Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pay Attention, Damn It!

Way back in history, just about when we were standing upright for the first time, the rules of Nature still applied. Pretty much the way the Animal Kingdom dictated the rules over all the other species. Everyone has at least once seen the image of the club-wielding Caveman dragging the beautiful mate by the hair.

The biggest, strongest, prettiest of the lot were the ones who got all the goodies. No one worried much about etiquette or social rules.

When you take a look at the timeline of human existence, you can see how far we'd come from the Stone Age by the end of the 20th Century. In fact, if you look at just the latter half of that Century, you can see the amazing progress we made in that time period alone.

People started creating laws, way back, because the Cavemen lived pretty much by the rules of the animal kingdom, survival of the fittest and all. I guess they got sick of the Big Guy taking all the good stuff, simply because he could wallop anyone who tried to stand in the way, so the Nerds banded together and created Society, with all its laws and the ability to enforce those laws. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the beasts of the wild, and it was through the use of our brains that we began to accomplish that.

A big part of our great move forward was the process of trial-and-error. We learned from our mistakes, and the guys the built the better mousetraps were the ones who achieved success. Hard work, education, all were part of the formula. Didn't get it right? Back to the drawing board.

So what the hell is up with us as we enter the 21st Century? I read about a plan in some school district to eliminate grades for school work. What are we working on creating here? I remember when a bad grade was usually an incentive to work harder, even if it was because you didn't want to get punished. But it also acted as motivation. Made you work harder, just because you wanted to do better. I figured the grading system was there to measure performance, but to help find the people who were the best at what they did. I always remember George Carlin's line "Somewhere out there is the worst doctor in the world. And someone has an appointment with him tomorrow."

Screw the self-esteem, Little Johnny, I want the doc from the TOP 10% of the class, please?

Now we have people who see bad grades as "detrimental to self-esteem".

What is self-esteem? The way I saw it, your self-esteem was your own personal grading system. You measured your self-worth by your accomplishments. And grades helped you to figure out what you were better at. Some kids were math whizzes, others were budding scientists, and yet others were artists and musicians. You found your niche, and went to work getting better and better at it.

Now we don't want anyone to get their feelings hurt? Why?

Imagine if the Wright Brothers' Mom told them to stop trying to build airplanes after they crashed a few dozen times. I almost said we'd be rowing around in boats, but I can't imagine that the first boat that went into the water got very far either. Failure led to success for the people who chose to learn from their mistakes. So yeah, when Alexander Graham Bell got a few busy signals on his first attempts, maybe Mrs. Bell baked him some cookies, but I'm sure she didn't tell him to throw in the towel. He felt bad, I'm certain, that he didn't get to talk on the phone right away, but I'm guessing that he channeled his frustration and got back to work, just so we can walk around blabbing into cellphones all day now.

Political Correctness, Diversity Training, and other social movements in recent history started out with great intentions, no doubt. No one wants to feel badly, and no one should go out of his way to make other people feel badly, particularly if the motivation is bigotry. And I know that we have miles to go in the right direction before we hit the mark.

But I think we've bastardized the concepts here a little.

The thing I don't like about the whole "PC" thing isn't what it has given us, but rather what it has taken away from us on a social level. Used to be, someone was a jerk, you didn't have to like them. Didn't matter their race, creed, or whatever; if he was an idiot, he was an idiot. Now it feels to me as though I'm being forced into having to like someone because I'm supposed to. Doesn't quite work for me.

We have some folks demanding "respect" without doing a damned thing to earn it.

We have other folks whose sole source of self-pride is that "they don't take shit from anyone!". You know, the "mess with me and you'll get hurt" types. There you go. You might have earned something along the lines of respect. But when I think of those descriptive phrases, another creature comes to mind, namely the killer bee. And I stay the hell away from them. Is that what the person is after? Solitude?

With the proliferation of websites allowing self-expression, such as myspace, you'll see some people laying it all out there, giving you all they've got. Then they write something like "if you don't like what you see, move on". Some of the self-same people will then complain that they aren't the center of attention. I don't get it.

Why are we making it ok to be an asshole? Look at some of the celebrities who are in the forefront of media attention? Half of them are riding on the coattails and credit cards of Daddy or Mommy's money. They did the work, now we pay the price? I'm not saying everyone on the cover of People is an asshole. But look how many "hot celebrities of the moment" are famous for no other reason than that they are assholes?

There will always be social trends. And while every generation thinks that they are the great innovators, coming up with something unique and new, I'm not sure what to make of the current trend. I'm not even sure what it is. But I think it might actually be "new and unique". The trend that I'm seeing isn't "live and let live" like some people would lead you to believe. "Live and let live" implies you live your life the way you want to, and I'll live mine my way. I see, more and more, that people not only want to live the way they want to, they're gonna shove their lifestyle in your face, and you're going to like it. And you're not going to ignore it.

I could tolerate it if people were jamming great accomplishments onto my table. But I would say it's a pretty safe bet that the people busy with great accomplishments don't need to shove anything anywhere.

No, instead we have a whole lot of people out there who think being beautiful is all they have to do to garner all the attention.

The biggest, strongest, prettiest of the lot were the ones who want all the goodies. No one worries much about etiquette or social rules.

Funny, huh? Feels like we've come full-circle.


  1. You gotta be kidding me.

  2. ah, public schools! failing students can't be held back so let's just get rid of grades altogether! AND here's the new trend at the most extreme - no more recess. And not so they can get more teaching time, but because it's too dangerous. Schools where you can't play tag at recess because somebody might get hurt, can't bring jumpropes because (yes, you guessed it) somebody might get hurt! Hey, if I can survive dodgeball, everybody can!


I love comments. I won't lie about that!