Everyone like to think that they have free will and that they can dictate the paths of our own lives, but how much do systems really shape who we become?
I think of any series of related influences as a system, with a unrefined input (a group of humans), and a specific output. Every day we obliviously wander through a plethora of systems, their existence and effects only becoming apparent in hindsight, if ever.
Perhaps the most relevant system that we’re placed in is school. Yes, that lovely place that gives homework. On the surface, school’s main purpose is to educate society, but if I learned anything after reading Class Rules, it’s that the environment and culture of a school matter much more than the actual facts learned. Obviously, people who come out of elite boarding schools are going to take different societal roles than those from inner-city public schools, but the ultimate inequity stems from that fact that we get little choice into the systems we get sorted into. Sometimes it’s a matter of which side of the street we live on. Sometimes it’s all at the mercy of one admissions officer. And perhaps the most fundamental difference: the socioeconomic conditions we were born into.
I’m only familiar with my own upbringing, but I can’t fathom how my values and perspective on life would be different had anything in my life changed–parents, schools, certain books, friends, random strangers, and everything else in between. No one event has been particularly life-changing, yet everything as a whole must have had some impact, or else I’d be a identity-less blob.
This leads to another question: Is the only thing differentiating everyone the systems they went through? Can people be defined by their systems? If so, isn’t this just a matter of winning the birth lottery? If not, then what’s the “true” measure?