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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Personal and Family Risk

Personal and Family Risk

Here at the outset we need to be clear about what we mean by risk. Unfortunately this is much misused and maligned word and it has acquired a huge carapace of connotations that is becomes very difficult to decipher what it denotes even in specific contexts. Originally, etymologically it meant from the Greek [ root or stone cut off from firm land and later in the eighteenth century it got into French as ‘risque’ and used as metaphor for ‘difficulty to be avoided at sea’. Latin ‘ risicum’ meaning ‘situation faced by sailors when encountering dangers at sea’. Ironically in Arabic it stands for ‘anything given to you by god from which you draw profit’, in this sense probably all of us would love risks.

Whereas now we have a huge list of meanings as this word being tagged to whole lot of activities and subjects like economic risk, management risk, political risk, financial risk, health risk and latest, recession risk etc but all in general are broadly defined as ‘probability of loss or hidden dangers or unprecedented adverse situations etc’

In short RISK is

Invisible but
Killjoy aspect of any activity or enterprise.

Whenever we talk of risk, what we are interested more in is not knowing what the risks are but what causes them and how to avoid them or face them or overcome them. So we need to proceed to study the causes and how to make adequate provisions to face them and overcome them.

Primarily a careful, complete, conscious comprehension of any activity or subject clears most of the risks, at least those avoidable.

This leaves us only to deal with those inevitable risks, even these risks, the moment we are able to identify them, they have to cease to be risks because the very identification also leads us to planning and preparation as to how to tackle them. So the only risks that we need worry at all about are those that have escaped the ken of our perceptions and imaginations. They are the negative and mysterious surprise elements of any activity or subject. Having thus embarked on the preamble of what constitutes risk let us proceed to study the topic of this essay personal and family risk.

Again here we have two entities personal and family. First let me take the word personal.

It comes from the Latin persona meaning ‘the mask used by actors’. It is indeed a mask made of so many things that hides the real ‘you’. Here I would like to take the definition of Allport, who reviewed roughly fifty different definitions of personality before creating his own, “personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment” (1937, p. 48). Biologically the very birth starts with the risk as a sperm cell you risked being nudged and pushed away by other cells but then overcoming that risk you entered the fallopian tube and found the egg to emerge as a living and lovely being.

But once you are out of the womb you grow by interacting in a specific environment with you own mask of inherent and acquired abilities, attributes and attitudes and this growth entails lots of risks as the environment may not and need not necessarily gel with your mask. These risks may vary from person to person and environment to environment, they are mask-specific and so cannot be generalized. However for easy administration of remedies to the risks that the individual masks [persons] are likely to face in social living we can broadly categorize them. For want of space and out of concern not to bore the reader too much let me resort to broad categorization.

personal risks in any environment can be broadly categorized and involving the following aspects physical well being, social acceptance, cultural compatibility, economic self sufficiency and psychological happiness. Whether we take a macro view like a satellite or opt for a micro approach to these broadly categorized areas of risk we may be able to cover a very great gamut of personal risks.

Let us now move on to the second entity family risks. Family etymologically from Latin famulus ‘servant’ and familia ‘household’ so in short it is etymologically ‘servants of a household’. Only later on it acquired the meaning of blood relations. Let me give a small vindication as to why I resort to etymology. First to clear the carapace of connotations and second invariably it leads us to the core meaning of word that we analyze. Here, when we study the etymology of family the stress is not so much on proximity or presence but on contribution, participation and performance. How we can participate? What we can perform? How we can help all the members of the group of the household? And make it into a family. All these mean there is status quo as a unit for family comprising of more than one individual. This requires co-operation and compatibility between or among the members of the family each playing or performing a role assigned or assumed or acquired or required. So the family risks again vary from family to family and therefore difficult to generalize.

However broadly categorized the family risks emanate from mal adjustment, lack of coordination and lack of socio psychological perception of roles and responsibilities. These risks are minimized to a very great extent in societies where roles and responsibilities are enforced as sacred duties to each and every member of the family either justifiably or unjustifiably as part of the traditional and cultural value system. So the best way to avoid or tackle family risks is not to tamper with the fabric of time tested values systems held as sacred, traditional and part of the culture or when it is altered as part and process of evolutionary history one must ensure to create conducive and not confrontationistic atmosphere so that new value systems emerge and merge seamlessly with the existing ones.

Ultimately and most vitally both personal and family risks have more to do with psychological perceptions and sociological adjustment than they have to do with economic parameters. External parameters can always be injected like hygienic environment, better economic condition etc but the inner willingness to adopt to them for betterment is required. Therefore any publicity or persuasion must appeal to the socio psychological aspects of life. In short the risks can be minimized when everyone is educated to realize that life is a constant process of adjustment and learning.

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