There’s a conversation between me and my friends about behaviours we see on the news, in workplaces, on TV, online, in schools, in airports, at the market, in cars and trucks and trains and boats and buses and subways and on bicycles and out on the street. And the word that keeps coming up is stupid.
Pronunciation: st-you-pid. Not stoopid.
We are a reasonable bunch, balancing the conversation with examples of kindness and consideration we see, but are puzzled by things we witness, so we talk it out.
Maybe it’s part of a larger discussion? Diesel Jeans says that the world is too full of smart people and has an ad campaign built on “Smart says no, Stupid says Yes”.
Our conversation can’t yet be abstracted to an overall conceptual consensus. We keep getting sidetracked by the never-ending spectacle of stupidity to add to our list of examples. Nevertheless, we are agreeing (positive groupthink?) that something in our culture has shifted; increased tolerance for bad behaviour mixed with no patience and stirred with a major sense of entitlement; expectations of immediate gratification and the big, huge, bottomless, ravenous pit of self-centredness.
By our culture, I mean the contrived, surface culture jams across North America, the concentric culture-vulture circles that emanate out from the real thing. And yes, North America: you’d be hard pressed to tell a Canadian city from an American one, and anyone under 30 who’s not a fundamentalist, or who is not in the arts or politics or armed forces doesn’t really care about a silly little thing like national identities, and maybe, just maybe they actually have that part right.
Perhaps my peeps and me are having this conversation because on a daily basis we are made to witness behaviours in front of us that we don’t expect and cannot anticipate, and it happens every place we go, everywhere eyes and ears land, behaviours that leave us gasping at the sheer rudeness, at the lack of manners, at the lack of basic consideration for any other person as our laws increasingly enshrine ‘tolerance’ of ANY other.
There’s also, curiously, a lack of humanity coupled with objectification not only of other but of self, which for some reason calls to mind the faux actor on the TV show Jersey Shore who refers to himself, “The Situation.”
Still, pundits pontificate on what they think might be the cause or reason for all of this increasingly outrageous behaviour that’s exhibited in public and reported on, but I suspect it’s no single thing: behaviour is framed by a mix of an individual’s family norms, religious, ethnic and cultural influences, the existing legal system, peer pressure, gang or tribe requirements, hormones, emotional maturity, health, the presence of intoxicants, legal and otherwise, self awareness and always, always, personal choice.
Maybe we’ve just become accustomed to public stupidity in all its manifestations, ranging from stupid silly to stupid dangerous, and each generation pushes the limit.
Maybe it’s the heat. Whatever the reason, it’s not fun and has me and my friends asking lots of questions. I’ve loosely categorized them for simplicity’s sake.
People have forgotten what a car is and what it can do. It is not a toy, it is not an indestructible isolation tank immune to the environment, and it is not a private office of command and control where you can pick off enemies and run them into the ground.
A car is a machine of metal and plastic weighing on average around 1,500 kilos. Add some velocity (speed), and/or driver distraction and/or ego and you get danger and sadness and loss and cost on wheels.
So I ask you: when is it ok to not stop at a stop sign?
When is it okay to go through a red light?
When is it ok to read, eat, drink, dress or undress, put on make-up, shave, talk on the phone or text, turn around to talk to your kids, look at the cute driver next to you, look at your iPod, play the mini-coronet or plucking your eyebrows when you are SUPPOSED to be driving?
Please let me know when?
On the Sidewalk
When is it okay for people to ride bikes on the sidewalk forcing pedestrians off or out on the road?
If it isn’t bikes, it’s the scooters because the loving couple with their matching canopied scooters are riding side-by-side ON the sidewalk. If not that, there’s a long line of scooters OUTSIDE the neighbourhood bar that takes up the whole sidewalk. When is it okay for those scooters to run pedestrians off the road? (And before you call me names, I am NOT talking wheelchairs for people with disabilities. I am talking about those scooters anyone can order from the pharmacy for 4 payments of $99 that seem the domain of people with HUGE personal and mechanical space needs.)
When is it okay to take up the entire width of the sidewalk with a honking, mammoth, supersized, SUV-styled baby stroller and expect everyone to make way?
When is it okay for that contraption to block the entrance to the cafe, the store, the gelateria?
And when is it okay for a whole gaggle of new moms with those SUV baby strollers that transform into baby pools and barbeques to take up the whole walking path so that those of us who might be walking for enjoyment have to get out of the way?
And by the way, when is it okay to walk down the street with those things without the freaking baby, taking up all that space?
Please, let me know when it is okay and I will adjust my expectations.
I get that adolescence is all about being 3i: immortal, invincible and infertile. But why stack the odds against you by adding stupid fashion? Those wacky baggy pants that sit under the asses of boys (and some girls) to such an extent that it’s dangerous: have you witnessed these people try to run across the street? Why is it ok to be an accident waiting to happen, to be a future notation on the coroner’s report that lists cause of pedestrian death as “tripped in baggy pants while running to cross the street and into the path of an oncoming car”?
Female fashion right now? I am ALL for sexy. But that’s not what we got. We got a mash-up of 1940s and 1970s women fashion, arguably decades of some of the UGLIEST and most painful fashions for women, full of blatant sexism.
When is sexism ok?
When is it ok — lady with the Prada sunglasses — to yell at your children about how stupid they are, right there in the middle of the park, in front of hundreds of other kids? When is it ever okay to humiliate another human being, even a little one?
…and other faux pas
When is it okay to call a company and be catapulted into voicemail hell with the recorded message that says your call is important to us?
When is it ok to drag your dog along the street as the poor thing is trying to do its business, because you, the owner is on your phone, talking, and oblivious?
When is it okay for a parent to call their (adult) child’s manager to tell the manager to be a better manager because said child’s fellow employees are not nice to their baby, or to ask why said child (actually a 28-year old) has not been promoted?
When is it okay to be hoovering, helicoptering, velcro parents doing everything for their children including sending them out into the world exponentially emotionally unprepared to navigate the realities of it?
When is it okay for a 50-year old man to stand at a target at an archery range while his 30-year old friend releases an arrow so they could watch the path of it to see where a previously shot — and lost — arrow might have landed? Carbon arrows are expensive and no one wants to lose one. But to then blame the city for that arrow lodging in your head, blinding you in one eye and causing brain damage?
Other than ads, when IS stupid is okay? If you peek underneath stupid you’ll find something that inevitably hurts someone in some way and maybe more than just the one being stupid.
When we talk my friends and me, we acknowledge that at times, not all of daily life is pretty, fun, sexy, happy, considerate, carefree. That in fact, there are things people actually have to think about and work at, especially when it involved another person. Some of us are not designed to think beyond the moment. Some of us are not wired for systems or strategic thinking. Maybe that’s just not what some of us ever want or care to learn. And that’s just stupid.