The Places That Make You

April 26, 2008 Josef Fritzl of Austria, was arrested for the 24 years of incest, rape and enslavement of his daughter, and her kids, who were also his kids. During his trial, Fritzl blamed his behavior of the 24 years, on his “bad childhood”, and how he was raised by his abusive mother.(Rayner, 2009) Like Fritzl, many criminals and regular people blame they are where they are, based on how they were raised and the opportunities they were presented. Does the environment define the person or is it the person that defines the environment. Do you define yourself by your environment or the latter?

Many sociologists believe where we lived and how we grew up is how the person is molded and lives today. Orion Jones who writes for Big think talks about in his article How Your Environment Shapes Who You Are, that people resemble the community that they come from and because environment defines us so much there is no one version of a person. Even with new environments if a person sees a certain norm, they will adjust accordingly like “environment full of litter” or a clean environment.(Jones, 2016) If you’ve ever traveled people act different in each place where you visit. From personal experience, coming from Colorado, people are pretty considerate and helpful, but going to New York City, people were completely unaware of each other, and being their felt very alone, for how many people were there. Even in each household from a kid who was physically disciplined more than the neighbors who didn’t believe in. Jamie Gumbrecht, from CNN, made an article named In Sweden, a generation of kids who’ve never been spanked which discusses, how spanking can be so widely accepted in America and in Sweden so looked down upon.

“No countries in North America ban physical punishment by parents, but there’s a perennial debate about the line between discipline and abuse, and who’s allowed to administer it.”(Gumbrecht, 2011)

“In 1979, a few years before the Swanson family arrived, Sweden became the first country to ban physical punishment of children.”(Gumbrecht, 2011)

North America where they believe in discipline and private parenting, and Sweden who doesn’t believe in physical discipline and instead believes in a shared community of parenting. Both sides defend how they bring up their children and the children turn out different. Because every parent is different and brings their children up a certain way, the children are different too.

Many people argue that the environment defines the person, but don’t know why just that it does, but how exactly does an environment define you. One scientific idea, in an article named How Does the Environment Affect the Person? Written by Mark Bickhard talks about how people perceive their environments through their senses and in turn activates certain receptors, that you later identify with in future scenarios.(Bickhard, 1990) Or in easier words experiences. The experiences created by an environment help the person later to make future decisions. With every decision considered as a variable, every decision is calculated like an equation, with every variable plugged in. The result is what we see later. So in these terms a change in an environment, won’t change a person, but merely add another variable into their life. Whether that variable affects that decision, is up too how much of an impact that experience left on that person. The impact is measured by the past experiences as well; going back to Sweden and the US, if I was say from China who only knew physical discipline, Sweden would be revolutionary. But if I knew both as a norm, it would turn into personal preference and how I argue it, and if I never heard of physical punishment, then Sweden would seem only natural. So all variables play a role in each other as well, multiplying on top of each other to make the next decision, which in turn makes the next variable. That’s why they say once you’ve done something once it only gets easier. If you stole and kept getting away with it, would you suddenly play the risk of getting caught and stop?

But with all these talks about where your from define who you are, many like Bri Seeley believe otherwise that just because you grew up in a ghetto doesn’t mean you’re destined to live their, or if you weren’t raised by a dad you aren’t destined to leave your child too. Bri Seeley wrote an article named Your Circumstances Do Not Define You on the Huffington post, about how she grew up with the imaged loving family but how she always sought better because of the hardships she faced internally she pushed for more when others would settle for less.(Seeley, 2017) A personal passage from her story plays out how everyone has 2 choices no matter what they are and some people are willing to take the high road, while most are willing to take the shortcut.

“You see, at a very young age I began to take action to make my story different. I made a conscious effort to live outside of the circumstances I faced. What people don’t understand is that I am proactive about stepping past my circumstances now because I made it a habit at a very young age. Don’t get me wrong, it could have been VERY easy to play the victim role. It could have been very easy to feel entitled because life didn’t go my way. I could have chosen my circumstances. But thankfully I didn’t, because my life would have looked very different.”(Seeley, 2017)

There’s stories on how people got out of hardships and how people settled in them, people in the same situation on the same block in the same family archetype, choose different paths one better and one worse, everyday. It’s a 50–50 chance and it’s always been that way.

Each environment does influence you, in a certain way; and to say that you’d be the same person if you grew up in a different kind of setting and offered different opportunities based on your area, would be ignorant. Humans learn from experiences, and different areas and environments, present different experiences. If you took a person born into royalty and a person born into slavery and put them into society, they will act and behave differently. Even in less drastic scenarios, in our own country people treat others differently, like a black person living in the northern states or the southern states of America, there are different perceptions and ideals in each area. So an environment doesn’t completely define you as a person but it has a very large part to play in how you live as a person.

While Bri Seeley may have had 2 paths to be able to go down, that’s the point, she had an option. Many people don’t have the privilege of an option or the simplicity of her option. Someone who grew up in the ghetto could have been taught to not care about wealth or education like Bri was. While to an extent if you have the clear choice of good and bad, then take the good, and the rest lies on their shoulders. But for some others, with the wrong circumstances at the wrong time can make for some clouded judgement, while in foresight is terrible, but for them at that instance is good in their eyes. What can be defined as good in their eyes is depended on their environment and who they have to look up to.

For humans, as creatures of nature we adapt to our surroundings, and shape our life around them. To some extent we can choose to live different lives, but those different lives are only so much different and have more similarities, than differences. We have to compare our lives to others around us, to get our sense of us, and different surroundings are gonna have us live in different ways to survive. We don’t define our lives on our environment, but rather what’s comes from it.