Echo finally died of old age, and the raw emotion from the park rangers and zoologists just brought tears. Similarly, he thinks that now that he is older he can sift through the "B.S. In advertising and media hype," and enjoys such cynical, but rather realistic, portrays of modern society in Mad Men, Weeds, and Breaking Bad.
As far as personality development, Tom believes that children get a pretty good grounding from their parents and early school experiences. Concepts like empathy, morality, situational ethics, and reliability are built when one is young. However, that being said, Tom does not see himself as a rule follower like his parents. Both believed that if something said x in the rules, then x it was. They both also believed that a person should get a job and stay with that job until retirement. Tom has already had two careers, and estimates he will have 4 or more by the time he retires, if he retires. So for him, personality is shaped not just by archetypes and family, but by his own experiences, observations, and what ideas he gleans from books, both fictional and non-fictional. Tom has spent time in Latin America, Europe, and Russia, and believes that some of his views of morality and diversity were shaped once out of the confines of white, middle-class, Midwestern culture.
Tom understands that society needs structure and rules with which to organize; he also understands the principles of utilitarianism and deontology in which society must, by its very nature, place rules so that there will be no anarchy. This makes sense. However, in many ways, Tom believes that the United States is far too over-regulated with its adult population. For example, he cites that there is less alcoholism in Europe without so many regulations on purchasing liquor; there is also less prescription drug abuse when an adult can purchase a small amount of a pain killer or OTC drug. But, because we are such a litigious society, Tom acknowledges that it is impossible to count on most of the population being self-regulated and mature enough to act responsibly -- even with common sensical things like wearing a helmet if riding a motorcycle.
Tom grew up in a town with a very polarized ethic makeup. 45% of the city was Latino, 45% Caucasian, and only 10% Asian or African-American. This was not a very diverse environment, and Tom did not really experience the diverse nature of the world until he travelled outside the United States. This experience shaped him, though, in that he works not to classify others based on their race and outward appearance, but by their deeds and verbiage. He believes there is a continuum within society of the very, very good (the Mother Theresa types) and the very, very bad (The serial killer types), but that most people have both the capacity for good, and the capacity for evil. He finds it interesting that we live in a world that can produce such beauty in the Sistine Chapel, the architecture and paintings of the Louvre, beautiful music; and yet the 20th century saw death, carnage, and human cruelty like no other century prior.
Because he is a white male, though, Tom says that at time, he feels at a disadvantage -- some approach him with the attitude that because he is white, he has always had it easy, never had to work for gain, and cannot understand diverse cultures. This is just as biased, he says, as thinking "all Latinos think alike, etc." -- Tom had very little handed to him other than a solid work-ethic and desire to learn. Everything else was earned. In this, he is, and remains intrinsically motivated, still bristles at authority, and still finds certain academic strictures to be "obscure, time consuming, and wasteful." All in all, though, Tom is at peace with himself and the world and believes that as he ages, his "body may not cooperate, but his mind surely will."