Me, Myself, and I

Okay, so *now* I’m going to write about Joe Wilson, Kanye West, and Serena Williams.

But not in my usual ranty way.

CNN’s Ruben Navarrette, Jr. has commentary (full article here) on the state of civility in this country. He argues that the recent spate of rudeness in the public arena is really just a symptom of a bigger problem: narcissism.

I don’t completely agree with everything he says (he casts aspersions on social networkers like me), but I do agree that Americans’ sense of entitlement can be maddeningly annoying, if not downright dangerous.

Let’s face it. The American Dream has mutated. The ingenuity, humility, and hard work (as in, actual physical labor) that drove America’s agricultural and industrial revolutions and that became hallmark characteristics of what it truly means to be American have all but dissipated.

Only a generation ago, the American Dream could become reality if you worked hard for it. You made sacrifices. You got blisters. Today, the American Dream is an entitlement—a roided, plastic surgery-enhanced product that we expect to be handed to us simply because it’s what we deserve. (We’re America, damn it! The rules don’t apply to us! We can ignore societal expectations of civility and reason because we can do whatever the hell we want! Go America! Woooo!)

Rugged individualism has morphed into arrogant self-centeredness.

Lest we forget lessons from the Mayans’ and Easter Islanders’ societal implosions in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse.” Let’s not be so full of ourselves and ignore the reality that for the greatest country on earth, we still have a whole bunch of problems that need solving.

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2 thoughts on “Me, Myself, and I

  1. Interesting. While I am not prepared to toss this argument aside wholesale, I do wonder how much of this supposed rise in misbehavior is “new” and how much is just now mass produced and hence occupies a more noticeable place in our public consciousness.

    If the industrial “blistered-hand” workers of yore we love to imagine had a Twitter account maybe we would have a different – and potentially non-romanticized version – of their individual and collective experience. Joe Wilson, Kayne, Serena, aren’t unique, they are just mass-produced. Congressional violence and out-bursts have been happening since the nations founding, Johnny Mac has said worse on a tennis court within earshot of cameras, and self-centered actors and musicians are nothing new. What use to be niche or localized events have become contextual-less examples of our supposed national decay.

    To me what is different is not the behavior, but the commercialization of it for profit. Being an asshole use to be something that reflected on the individual – now the asshole is taken to reflect are national identity or lack there of. It’s like we are all suppose to walk around with t-shirts that say “I have seen the asshole and it is I”. The commoditization of misbehavior for profit of the entertainment/business sector is not a mistake – it’s a profit motive. Not to mention is serves the status quo rather nicely.

    The yearning for a more pedestrian time a “generation” ago seems to always gets distorted by those (this author included) who sit in the boat of privilege; if the house is out of order it isn’t our fault the “other” just can’t act right. So next time someone yells “fuck you” on a tennis court, ask why it is on SportsCenter and consider maybe it’s the coverage that represents the decay and not the actions being covered. Happy weekend and go U.S.A.

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