Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's with all the public outbursts? --

What's with all the public outbursts? -- "Some say it reflects a general collapse of manners, rooted in the anti-authoritarian strains of the late 1960s. Some offer a psychological explanation: that such outbursts reveal the person beneath the mask of a public persona. Some see an element of racial animus at work."
Kanye West is a jackass, as the President said. Serena Williams is a prima donna with a horrible temper. Joe Wilson's outburst was boorish and shameful. But what about the rest of us? Are we becoming a nation of louts?

I was at a meeting last night of the Lindenhurst Lakes Commission. The main issue was the condition of Potomac Lake, which is right across the street from my house and which had a major fish die-off and a nasty outbreak of algae. About 50 people attended, instead of the usual public participation of 1 or 2. I was astounded by the obnoxious behavior of some of the "citizens." I use quotation marks because that word carries with it a connotation of responsibility that seems to be fast disappearing. Side conversations, interruptions, inappropriate laughter--a bunch of jerks acting like they were watching TV in their living rooms instead of attending the meeting of a government commission.

These days, being a citizen just means you have a perfect right to behave like a boorish ass in public.

My take on this is that popular culture has degenerated into a sewer of narcissism where public self-exposure is validated as the right of each and every dunce in the nation. People watch Oprah, Jerry Springer, and these "reality" shows and think there is some innate human right to display their every emotion as publicly as possible. And with luck, maybe you get your own show!

What happened to the notion of public decorum--the idea that you behave better in public than in private? For people who are immersed in popular culture, public decorum doesn't exist. The bonehead culture has erased the distinction between private and public behavior in the interest of luring us into watching losers melt down in front of us.


Anonymous said...

How is the government any better? Don't the members of the legislature act like boorish asses in public on the few days of the year they actually work?

Anonymous said...

While some, but certainly not all citizens,” whether or not members of a “boneheaded (sic) and/or popular culture that (sic) has degenerated into a sewer of narcissism,” might find being described as jerks, boorish asses (sic), dunces (sic) and losers as rude, discourteous, deliberately harmful, mean-spirited, inflammatory, provocative and, unlike the civility found in the Los Angeles Times’ article, simply uncivil?

Too often, in associations, boards of directors employ malicious invective and pejorative to describe members that dare to disagree with the association’s board (“shoot the messenger”) rather than promoting civility by the example “Doing Well, Doing Good or Doing Both (civilly)?”

Beth said...

Reminds me of students who think their teacher = tv and can't see them playing solitaire, talking with friends, texting, and so on.

Evan McKenzie said...

Good point, Beth. I have had students actually answer their cell phones in the classroom and start talking. That actually horrified the other students. I should emphasize that I don't think the majority of Americans are uncivil. The way I see it, the uncivil people among us feel freer to be their uncivil selves. Selfish, self-centered, unruly people are living in their Golden Age. They have so many wonderful role models all around at the highest levels of society and government. Must be really fun for them.