pádraig ó tuama on understanding: the interrelationship between private and public life (part 3)

ok. last thought inspired by pádraig ó tuama’s on being interview. at one point in the show, pádraig dropped this line:

“I think, probably, most of us learned most of our lessons for our wider public life from the private life.”

this feels very true to me.

and in some ways this is great. for example, a little further on in the episode, pádraig and krista are talking about how to disagree with people well. and pádraig mentions that if you look closely, most people actually have incredible examples of people who love each other and yet harbor fierce disagreements. most loving couples have at least one of these issues where they are staunchly opposed in their beliefs and yet they stay together. and even in larger family structures there are often folks who disagree with each others’ worldviews, but they still care for each other.

so in that way, we should totally expect that capacity from our society at large. and, to say this another way, assuming that complete agreement is a necessary condition for safety is a terrible assumption on which to build a society (paraphrased words from pádraig).

in some other ways, taking private lessons into public life isn’t so great. for example, the way abusive home lives affect how people interact with each other in the public realm is really problematic. or, like bell hooks discusses at great length, how a lack of love and support in one’s family context can create a difficult public personality that is both trying to compensate for that lack while also not knowing how to love or be supportive.

so while there are positive and negative aspects of pádraig’s statement, i think it’s a really good framework to operate under. at the very least, it allows us to better understand what’s happening in our society. we can’t know nothing about people’s home lives and expect our society to function well. and in some ways, this has always been known. most presidential candidates make a big deal about their family life on the campaign trail. but somehow, it seems the private sphere, at least as it relates to our country’s governance, feels off limits in ways that i don’t think are (or have ever been) appropriate. and that doesn’t at all mean that the entire public has to know about everyone’s private life for society to function well. i guess i’m just beginning to see that the ways in which our dominant culture assumes people can and should hide or remove their private lives from their public lives is really screwing some things up for us collectively.

or something like that.

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