Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mentality. The Spartans

Men-tal-i-ty, a characteristic attitude of the mind or way of thinking of a person or group of people.
And I would add, an attribute of life that either jumps on you or is developed by yourself, as a result of conscious observation. Bla, bla, words, let’s leave them for later. Here’s a story that illustrates mentality.
In the Spartan society, an unusual (for us) rule was governing the people’s life: if something is not forbidden, it is compulsory. It’s not forbidden to take a bath and therefore, one must take one. This is actually why their lifestyle looks rough to us, spoiled democracy mongers.
Boys would be taken from their families at an early age and raised into a boot camp. They were formed to protect the Spartan state. Im sure there must have been some people not agreeing with the rules but they were free to relocate. Those left, considered this lifestyle normal. They were born into it, they nurtured it.
In the boot camp the boys were becoming teenagers and at a certain age they had to have sex with each other. It was part of the deal and a strategic weapon: once you relate to a man in such a way, on the battlefield you don’t care just for the skin of your ass. They developed a bond between men, one that we easily discard these days.
And it really worked, as those 300 famous Spartans have saved, somehow, the Democratic system of Athens from the total destruction of the Iranian Empire.
And if you wonder, after a certain age the Spartan soldier was released and had to marry and have kids.

Now place yourself in the mind/mentality of the Spartan people and you will see that the way we interact today would look very strange to them.
Are you a Westerner? You’re a Catholic because you were born in a Catholic family? Or a free thinker because your parents encouraged you to make your own decisions? Were you born in a poor family, a wealthy one? In an arid African country or as the son of Lady Diana? Did you have any saying in that before coming to life?
You could have been born as a girl in Iran and have a completely different life. Or in a bin Laden compound. Blowing your guts out would seem completely normal or justifiable. How much control do we really have over the place where we were born? None!
So how much of your life is spent on ruling others out of your accepted lifestyle? How much emotional energy do you spend being scared by people who live a different life than yours?
All this work of the mind and emotions, which is hardly ever a result of our conscious decision, is actually shaping the way we see the world. And I mean see, in a literal way! It shapes the way we experience life which in turn, gives the quality of our personal life. It is not easy, but we can have a say in this quality of life we lead. That can start by observing the nature of our mentality.
(image: Blind people, by Saturnino Herran)