Sunday, February 27, 2011

Growing up in a culture of mean.

The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines. ~Charles Kuralt, On the Road With Charles Kuralt

I watch a lot of TV with my almost 12 year old daughter. I like to see what she is watching. Kids learn a lot from TV and other media as well. But mostly TV.

And what I see is a whole lotta mean.

Let's start with SpongeBob Squarepants. A funny enough program. Until my then 5 year old started calling everyone an idiot. She did that because of Squidward. She had no idea what idiot meant, but how bad could it be? I mean, Squidward is saying it, on TV no less.

Fast forward a few years. Now we have TV shows that show parents to be utter morons and way too much reality TV that is far from real. And what do we have? Kids and adults who think that mean is funny.

And I think adults are sometimes worse than the kids, quite honestly.

I just don't get it. We are so afraid of a swear word here and there, but we allow this utter mean nonsense into our lives. And we tivo it for goodness sakes.

Look, I am no goody two shoes. I have said things no child should hear in the car with my daughter listening.

But I am not mean. I do not call people names (well, unless they cut me off in traffic) and I don't make fun of people. I don't belittle people and think that it is funny.

But we are exposed to this daily, sometimes even more frequently. And I think it is the worst thing ever.

Now, I am not saying that anything should be censored. I know people will say that you can just shut those things off and not watch them. Fair enough.

But I think we are too far beyond that. I think we live in a culture of mean. A culture where anything goes. Where manners have disappeared. Where being mean is considered cool. And I think it is sad.

If there was a show on TV that showed respectable kids like Leave it to Beaver or shows I grew up with, they would not last long. I sometimes have my daughter watch old reruns of these shows and she is like, "Can I go now?" And I am sure that if we had had shows like they have today we would have watched them, too. And why not.

But that is all my daughter and her classmates know. This is the culture they are growing up in.

And that is hard to change.

I know there are no answers. No solutions. Not really. I do watch these new shows and suggest to my daughter that they are mean spirited. And she says she knows. That she gets it. But the shows are funny. And "all the kids watch them."

I suppose that is true.

So, how do you survive in a culture of mean?

And I am not simply talking about kids now. I cannot even watch Sunday morning TV anymore as the political pundits are just as mean as some of the characters on Family Guy. Just less funny.

I don't know. I am not sure where this whole thing will go. Perhaps it will go nowhere. Maybe it really won't matter after all. Maybe I am worrying about nothing.

After all, our parents and grandparents lamented when rock and roll came about, and we all turned out okay. So maybe I am just overreacting.

But the thing is, rock and roll did not make me feel bad. But this new culture sure does.

I am not sure it is worth the few laughs it gets. Seems we are all just more miserable than ever. No one is happy and laughing more that I can see.

I guess I just don't get it. Nor do I want to. Not really.

So I will just keep doing the things that make us happy. Like being outdoors, playing and taking care of animals, watching documentary films that they all complain about but like, making art, traveling, seeing art and listening to music. A little here and there sprinkled in our weeks. A bit of softness and love that perhaps will drown out the mean.

Surrounding ourselves with things that feed our soul is the only protection I can think of. Because we can't just turn off the culture we find ourselves in. Not really.

But we don't have to buy into it, either.

Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree. ~Marian Wright Edelman

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are. ~Author Unknown

Don't be yourself - be someone a little nicer. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. ~Dave Barry, "Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn"


  1. Amen to this Janice. This culture scares me and makes me very sad. ps - your writing gets better and better! XO, Anne Z.

  2. I'm enjoying reading your blog, Janice. Finally, a voice of reason and sanity. I swear I don't know what's happening to our society but it sure isn't good.