Without me realizing it commitment has become important in my daily life. Over time, it has determined the way I think about society. I never really thought of it conciously, nor have I studied the concept or read about it before. Maybe now is the appropriate time to do so.
I don’t use books or theories and what they have to say about commitment. I want to start from my own experience. I want to describe what commitment means to me in practice, but also in theory.
Why an essay? Sometimes the written word, not only expresses a thought, but also the process of thinking itself. A process that is unfinished, but through writing about it we hold on to the thought. The written word can be resisted, can be negotiated and corrected without it fading or disappearing.
To begin with, one’s expected to open with a definition. I do not believe in definitions. If we define concepts then we tend to think in solid terms, while concepts are always dynamic and can be differently defined. I do not want to sound postmodernistic, because I’m not, but I rather believe in outlining concepts than in defining them.
Outlining the concepts that we use seems to me to be useful and especially meaningful. Outlining to offer guidance for those who need direction and more insights to open new perspectives.
Commitment is badly needed these days, dear reader. Let me tell you why.
We are going through rough times. Times which are being dominated by an extensive form of capitalism in favor of a small group in our society. The problems are enormous and they will not get resolved as long as the capitalistic system lasts. It is a system that constantly generates crisesses. Crisesses that lead to more inequality, exclusion and poverty. Crisesses inherent to capitalism, as Marx long ago predicted.
Apart from crisesses in the social, economic and political field, we also face a human crisis. One of the foundations of the capitalistic system is individualism. The longer capitalism dominates, the more selfish and individualistic people become. It’s every man for himself.
Another cornerstone of capitalism is that we compete with each other to survive or -so to speak-, get the best out of ourselves. Competition is not only essential for the market, it also takes control of our society. Within the neoliberal capitalistic system, the social processes need to be consistent with how the market functoins. In that way capitalism dominates our lives in all possible areas.
Where has capitalism led us to? All major institutions and organizations, starting from the United Nations to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, admit that the biggest problem at present times is the growing inequality in the world. In Brussels, where I live, inequality is occuring right in front of my very eyes, on daily bases, no need for these institutions to tell me that.
Here, in Brussels, my commitment has grown over the years. In your hometown, where your daily life takes place, where you study, where you work, where your friends live, you just can’t be indifferent to the growing inequality, exclusion and poverty.
When I graduated from university I faced the choice to go for my doctorate or to get socially involved. I did not hesitate long. I chose the second option. I had to do something, give something back to the city where I’ve had such good times as a student.
Commitment means giving a piece of ourselves in what we do. It sounds simple but it is not. It’s simple nor obvious. The obviousness got lost in the dominance of the ‘everyone for his/her own’ discourse. For those who can not give that piece of his or herself in his or her actions, it is difficult to understand why some of us do commit ourselves. Often we even cannot give a exact reason of why we are comitted. Commitment must be experienced and not explained that is why my explanation here, can never match the experience of commitment.
So we can easily say what our commitment serves, but to explain the underlying reasons is far more difficult. No worries for whom this sounds familiar, for it is with time and in experiencing yourself in what you do, that one realizes what those reasons are.
Another aspect of commitment is the context. If we are only occupied with ourselves, it is all about our own context. By committing yourself, you realize that there is a broader context than your own. We realize that there are many things out there, that are worth to be committed for.
It becomes clear when you understand what commitment means ‘Being in contact with the other ‘,’Being busy with someone other than yourself’ During our commitment, we can’t but look beyond ourselves and step into a real relationship with the other. It is not a relationship where you find yourself lost or in which only the other exists. It is a constructive relationship where your commitment is and remains critical.
Commitment begins small and can get bigger. In groups of two, three, four … we come together with other people. These meetings give us the opportunity to look at our own reality from different perspectives. Perspectives that without this commitment would be nonexistent.
Equally important is the fact that through our commitment we obtain a place in the world. Through a commitment with and for others, we find a place for ourselves. A place for yourself in a broader context seems not only sensible, it’s also badly needed in these times of fast living in which alienation has been internalized deep down. We can no longer stand on the sidelines as a spectator at an important part of our lives. Because like it or not, what happens in our environment has an impact on our lives.
To live no longer as spectators but as participants, means commitment is togetherness. You are together with others who also believe in commitment. This deep contact with others and the togetherness, seems like a good exercise in cooperation, solidarity and coexistence with the other.
Through togetherness searching for points of collaboration and connectedness, is essential to make commitment succeed. One should not forget that one is committed to realize something, to change something. And if inequality is the biggest problem in society, which is also ours, than change is essential.
That does not mean I necessarily plead for a result-oriented commitment. Nowadays it seems fashionable that everything we do must be result-oriented.
Commitment is first and foremost a process. A process in which one can engage with other people, in which one can listen and learn from others, and thus widens their horizon. Therefore, one must experience commitment, because only in the experience one can see the value and importance of being commited.
Value and importance benefit not only to the person for whom one is committed, but also for oneselve. Commitment is apart from giving also taking. I believe that each of us gets a lot if one is commited in the place where he lives and for the people whom he lives with. You build a relationship with other people and you get something in common. In addition, it feels good, you feel at home, at ease.
That does not mean that commitment should remain purely local or where you live at the moment. I think it is important that we commit ourselves where our daily life takes place in the districts, villages and cities where we live together. It is there we can do something, because we can change something. However, this does not have to be in conflict with a commitment in a wider area. We should be commited, connected and in solidarity with people around the world who engage themselves for change and improvement.
Bleri Lleshi is political philosopher
Translated from Dutch to English by Ann Blanckaert
While we live in an era of ease of access and convenience, young adult life is more complicated in 2015 than it ever has been before. When it comes to romance, this is no exception - no one seems to know what is going on. Life in your 20s has evolved into something completely different than what it had been 50 years ago, which explains a lot in terms of how we think and act. Here are some of the biggest changes that have greatly affected the lives we live today.
1. Online Dating
Online dating has almost singlehandedly dismantled all that humans once knew of romance. Online dating's earliest origins date all the way back to the 1960's - yes, that number is correct - when the earliest forms of computers could match people based on their responses to a long series of questions on a scantron. You know, the things you took tests on in elementary school with the little caterpillar bubbles? Yes, that is how online dating started. Through a combination of the algorithms used in those dating questionnaires, combined with the use of a 'profile' - which was used in the 'personals' section of the newspaper and in the short-lived 'video dating' - we now have what millennials recognize to be online dating.
These dating services caught on quickly in the early-to-mid 2000's during the years in which having a Personal Computer in your home became a more common thing. Today, online dating is more popular than ever, granting users access to these sites through mobile browsers and apps right on their phones. Mobile dating has specifically caught on in recent years, offering a 24/7 singles bar right in your pocket or purse.
The numbers don't lie; Between the years of 2005 and 2012, more than one-third of American couples that got married had met through an online dating site of some sort. Again, yes - that number is correct. Online dating is hands down the most common way people in the U.S. have met their spouses, more than through work and college and social activities combined.
Oddly enough, despite its obvious popularity, there is still a stigma attached to the world of online dating. People hear the word 'Tinder' and cringe. And while, yes, apps like Tinder obviously add fuel to the fire that is the hookup culture we currently reside in, there is no denying the success that the industry has seen.
2. We Always Need the 'Best'
This is proven fact. Our generation not only wants the best - we need it.
Why settle for second best? I don't want 'okay' Thai curry - I want the best Thai curry. Life is way too short for second-rate Thai cuisine!
There is nothing wrong with wanting the best. I think that it's a natural desire and you should always strive for it. Performing basic research before we spend our hard earned money on something is totally reasonable. But sometimes we go overboard and spend more time Googling Thai restaurants and reading all of the Yelp! reviews than we will actually spend enjoying the food.
This same development occurs in the dating world. While our grandparents - and even some of our parents - may have settled into a marriage that was simply "good enough" for them, we millennials are on a constant hunt for our soulmates. Our other halves. Our true love.
3. Emerging Adulthood
The concept of 'emerging adulthood' is something that would be inconceivable to the generations before us. To them, becoming an adult was starting your career, getting married and moving out of the house. The approach that we take nowadays is much different from this. Typically, most of us spend our twenties - or even some of our thirties - exploring the world (and ourselves) before we ever consider the possibility of marriage.
This is a period of development and self-discovery that really shapes us into who we truly are. We have bigger priorities than settling down right away. For the first time in our lives, we are free to explore the world around us with seemingly endless possibilities of romance. This independence helps us grow and learn to function as an adult while also having fun and enjoying the process.
And I'm not talking about the 'bar scene' and partying. While fun - especially during college years - those are things that should end sooner rather than later. Not all millennials are lame - many get involved in their communities and do constructive things in their lives during this period.
But, none-the-less, this period of exploration is a new phenomenon.
4. The Two Worlds We Live In
This is probably the biggest factor in the way we live our lives today.
As I stated in a previous article, we now live in two separate worlds - the real world and our phone world. The real world is Earth - where we physically live and interact. Our phone world is a realm where we enjoy a high level of privacy and freedom, which in the world of dating can create a fissure in our relationships. Issues such as cheating, jealousy, and sexual intimacy are all present in phone world, providing a whole new playing field of potential unavailable in the past.
Sexting is a big one. While sexually explicit photographs and letters have been being shared for decades, in phone world, it's an easier task than ever before. I could have literally snapped a provocative picture and sent it to someone, all while typing this sentence. It's mainly popular with the younger crowd, especially with apps like Snapchatthat make it easy to ensure your pictures don't fall into the wrong hands.This is a common way for people - especially young adults - to share intimacy, create sexual attraction or even just maintain intimacy while apart from your partner.
Casually swapping nudes isn't the only thing we use our phones for, however. Sometimes, cheating is made convenient in phone world. Before modern cell phones, it was no easy task to be in touch secretly with another romantic partner. Landline phones and mail made it a complicated process. But now, with the use of email, Facebook and texting, it's easier than ever.
Not to freak anyone out, but you could literally be laying in bed with your partner, and they could be texting someone else. It's that simple. Many people will disagree with me, but flirting is cheating. Sorry, not sorry.
Anyways, the simple possibility of this occurring causes trust issues, especially with those who have been the subject of betrayal before. For some, it creates a burning desire to know what the heck they are up to in their phone worlds. Unfortunately, some people also lack the control the refrain from prying - even I am guilty of it on a couple occasions. I am ashamed to admit that, but it's true, and I have learned from it. And trust me when I say, the feeling of wondering is a lot better than what you'll find within. So if you have your serious doubts, just break up with them.
If our phone world makes it easier for us to cheat, it makes it just as easy to get caught.
5. Misunderstanding 'Love'
As Woody Allen puts it in Annie Hall, "Love fades."
And this is true in a sense. The problem is that people - specifically young adults - misinterpret what it means.
It is important to understand that there are two phases of love. The first phase is called passionate love. You know, that crazy, burning, undying feeling that you get when you think of your partner. It's a great feeling. What's actually happening is your brain is flooding your neural synapses with dopamine - the same neurotransmitter that's released when you do cocaine or orgasm. Crazy, right? But it's true.
Unfortunately, this changes with time. Don't think of it as fading. Think of it as evolving. After about a year or so of feeling passionate love, your brain will start to find its balance. It grows used to your partner's smile, smell, presence, etc. This is when a new kind of love begins. This phase is known as companionate love. Companionate love is much different from passionate love, and rather than a sudden rush of emotion, this love is a love that grows gradually over time.
There is a difference between falling "out of love" and transitioning into companionate love. This poses two problems for young adults. First, most don't understand the difference and mistake the transition as falling out of love with someone, so they jump the gun and end the relationship in search of more passionate love. Second, some just simply don't have the patience for companionate love, as our world of instant gratification has changed the way our brains receive certain things.
6. Settling Down
Many factors go into people's fear of settling down. But when you really sit down and analyze it, most of it is irrational. All the glamour and fuss of the glorious single life strikes fear into our hearts the second we meet someone we would consider as a possible partner. It's really just about numbers - it's simply unnatural for human beings to be exposed to the endless possibilities that online dating and emerging adulthood have granted us.
Walking through the city every day I pass countless suitors on the street. Hundreds of possibilities, people who I could simply approach and start a conversation with. Add in all of the faces I'll see on my screen - Facebook, Tinder, OKCupid, etc. It's sort of ridiculous when you think about it.
In my opinion, I couldn't care less if I fell in love with an amazing girl who I then decided to spend the rest of my life with - isn't that the entire point of dating? I wouldn't miss out on years of fun - I would share that fun with another amazing person. I won't worry about meeting someone better because I will have invested my time and love into the best. It takes almost no effort to meet someone. It does, however, take some effort to build a relationship with that person.
We have to stop worrying so much. Meeting people is supposed to be fun and exciting, not stressful. Loosen up your outline of the 'perfect partner' and explore your options a little more in depth. Stop with the endless string of 'first dates' from people you meet online. Trade some extra potential first dates for some second and third dates with someone else. Just because you didn't have the most amazing first date of all time doesn't mean that person isn't worth your time. If you invest a little effort into someone, you'll be amazed at what can develop out of it. You'll enjoy a deeper, more dependable type of dating that way. You may even enjoy intimacy, or even better - love.
I'm not saying we should go back to getting married in our early twenties. There's a reason things change. I'm also not saying that you can't have a little fun with your lives. Being single can be really fun. Spending time with friends, going on new adventures and learning how you function on your own are all very important things to do before you can ever really settle down in the long term.
All I'm saying is that you shouldn't be afraid of love. You shouldn't stay single just because you are worried you'll 'miss out' or 'find someone better.. While all this technology definitely connects us to the world, it doesn't really bring us closer. In the end, you have to put the phone down, log off the computer and direct your eyes to the world around you.
No matter the changes that we face or obstacles that arise, humans will always find a way to love. Love is natural. Don't ever allow the superficial to replace that because then love will truly be lost.