Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The Death of Respect - American Nightmare part 4
The foundation has been laid in the previous three posts for what is really wrong with America, at least in my view. The rampant consumerism, marketing-driven unrealistic expectations of rewards and image, fundamental competition in all areas of life - these are the columns on which our demise rests.
Respect is dead in the United States, or dying a miserable death. And that will tear us apart.
All of this competition has made us mistrustful of one another, and with good reason - there are far too many people who have learned by example - too many cutthroat assholes who will steal your candy without remorse or penalty. It's 'just business.'
All of this marketing has made us feel like we have rights and privileges that we are owed and guaranteed, even if that means someone else has to suck it up.
All of this consumerism has made us chew up the planet and spit it out like used gum, and then we want another piece, another dose of temporary flavor, another spree so that we have that one more item tucked away - we need it, right? We need a new blender. We need a new set of flatware. We need a new sweater. We need new jeans. We need a new car. We need a bigger house. We need - but do we, or is this just what we are being taught, or more precisely, trained to think?
Because these trappings, in the eyes that the media and marketers give us - these equal success and comfort, and if you don't have them, then you're down the scale somehow. You matter less.
I. Call. Bullshit.
Want an example? Pay close attention to how people drive in this day and age. If they have a big expensive SV, then they will do things like ride the center line, maybe it's becuase they don't know how to drive a truck, but in my mind, it's at least partly because they feel like, in some way, their vehicle should have greater access to the roads, greater freedom of movement. Haven't you seen the Lexus ads? Why don't you yield, then?
In my town, people pass each other on the right, sit in the fast lane, zip through yellow lights, do rolling stops around corners - all of this is just another way of asserting that the laws don't really apply to us - not really. We are privileged and for police to enforce these laws is absolutely senseless to us. But it's not - these laws were written by people who thought that we should respect one another. Now that we don't (as a culture), these laws seem beneath us - too much to ask of us. Are we really so put upon to be five minutes later?
Mama Monster put this excellent post on her blog,a nd I have mad respect for her for her choice that day. I am so jaded that I see a man stand by the side of a road, read erports of professional panhandlers making more than I do - I can't help but feel like I'm being cheated, and that, in itself, is an example of the death of respect. I don't consciously look at them with contempt, but it's there, somewhere, because of the media portrayal of, hopefully, one case out of ten thousand.
And everyone does deserve the same respect and compassion - we all do. But we're all using different measures and attitudes to make up our minds. We have different levels of education and understanding. The media treats us all like sheep, dumbs it down to an eighth grade reading level, simplifies things until true meaning is completely glossed over. We lie to each other in an attempt at currying favor. We manipulate facts to make them support this conclusion or that one. We've lost the fundamental need for Truth with ourselves and one another - we have no respect anymore even for that.
Ever fudge your taxes? Ever lie to a cop to get out of a ticket? Ever take more change than you were due with an inward smirk?
I have done all of these things, and probably worse. Because I'm no shiny pillar of towering strength in a world of weakness. I want new jeans. I'd be stoked to win that lottery thing. I am mistrustful and suspicious and jaded. I am materialistic and snobbish and self-important. I am a product of this society, and it shocks me that the next batch is coming out worse than I am.
Because I can see myself clearly, and make some amends for myself - give a little back to the world in some sense. I hope. And I'm trying to re-learn respect. I'm really trying. Because I don't like being part of the problem.