Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thug Life

By Cathy of Alex

Recent days have seen an increase in public examples of bad behavior and unwarented outbursts.

We have Rep. Joe Wilson venting his concern during the President’s address to Congress . We have Kanye West grabbing the mic from winner, Taylor Swift, during the VMA’s and sharing with everyone that, basically, he felt someone else, not Ms Swift, should’ve won what she was just awarded. Serena Williams uses profanity toward a line judge at Center Court and it costs her a possible U.S. Open. Roger Federer publicly, profanly claims , also on the tennis court, that he can speak whenever he wants to and if you don’t like it….. Even the President gets caught expressing his opinion towards Kanye West in a non-polite way.

What’s wrong with any of this?

It used to be that people were taught that when someone else is speaking you listen quietly until they are done. No interrupting. You wait for your turn to speak. I know in some cultures what I just said is crazy; in some places its common and acceptable for multiple people to talk at once and loudly. I’ll clarify by saying; in the U.S.A. , it used to be a truth, and well-taught, that when someone “has the floor” it’s their turn to speak. You have the right to shut up and wait your turn.

There is little to no respect for authority anymore. We cheer when authority gets the middle fingered salute. Apparently, even interrupting the President on national television on the floor of a Joint Legislative Session is acceptable. Once that happened, why should Kanye West feel any qualms about interrupting a performance artist on national T.V. during an awards ceremony?

Center Court in tennis (basketball gave up the ghost years ago) is one of the few sport arenas left where civility rules are about as strictly enforced as possible. You don’t talk back on Center Court. If the Ref doesn’t penalize you the crowd will with boos and hisses (Until the Ref calls them to silence too. The crowd is forced to obey, otherwise the match will not continue.). That two of the top ranked players in tennis think they are beyond that is curious but not shocking.

Even threats or actual punishment don’t seem to stop people anymore. Some of us have so much money that financial penalties are sneered at. Others have so much talent that they figure they can regain any points gain lost to a penalty without too much damage done to their careers or sports rankings.

Why do we even need punishments as deterrant? It seems to me it used to be enough to tell people “Hey, don’t do that!” and they listened. There was enough critical mass behind the request that kept people in line. Now, it seems the majority side with the thugs. The voice of civility is the lone voice in the wilderness.

Sure, people with bad manners have always been with us. The days of teachers stopping kids from passing notes in class almost seems quaint these days. Nowadays the odds of kids even carrying paper to class is slim; it’s all laptops and cells phones. Teachers spend a lot of time confiscating electronic devices and/or reminding people that taking a phone call and sending texts during class is not acceptable. I’m curious with all the time teachers spend on discipline; how much is left for actual education?

Remember how funny Spicoli ordering a pizza delivered to class was in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? It was funny because it was so audacious. Who ever heard of such a thing in the early 1980s? It was hilarious because Mr. Hand turned the tables on Spicoli and made him share the pizza with the whole class. As a result, he didn’t get any of his own pizza. Today, not only does Spicoli’s stunt seem possible but you can bet his parents would show up at the Principal’s office in outrage because their son didn’t even get to eat the pizza he paid for.

Is thuggish behavior unacceptable only when it’s perpetrated by people we don’t love or are not related to? Do people that agree with Rep. Wilson think what he did was great? Recently, Republicans were yelling about President Obama addressing school kids on the first day of school. Anyone remember the Democrats yelling when President Bush addressed schoolkids back in 1991? Who’s outraged this time?

Is the breakdown of the family to blame? Is the decline in morality to blame? Is the lack of quantifiable educational standards to blame? Is a lack of education to blame? I don’t know. Maybe some or all of the above. However, the people whose names I listed toward the beginning to this post are smart and well-educated. I respectfully disagree with former President Carter’s assertion that Rep. Wilson outburst was rascist. I don’t think race has anything to do with any of this. Incivility is an equal opportunity.

As Kanye West was already scheduled to be on Leno on Monday night and even Letitia Baldridge was quoted as saying that she hoped Beyonce yielding the floor to Taylor Swift at the VMA’s was not a publicity stunt, you have to wonder why more of us don’t act like thugs; you get such great publicity from it. Look how much mileage the contrition videos on You Tube have given these people? I wonder how well Kanye’s next album will sell? How many tickets will sell for the next Serena Williams match? If Rep. Wilson will gain or lose his seat? If President Obama’s healthcare plan will pass because he’s faced such thuggish audiences and now he may be compelled to admit, thanks to his name calling of West, he’s a Kanye West fan? Nothing sells better than public contrition and reformation.

We may not be a nation of thugs but we are definitely a nation that rewards them. If we quit rewarding them, will they quit doing it?


  1. Cathy,

    A college student had a video camera (didn't know about it) and wanted to send a clip of a the Countess' aria she filmed from Le Nozze di Figaro last week to the Web. I warned her that was a no-no since you're not supposed to videotape ANYTHING at the theatre. Of course, the Countess was (I shall not say her name). To make matters worse, she went to the theatre inappropriately dressed, showing too much cleavage, and tatoos showing around the exposed cleavage. I was not amused, in a charcoal-gray pinstripe suit, a sky-blue dress shirt and dark blue tie with matching pocket square. The shirt, tie, and pocket square were purchased in Nashville while at a friend's wedding when the warmer than predicted weather forced me to change from the planned outfit I was to wear. I was 500 miles from home and made the call since the mall is next to my hotel room, and the mall is across the street from the Life Enhancement Centre she attends. (This was the same LEC where I stood alone for a recording of Selection #44 of Händel's Messiah HWV 56, but the congregation stood for the loudest of loud rock music; I had to go Sprint All-Star Race XVI earplug configuration for that LEC.)

    Civility is truly lost when people don't respect Händel but will Chris Tomlin


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