulsed by? How important, how formative is alienation from the negative and harmful side of our culture? Sure, it is hard at the time, but in the long run, is it better to feel like a weirdo growing up or not?