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Discipline is a basic set of tools we require to solve life's problems...
The Road Less Travelled , M. Scott Peck, 1978

Commonly, the word "discipline" is used to mean obliging people to adhere to a given set of values or rules, if not punishing those who transgress. The operative words are: "oblige" and "given values". Is it not possible that that form of discipline which seeks to impose rules on those who it is feared will refuse them is based on a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does not casting doubt on the individual's ability to be responsible inherently rob him or her of the intimate feeling of value that comes from being recognised as a responsible individual and in so-doing renders him or her irresponsible? Or is that simply a naive belief that human beings are fundamentally good?

Rather than thinking in terms of imposing an external set of values on the individual, Scott Peck's conception - based on the philosophy that problems and related suffering need to be faced if they are to be resolved and the individual is to grow and develop - sees discipline as a set of tools to confront life's problems. Amongst the tools advocated are:

delaying gratification
The idea expressed here is that, rather than seeking the easy way out, the suffering and dissatisfaction of the moment may have to be endured in a concerted effort to solve the problems causing them and to grow as a result.

accepting responsibility
The responsibility referred to is that of confronting difficulties rather than fleeing them.

dedication to truth
The metaphor implied here is that of our perception of reality as a map that constantly needs refining and correcting requiring on-going effort and the related courage to expose our "map" to others as the only way to move closer to an accurate vision of reality.

It might be fruitful to explore the idea of Internet use and related governance in terms of the tools of discipline mentioned above even if the subject is potentially full of traps and pit-falls. What would using the Internet according to these principals imply?

First of all it would mean taking time and making a continual effort to think things out for ourselves rather than hastily swallowing potted, pushed-news and indulging in instant, push-button choices.

One could argue that the Internet is used by market forces as a tool to move towards instant gratification, quite the opposite to the discipline advocated by Scott Peck. Yet is instant gratification an inevitable or desireable goal for human society? To what extent does it not lead to a total dependence on those who gratify us? The vision of bliss of the breast-fed baby may awake a deep-seated desire in us to return to that seemingly idylic state, but a society of drip-fed adults is hardly an endearing vision of the future of humanity.

Above all, these principals shift the onus of responsibility squarely on rthe shoulders of each and everyone of us as individuals. We cannot hide behind our belonging to a group, religion or company to justify our behaviour. Nor can we hide behind the technology or membership of a particular group as some people do to behave in outrageous ways or express intolerant, if not outright racist points of view.

Although it is both natural and necessary for humans to belong to groups however big or small, it is essential to know that in the long run each of us always stands alone.

Alan McCluskey.

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Created: August 1st, 1997 - Last up-dated: August 1st, 1997