Holiday thoughts: John Wayne, Clint Eastwood & HOAs

The major social revolution of the 1960s changed more than our music and attitude toward sex, it produced a major deviation by the lowering of our high ideals, goals, values and standards of behavior.  In simple terms, this diminution of, collectively, our ethical values of right and wrong can be traced back to and reflected by the change in movie plots. 

No more did we see the good guys, “the white hats” vs. the bad guys, “the black hats.”  John Wayne (I speak of the romantic westerns of the late 1940s, including the 1956 Texas epic, The Searchers) was the epitome of the strong, “rugged individual” (a description no longer found in our conversation). He fought for a better America and for the people seeking to improve their life in a healthy and compassionate community.  The individual, the hero, was seen with respect to his effect on his community and on his country.

But, in the 1960s a new American hero came onto the movie scene, brought to us by none other than Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti westerns, and later by his portrayal of Dirty Harry with his “Go ahead, make my day” challenge to the bad guys.  The anti-hero was born, one who did what he thought was right regardless of the law, in pursuit of an individualized ethical concept of right and wrong.  This was the beginnings of the change and, some would say, the perversion of the role of the individual within society.  “If it’s good for me, it’s good for you” was the message being sent.  The “what’s in it for me”, or “if you can get away with it, good for you” motives  created for many, too many, a major  shift in American morality and ethics.  The individual came first, and his impact on others became secondary.  (Today’s financial problems can be characterized by such a view as contained in the 1987 movie, Wall Street, “Greed is good!”)

We see this change reflected in the HOA where the individualized interests of the board, usually dominated by the president’s views, has been institutionalized in the HOA legal scheme and its make-believe democratic setting.  It’s not difficult to see why a less than democratic “constitution” would be necessary to accomplish objectives foreign to American values and standards of a bona fide government of, by, and for the people.  Now, I know this view that HOAs are a rejection of democratic principles doesn’t sit well with those who believe in, are happy with, and who love their HOA.  But, nevertheless, this rejection cannot be denied.

Deepak Chopra, in his newly released book, speaks of a study showing that wealth does not necessarily increase one’s happiness.  (This should not be a surprise to many living in an HOA with its preoccupation with property wealth).  He echoes what The Dali Lama wrote in his 1999 book, Ethics for the New Millennium, that offered sound advice on creating happiness: “If we make the effort to be friendly, and have a regard for the wellbeing of others, we provide for our own happiness as well as theirs.”   Advice that seems well suited for HOA controlled communities, which as we well know, are focused on the material objectives of the “state”, the HOA.  Where the people supposedly chose, as we are reminded by the pro-HOA special interests, the material over the wellbeing of the community of people.  I keep thinking about The Dali Lama’s definition of ethics, and found basically in the writings of others, “An ethical act is one that does not harm  others’ experience or expectation of happiness.” 

What I find particularly interesting in this expression is the awareness of a mutual relationship between the actor and the people affected by the act.  An ethical act is not determined solely on the views of the actor alone, but by a mutual relationship.  In a healthy community, the pursuit of individual interests cannot be conducted as if in a vacuum without an awareness of and the effects on the mutual relationships that make and bind a community.


I just can’t seem to reconcile how an institutionalized philosophy that places the material over the ethical treatment of the people can make HOAs a better community, and America a better society.  Or how a philosophy that says the individual can do anything he wants, regardless of the effects on his community or on the greater community represented by his state and country, can be viewed as an improvement to the  philosophy of working together for a better life.    I just can’t!

Published in: on December 18, 2009 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  

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