Friday, October 16, 2009

Degradation of Civility in the Passing Scene

I watched an old movie recently with a throw-away moment that showed how much civil behavior has degraded in this country. (I can't remember the title, but I think it had Fred MacMurray in it.) The scene: A woman reporter is about to enter an area where construction men are working, a tunnel or something, and MacMurray instructs the foreman to warn the men about her arrival "and tell them, for God's sake, to watch their language." Do men do that anymore? Why bother, when women don't watch their language anymore, either.

My high school research intern mentioned that yesterday was "hip-hop day" at her school. Students dressed up as "gangstas and hos." Mainstreaming a degenerate subculture at any school is bad enough, but this was at a highly-regarded Christian school. Are Christians so desperate to appeal to kids that they go for the lowest common denominator? In this economic climate, it's understandable that institutions are desperate to hold on to revenue, but compromising your beliefs for $20,000 tuition per student makes you an ecclesiastical prostitute.

Our realtor and his brother helped us move into our new house a few months ago. When I entered the spare bedroom to drop off a box, I saw the brother admiring a large mirror on the wall next to the bed. He quipped that it should come in handy when my husband and I want to "have some fun." I don't understand why any man thinks it's okay to talk to a woman that way, let alone a married woman he hardly knows.

T-shirt seen on a patron at Wal-Mart last month: f*ck all y'all. In front of kids, old ladies, everyone. Growing up in the 1970s, I remember a time when even the toughest scruff would've been ashamed to have kids or old ladies overhear bad language, let alone see it displayed all over his chest.

Have you heard of Gao Zhisheng? He was considered one of China's top lawyers, but went missing over a year ago when he was arrested by police. His crime (besides being a practicing Christian) was writing to the U.S. Congress, just before the Beijing Olympics, protesting his country's human rights record. He had been arrested and physically tortured for his outspokenness in the past, so he knew the risk and did it anyway. I thought of Gao as I looked at a pair of dangly, plastic testicles hanging from the back of a truck in traffic last week. People are tortured in gulags and die fighting for the right to criticize their governments while some guy halfway around the world uses the right to free speech to display plastic genitals on his truck. Or to tell everyone within view "f*ck you" on a t-shirt.


I linked to an article a few days ago about pastors who avoid the culture war. Like Giles' waffling pastors, I, too, am tempted to permanently retreat into the cloistered environment of church and Christian fellowship. This is item #4 on Giles' list: "Last Days Madness." Giles is right that, irrespective of whether this depressing incivility heralds the apocalypse to come, we have a duty to engage the culture.

If the [Christians] within the good old US of A would crucify their fear of man, get solidly briefed regarding the chief political issues, not sweat necessary division, not get caught up in last days madness, maintain their hope for tomorrow, understand their liberties under God and our Constitution, not become so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good, focus on the majors and blow off bowing to cash instead of convictions, then maybe . . . just maybe . . . we will see their righteous influence cause our nation to take the needed sharp turn away from the secularist progressives’ speedily approaching putrid pit.



Blogger Ride Fast said...

I'm not so easily shocked or offended. But I was stunned the other day to hear the talk of some kids (under age 7) in the neighborhood.

F-bombs were really common.

I've also noticed people look at me funny for standing when a women enters the room.

Last time I road the el-train, as a guy got off the train a teen tried to race a woman for the seat. That woman was 80 if she was a day. The kid was shocked when I blocked him and gave the seat to her. That really surprised me.

10/19/2009 12:10 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

I've been mulling this over and I think a big part of the problem is too many no longer see others as human. In other words, the Other is now a just pain in the butt, something in the way preventing us from doing whatever is so darn important right then, but no longer is the Other a human being with his or her own set of sorrows and joys just trying to get through the day.

10/29/2009 1:59 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Ride Fast, that about sums up the state of things. Thank goodness for men like you.

Russell, you pointed out what is probably the single biggest shift in my thinking since I converted to Christianity. I used to think of the Other as a nuisance. But I tend to be much more patient and forgiving now, because I see people -- the guy cutting me off in traffic or the gal getting in my way at the grocery store -- as not that different from me, fighting their own demons and trying to get through life.

It has also made me think about how I've objectified men in the past. That may sound strange, because it's typically thought to be the other way around, but there was a time when I did not think much of men and treated them pretty badly. I believe much of the crassness in our society is a direct product of that sort of behavior towards men in general. Just goes to show how much power women had prior to the women's movement.

10/29/2009 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Goober said...

"Do men do that anymore?"

Absolutely, positively, without a doubt. At least, in the area of the world where I work (THe Pacific Northwest). I work in construction management, and to be sure, construction workers, in all of their roughness and crassness, are almost to a man cautious about the typical, very blue, jobsite banter whenever a woman is present. Manners are not dead, just a bit passe, unfortunately.

"Why bother, when women don't watch their language anymore, either."

Oh, my gosh yes. I absolutely agree, but you see, the part where i think we departed is when you refer to as "men" those among us who would swear profusely in an environment where it was not appropriate, or as "women" who use crass, vulgar language.

Neither term applies approriately to either condition of humanity, as far as I'm concerned.

11/04/2009 1:41 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

...the part where i think we departed is when you refer to as "men" those among us who would swear profusely in an environment where it was not appropriate, or as "women" who use crass, vulgar language.

Excellent point.

11/05/2009 6:51 AM  

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