Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Right To Be Ugly

We live in a country that has many inalienable rights. Apparently, one of those rights is to be an ugly American.

People running live action video feed of another person's private activities. Woman destroys artwork because she thinks it demeans Jesus. Motorcycles and cars with tips welded on their mufflers, in order to drastically raise the decibel level and make your hair stand on end. Cars that block parking lot circulation so that their sole occupants can wait for someone to pull out of the parking slot closest to the entrance to the grocery store. Drivers who have their car stereo systems roaring at the highest volume and deepest bass rumble, so that everyone within a two block radius is forced to hear it. The garbage that is dumped on sidewalks, beaches and parks, sometimes within 8 feet of a receptacle. Runaway computer viruses that anonymously destroy equipment, while hijacking the victims' contact lists. The one-sided cell phone rants, where everyone else, standing in any line, anywhere, is a captive audience. Tailgating drivers, speeders, speed-weavers, stop sign runners, double-parkers, three-point-turners in school zones and those drivers who abandon their cars in passenger loading zones, despite the clear directives of posted signs. Bullies, bigots, bashers and trashers. This is, I hope you realize, only a partial list; you have your own list of minor to major irritants.

When did we become such rude, arrogant and narcissistic pigs?

The reason I ask this question is because the bad behavior seems to get worse as the days go by.  Celebrities, politicians and religious leaders lead the fashion trend and tend to model this behavior more than the average person; bad press is better than no press at all, I suppose. The constant need to fill 24 hours of network television on hundreds of channels heightens the visibility of the trend by creating an endless stream of trashy entertainment content, for our viewing pleasure or horror. Certainly, this all provides more that we can all natter on about. "Did you see what they did?" and "Did you hear what they said?" If you don't remember the 1998 film, The Truman Show, it is worth a watch now.

What is it all about? How about alienation?  In The Sane Society, Erich Fromm posited:
We consume, as we produce, without any concrete relatedness to the objects with which we deal; We live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or to consume them.
It seems as if we have moved beyond this to something even worse, a lack of concrete relatedness to the people who drift through our daily lives. Whatever the cause, there seem to be a lot of people who really only act and care about what they are doing in any given moment; consequences, intended or otherwise, don't seem to come into the thought process at all--it could be overstating to suggest that there might be a thought process involved. Meanwhile, there are other people who get their jollies from being intentionally irritating to every person within reach of their chosen mode of ugliness. What an alienable use and waste of inalienable rights and freedoms! What a waste of mind, body, spirit! What a waste of life!

I have to be honest and say that I really enjoy thoughtful people, people who think about and care about the consequences of their actions, people who are not out for everything they can get, people who will drive around the block just because they know it won't take any longer than making that dangerous three-point turn that will have them backing up into a crosswalk. I find it a blessing to be standing in a line, if it must be so, with people who are able to smile, pass the time civilly, and make a dull moment into something fresh.

If I have to live in a world that gyrates to the beat of thoughtless boobs, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for all of you thoughtful and beautiful people who redeem ugly moments, created by ugly people, with a smile and a relaxed "we're all in this together" attitude.

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