So this may rankle some readers, may raise enough issue for some to stop reading my words, and if so, I am sorry to have offended. But these are my thoughts, my words, my feelings…..my opinion. I would never dare suggest I am right and others are wrong. I recognize that the paths walked by each of us to end up on this website, at this time, are complicated and varied. And I recognize that emotions and experiences during that journey to here and now have forged different perspectives upon each of us. But the whole point of writing this was to share some of what I’ve learned in hopes it may help even one other person navigate their life’s trails more comfortably or easily. I want to share and I have to be honest as I do so; so if that offends – I am sorry.
Today’s society is crumbling, disintegrating into dust. No real news there. In fact it is something that, on a lighter and less significant scale, takes place with the changing of the guard with every generation. We all – each generation – need to make it “ours”; to personalize it to our thoughts and beliefs. We mold society into what we want it to be. Not to be so generalized, but think of it by decades: 50’s were greasers, leather jackets, hot rods, and bobby socks; 60’s were hippies, bell bottoms, weed, LSD, and free love; 70’s were disco, muscle cars, CB radios, and antiwar protests; the 80’s were metal, coke, big hair, and sexual revolution; and so on. Each generation tried to both change what they didn’t like and shock the status quo at the same time.
But through it all, the foundation – the basis for life as we’ve known it for hundreds of years – remained intact. Boy were boys and girls were girls. Certainly how they met each other and how interacted with each other varied generation to generation, but the end result remained. Families changed; stay at home moms began to fade and eventually became a rarity; much the same with dual parent families with single parent households becoming the norm. But homes and households remain as our culture.
But in today’s society, increasing almost exponentially daily, the cry for change is reaching – broaching – the lines of reason and sanity. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and instant electronic global moments are all breeding a subculture of attention sluts, camera hogs, and media whores all of whom seek to take it to the next level. Influencers who promote shocking behaviors purely for shock value. Licking food in stores and putting it back on the shelf; eating Tide pods; damaging ancient and rare national artifacts on camera; defacing irreplaceable hieroglyphs in caves; planking )which started merely annoying yet innocuously); and a myriad of similar photos and videos all striving to become the next big viral hit. And through it all there is a conscious effort to tear down and eradicate anything associated with tried and true cultural traditions. Culture now wears a target.
Gender fluidity and sexual preference. I am not sure I would have ever seen this one coming. And frankly, keep it on your bedroom behind closed doors and I couldn’t possible care less. But don’t flaunt it and throw in my face. Don’t parade it about so all the young (still) innocent children have to see it and digest it. If you are hetro or homo or bounce back and forth – I.Don’t.Care. Leave it behind your closed doors. But don’t make me watch and don’t march it through the streets of your town for all to gape; my grandkids have no need or business seeing that.
Reminds of a line from one of my favorite songs, One Night in Bangkok: “I don’t see you guys rating the kind of mate I’m contemplating. I’d let you watch, I would invite you, but the queens we use would not excite you”.
I recently read of a man who followed a little girl into the bathroom in a mall because he identified as a young girl. The girl’s father, waiting outside, saw it differently and quickly made that clear to the man-girl person. Want to be a little girl? Fine – do it behind closed doors!!
Of course everyone has a right to free speech. And the right to protest. Want to take a knee at the playing of our national anthem? I detest it, but I will fight for your right to do so. But I will also not buy products the athlete promotes and will not follow his/her games. I was as proud as could be of the US women winning the World Cup – I watched every game I could and cheered for them; I have done so for years going all the way back to Mia Hamm. And leading to this World Cup I cheered even louder for one of the women as she is an amazing soccer player – a great athlete. But with millions of young, innocent, impressionable young girls looking for a role model, this player choose to drag politics into the pitch. She could have stuck with her strengths and led all her young fans by demonstrating soccer skills, athleticism, hard work, determination, and sportsmanship. But she chose instead to make political statements; to use foul language in quotes that all these innocents hungrily devoured – she chose to demonstrate negative behaviors on the world’s stage rather than all the positive she has to offer. Why not talk about exercise, practice, hard work, determination, sportsmanship, fair play, and all the great aspects of competitive athletics?
Why? Our current vector, as a society, is one that takes aim on culture and society as evil and targets for ridicule and potentially, destruction. But while some things should be left off their agenda, sadly everything is fair game. For example anti-vaxxers; children have died because of an obtuse and uninformed belief that the world is wrong, that medicine has lied to them, and that they know more than science. I firmly believe that many of these folks are taking the anti-vaccine stance merely to shake up the establishment; that since it is part of our culture – “what we always do” – that they must do the opposite; outcome disregarded.
Some recent examples:
– Two visitors to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois allegedly drew their initials on an over 400 million year-old sandstorm formation that’s also a sacred place for Native Americans.
– A group of women at the International Arts Center Main Avenue in Yekaterinburg, Russia, attempted to take a selfie of famed artists Francisco Goya and Salvador Dalí, knocking over an entire wall in the process.
– Travelers from Canada and from the United Kingdom, found a can of spray paint on the side of the road in northern Bangkok. The two were inebriated and decided to vandalize the nearest wall — which happened to be the Tha Pae Gate, a popular tourist attraction that dates back to the 13th century.
– According to the North Yorkshire Police, a group of five young people were seen pushing a rock off a crag in North Yorkshire, England, that dated back millions of years. The rock formation has been shaped by centuries of wind, rain, and ice.
– One family in the UK disregarded museum rules (and common sense) when they placed their baby inside an ancient artifact for a photo-op – an 800-year-old sandstone coffin, which caused it to fall off its stand.
– One tourist in Washington, DC, took a selfie too far and severely damaged a piece of art in artist Yayoi Kusama’s mind-bending exhibit “Infinity Mirrors”.
– An exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum was closed for three days after a visitor broke a glass pumpkin, causing an estimated $800,000 worth of damage.
– Another incident took place at an installation by artist Simon Birch at The 14th Factory in Los Angeles. The installation, called “Hypercaine,” featured a display of delicate crowns on pedestals. Video shows a woman crouching down to take a selfie in front of the art and subsequently knocking over an entire column of pedestals, apparently causing $200,000 in damages.
– Tourists on a beach in southern Spain were responsible for the death of a baby dolphin in August 2017. Many were seen taking photos with the animal, taking it out of the water, and covering his breathing hole while taking the selfies.
– And just recently, a 16 year old boy was assaulted and stabbed to death while literally dozens of teenagers stood and watched, doing nothing to intervene or help. Instead that chose to film it and make crude comments and jokes.
Some of the latest viral trends include adults (yes, parents) filming themselves throwing a slice of cheese at a baby and making it stick to the baby’s face; sticking someone – usually a child – into a garbage bag, closing the top, and then using a vacuum to suck all the air out; and the most recent – teens are using super glue to glue their lips to their face to give them full lips. Certainly there are more, many of which are so stupid and potentially deadly that I won’t give them the dignity of discussion. The point is, this is where we are at in our society.
And to do something like planking in order to surprise people is perfectly understandable and something not unlike stunts that generations have performed for decades; remember swallowing goldfish? No one gets hurt, nothing is damaged, and nothing but laughs and a stifled gasp ensue. Shock value without harm or ill intent. But when you want all those thumbs up and subscribes on YouTube or all those retweets on Twitter, you constantly have to raise the bar and take it to the next level. You have to push the boundaries. And more and more that is being done by going after core values, foundational constructs of our culture with the goal of creating greater shock value. Anything “sacred” is now fair game.
There a thousands of similar stories out there to read – they all sicken me and steal a little piece of my soul creating a horrible cumulative effect. Because they aim to take apart the mortar than binds our society together, and to do so merely out of rebellious agitation. As I said earlier, everyone certainly has the right to protest. But to destroy the fundamental blocks of society, of our culture, is a dangerous and possibly unrecoverable act we just can’t ignore.
This year the candy marketing geniuses wanted to move Halloween from October 31st to the last Saturday in October. Forget that it is the eve of All Saints Day – All Hallows Eve – that had no bearing or consequence on their plan. In fact, when asked about it, they said to leave October 31st as Halloween as always, but add to it with the Saturday to trick or treat. They offered some feeble drivel on why they wanted this, but the reality is that they want to sell more candy – at the expense of our cultural tradition. While Christmas has been terribly commercialized and affected by time, it still exists; the tradition remains essentially as it has been for children – for society – for hundreds of years. And that is so incredibly important.
Continuity and consistency in our culture is invaluable; as is tradition. It provides a safe environment in which we can all exist. When all else is crazy and out of control, there still remains the comfort that tradition and the passage of time will again provide us with the moments that dwell in our hearts and memories. Whether that be a religious holiday such as Easter of Christmas, a national holiday such as Memorial Day or the 4th of July in the US, or a family holiday such as Thanksgiving, or even just an annual summer cookout, we hold them in our hearts and count on them as future moments of happiness. Tradition is so important to emotional growth and wellness.
Tradition, and its adherence, also provides a much needed cadence to people’s lives; it provides both balance and rhythm to our journey through life – comfortable and predictable landmarks we all rely upon and look forward to, especially when things have been a little rough in recent times. Culture and tradition are the blankets of comfort we all seek in hard times and to attack and destroy them is to attack and destroy the fabric of our past and promise of our future.
I don’t pretend to have answers; this is a global issue brought to us and dropped at our feet like a cat’s dead prize. It is wide enough, broad enough, deep enough, and pervasive enough that there is no simple or quick cure. Like so much else in life, we need to unravel it one layer at a time, just as it coiled about us. I cling to a slim hope that the inherent sheer velocity of social media and technology will rocket the influencers and viral trend setters at such a pace that this all fades to the rear view mirror in the blink of an eye and other, less vulnerable and less valuable targets cast themselves onto our phones and computers. The current tenet of (some of) our youth that anything related to culture is evil and deserves to be ridiculed and torn asunder cannot continue; it will destroy more than the shortsighted and misguided influencers could ever possibly imagine. That’s this old Wolff’s growl for the day……..