We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
"Locus of control" is a psychological concept popularized and studied by psychologist Julius Rotter. It refers mainly to the extent to which a personthinks of himself as master of, or at least as prime determinant of, his life and fate. Captain of his ship, so to speak, or at least Navigator.
In America, we consider an "internal locus of control" as a sign of character strength (associated with determination, a can-do spirit, resilience, etc), and "external locus of control" as a sign of characterologic frailty (associated with blaming, excuses, scapegoating, dependency, complaints of unfairness, etc).
I say "in America" because some cultures support external localization while some cultures disparage the tendency to attribute unwelcome results to external forces, whether human, luck, God, or whatever. Northern European cultures tend towards the "no excuses," "take your lumps and learn from them" end of the spectrum.
Character is Destiny, or so claimed the ancient Greeks - and Freud.
People who tend towards the external side of things (in my field, we term it "externalizing," or "externalizing defenses") are often less successful in pursuing their goals. These are the people who are unlikely to admit "I screwed up," or "I was wrong," "I failed at so-and-so," "I handled that poorly," or "I don't understand it." The externalizing sorts of defenses are most commonly used to maintain a positive, or inflated, self-image in the face of disappointment but, on the other hand (revealing the internal contradiction) such people are the first to take credit for their successes and achievements.
The modern classic line which dramatizes the two ends of the spectrum is Jimmy Buffet's "Some people claim there's a woman to blame, but I know it's my own damn fault." In America, rightly or wrongly, our traditions respect those who say "It's my own damn fault" instead of blaming external circumstances, life history, bad luck, etc.
We preach that every move we make, or do not make, is a decision for which moral and practical responsibility must be taken, and the consequences of which we must man-up and deal with. Women must man-up, too.
The American ideal of self-reliance and self-responsibility comes into regular conflict with Christian views of God's will and evil forces, with ego-enhancing psychological defences, and also with dependency and victimization attitudes, ideologies and politics. It all keeps life interesting.
Thoughtful post, Dr. Bliss. A more or less simple explanation of what on the surface might appear to be a stark dividing line. Though I'm guessing, 30/30 on either end and a great muddled 40 in the middle. And I admit to all variances of that model.
Though, I'm confused as to your last paragraph. Might one be logical in substituting other beliefs as well for Christian?
And then, the well deepens, so to speak.
Problem, is that character has two faces. One, the immediate, life saving sort, which displays rather quickly. The other, gives time for reflection and thought, which allows for much confusion as to destiny.
Although we have our mystics and dervishes - and who wouldn't want the comforting certainty of a talisman after all we've been through? - mainstream, authentic Judaism is still focused clearly on human free will and choice. In particular:
- we don't believe in a fallen world. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of the birth of human conscience and free will, which almost could not happen without transgression. (observe the nearest 2-year-old or teenager for clarification.)
- Hebrew terminology for "good inclination" and "evil inclination" literally translate as "good creative force" and "bad creative force" - and they are typically described as existing within the human heart.
- "Satan" literally translates as "diverter" or "misdirection". Although this trait IS personified, it is not the Devil of Christianity - there is no Lucifer or underworld independent of G-d's kingdom. Like other angels, Satan embodies a metaphysical aspect of G-d's interaction with this world - in this case, the possibility for self-deception and error that comes when souls inhabit this truth-obscuring physical world.
Satan is also the angel of death - because disconnection from the truth of G-d's existence is the only true death, in this world or the next.
But the choice is up to each individual. As the Talmud says:
G-d determines if a man will be rich, poor, healthy, ill, troubled, or at ease - but not whether he is good or evil.