Monthly Archives: February 2008

Service and Servitude

On Saturday we took our boys to a family friend’s birthday party. It was held at a facility that does catered birthdays as well as daycare on the weekdays. About halfway through the festivities I picked up Jamie to change him and found that the only place suitable to do so was in one of the daycare classrooms. As neither of our boys has been in daycare I’ve never actually been in such a room – and I have to say, it sort of spooked me. The cribs were placed in perfect rows, the tables with openings cut into them where the babies are placed for meals, the push cart that could hold the entire group. The smiley pictures and drawings adorning the room were, to me, a very thin veneer of the Machievellian persona of such a place.

Not a very happy picture I paint, is it? The reason I’m writing about this is to explore more about my personal reaction to the daycare place than the place itself. Who knows? Maybe it’s the most wonderful place to have ones kids. Maybe the teaching staff is fantastic. The point is that it dredged up in vivid detail my own personal judgements about daycare. Deep down, my emotional response is that a place such as this is bad. That kids should not be stuck in places like this – where they are being groomed to become employees in the cold corporate culture as their parents are currently. But who am I to judge? I suppose I could say the same about nannies and sitters as well, except that my wife and I employ a fabulous sitter who takes care of our kids a few days of the week so we can do other things. My rational reaction to sitters and daycare, etc, is that if they are good and really care about the kids, then utilizing them in order to get other stuff done can be a tremendous asset.

Let me be absolutely clear about this: it would be presumptive and foolhardy to look down at a dad who works full time and because he doesn’t spend as much time with his kids as I do. Everyone has different circumstances and limitations and most people, I believe, really want to do what’s best for their kids.

So, with all of this said, why am I really writing about this today? Because, when it comes down to it, this is an exploration into to what extent we are in service and to what extent we are in servitude in our lives. What’s the distinction between service and servitude? For me, it’s an awareness or lack thereof of ones choices and actions in the context of our living in our society. I wrote at the top paragraph about my feelings about children being groomed to be employees but do I think jobs are bad? Certainly not! As I recall from studying Plato’s The Republic from High School, society works when everyone learns a “techne” or some technical skill that can benefit themselves and the other members. So, I’m not condemning the idea of work. I think it’s important for each and every one of us to serve society in a conscious manner. Being in service is a good thing. My hope of course is that this film will be of service. I also consider myself to be of service to my family in a myriad of ways. Service is good.

What isn’t good is servitude. When people feel like they have no choice. When people are so strung out in their lives that they either don’t have the time or don’t have the willpower or interest enough to take a step back and look at how their lives really are and what they could do about it. The phrase ‘Ratrace’ comes to mind (perhaps more accentuated after watching Ratatouille over the weekend:) Let me also toss in one of my favorite quotes:

“If you don’t have a plan for your life, somebody else does.”

The point of all of this is for us as fathers, mothers, men and women, as individuals of value, we need not just to serve but at the same time to actively seek to improve our lives and the lives of everyone else. We must continually question what is going on, whether we are really in service or servitude and think deeply and openly about how things can be improved. Hopefully, we can find out the answers together.

Thanks for listening.

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