This week, in my continuing saga of letting my Facebook friends choose my topic, I have been blessed with a subject in which I have a multi-layered take. The topic is respect, or lack thereof, in today’s society. There are so many ways in which this topic could be approached, and it’s likely that you’ve heard all of them, but today I’m going to offer my perspective about the most relevant factors that I believe have led to where we are today.
I think when we try to come up with a reason for why “people” in this country have such little respect for their fellow man, I think it is important that we pinpoint exactly which “people” we’re talking about here. We are talking primarily about the under 45 crowd. This is not to say that people over the age of 45 are not disrespectful, but in most cases, that disrespect is deeply based in some type of ignorance or bigotry. Meaning, that the disrespectful 55 year old white man may only be that way towards minorities, but is respectful of everyone else. That certainly does not make it right, but it doesn’t mean that that person is disrespectful as a rule. It’s the under 45 crowd that seems to have a large number of members who just can’t be respectful to anybody. Considering that group makes up nearly 60% of the population, that makes for a lot of disrespectful people out there.
Now, the obvious and most endorsed blame always goes to the parents. Considering the age bracket we’re discussing here, that tends to put the beginning of this trend solely in the lap of the baby boomers. That may very well be true, but I have a hard time understanding why a generation of people, who came from stricter upbringing, would suddenly decide to stop raising their children the way every other generation had raised their children before them. This isn’t to say that they didn’t do exactly that, because I do tend to believe that poor parenting is the largest reason for the poor behavior of so many people in this country, but it still begs the question as to why did the baby boomer generation up and decide to change the manner in which they raise their children? In my opinion, it comes down to three important factors.
The first one is economics. Pretty much since the time the baby boomer generation began having children, wages have not kept up with the cost of living. This has led to virtually every home in America having two working parents. It also means that everyone else in your neighborhood has two working parents, too. When you have kids growing up with such a limited amount of adult supervision, compared to earlier generations, they are going to do what kids do, except a lot more. We often talk about the fact that bullying has gotten worse due to the internet and smartphones, because kids no longer have to see the faces and the emotional pain of those they are tormenting, which makes it easier for them to do it. The same can be applied to children being raised over the last 50 years versus how they were raised prior to that. It is easier for kids to test the boundaries of all things when their parents, or other kids parents, are not there to punish them for it. This brings me to the second thing on my list. Over protection.
I don’t really know where this one went off the rails but all I can say is that when I was growing up you weren’t safe from anybody’s parents. Moreover, nobody else’s parents ever worried about what your parents were going to think if they found out you got whooped for doing something stupid. Hell, my parents would have just thanked them and then beaten me some more. Somewhere in the 80s, when the true pussification of America really began, people became far too overprotective about their own children, and somehow that translated into parents thinking that they were the only ones worthy of reprimanding their child. Of course, that’s also the same time frame in which parenting and self help books became so popular, and all of a sudden smacking your kid, or spanking them, for doing something stupid became cruel and unusual punishment. Socially accepted parenting changed and everyone has suffered as a result. Truth be told, that may actually be the single biggest reason why two generations of kids have grown up to be assholes, which leads me to my last point. Turning the other cheek.
If you are over the age of 40, you are the last generation of people in this country who knew that being disrespectful to someone, could result in physical harm coming your way. I am in no way endorsing someone getting beat down silly, but a good smack in the face was definitely on the menu in my day if you said something fucked up to somebody else. That shit just doesn’t exist anymore. Now people aren’t afraid to talk shit, or act foolish towards other people because being disrespectful isn’t a crime, but slapping somebody in the face who is disrespectful to you is. Therefore, you are put in the position of trying to decide whether it’s worth teaching someone a lesson if it’s going to result in you getting in trouble with the law. For me personally, I don’t give a shit. I’ll take my chances with judge Joe Brown. Most people won’t though, and the assholes know this. This only increases their ability to be disrespectful. Big surprise.
In the end, I really don’t think that this subject can be narrowed down to any one particular origin. I think it is a series of events, over time, that have led to where we are now. Poor wages lead to limited adult supervision. Over protection led to even more limited adult supervision. Pacifism, and turning the other cheek, led to less repercussions for poor behavior, and certainly television, movies and the internet have all done their part to enhance this issue. I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to take to reverse this trend, but my only suggestion is that people be more willing to put an asshole in his place, even if it means a visit from John Q Law. As long as you don’t overdo it, you probably won’t get in trouble. Lets hope. 🙂