I had an interesting discussion today, which was rare.
Not that interesting discussions are rare – merely uncommon as of late – but that the discussion happened on social media is the rare-making aspect of it.
Background: There has been a meme, floating around the web, of a picture of the late Princess Diana. The meme suggests that women choose her as a role model rather than a reality TV star whose initials are K. K. (by way of disclaimer, I support this idea, but we’ll get back to that in a moment). Anyway, a new version of the meme has popped up suggesting that people should not judge women and how they choose to be. I.E. they can be however they damn well like. (also, by way of disclaimer, I support a person’s right to be sovereign in their decisions about how they are the who that they are.). The discussion proceeded from there.
Here’s the thing, while I support any person’s right to decide how and who they want to be, I can’t agree with the new version of the meme.
To my way of thinking, it is a good thing to have positive role models to look up to; someone to aspire to be like. Regardless of the tabloid stories, I think Princess Diana’s actions prove her to be one of those role models. She was, so near as I have been able to tell, compassionate, classy, and dignified.
Not bad, those three things. And not bad standards to reach for either.
The discussion followed from my comment to that effect. A friend of mine, educated and intelligent, suggested – by way of rebuttal – that the world would be better if people loved more and bashed less. (I hope she will forgive me for the shoddy paraphrase).
This is also a sentiment I agree with.
(Although it does trigger my growing discomfort with the casual and almost all encompassing way in which people use the word ‘love’ nowadays. But that, alas, is the subject of another post.)
Now, blissfully, the discussion did not turn acrimonious. But it did get me thinking about something that’s been floating around in the noodle-soup that passes for my brainpan as of late: the subject of standards.
I have a whole thing brewing in my soup bowl about standards, especially standards of public behavior, but again, that’s a broader subject than I wish to tackle here. In this case I speak of standards in the sense of things we strive for, to be like, to live up to.
(Semantically, this strikes me as different enough to warrant the mention.)
I don’t think advocating for class and dignity is, in any way ‘bashing’ the reality TV star who made her bones by boning. (yeah, I couldn’t resist. Sorry.)
As an aside, if that is the way you would like to comport yourself, I wish you all the best. Please be cognizant of the fact that without her connections, the afore referenced sex tape would not have lead to the fame K.K. currently enjoys.
If all you are interested in is fame, and making money, and you have the connections and business acumen to do so, I wish you all the best.
But I am not going to hold you up as an example to strive for.
And that, is in no way bashing. It is simply a recognition that, perhaps, there are finer and more noble pursuits in the human experience; that maybe, just maybe, class, and dignity, and compassion are better than base acquisitiveness. I think, in this world of comparisons, maybe we shouldn’t venerate the ideal of, “Whatever, so long as I get mine.”
I’m not saying one would be bad, or should be ashamed of that motivation. But I am saying that we should aspire to something better.
And we should damn well be vocal about it.
Let me couch this in an analogy:
There is nothing shameful about being overweight or fat. I think, and the science backs me up, that it is terribly unhealthy, for both body and mind – because the two are not separate. And so, it would be wrong to shame someone for being fat. But, it would not be wrong, in fact a believe it would be praiseworthy, to encourage that person to lose the fat and get to a healthier weight. I think, also, that it would be wrong to hold up fatness as a virtue to be striven for.
(I hope that gets my point across. It’s been a rather long week and it’s late.)
And maybe that word Virtue is the crux of the matter.
It is not that we lack virtue in the modern world. It is just that we have held things up as virtues that aren’t very conducive to human or social flourishing. Avarice. Indifference. Unchecked Consumerism. Yelling at each other on TV news programs rather than intelligent and reasoned debate about the issues. The wanton denial of demonstrable facts so that we may continue to flog our favorite dead horse, whatever its color.
These things, and more, we have allowed to take hold of our personal and public lives – as a culture. We now value money over wealth, and obedience over inquiry.
I’m not saying the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I don’t think it is. But I think we have encouraged the worse angels of our natures for much too long, and now they have the loudest trumpets and the most influence.
Primitive, monkey impulses that we should be steadily growing out of.
To be perfectly clear: I do not think that we are backsliding because of permissiveness. You have heard my feelings about this: as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights or safety of another, it should be allowed.
This isn’t, to my mind, a question of what is allowed.
It is a question of what is encouraged.
It is what we have prized and rewarded. And because we have rewarded it, it has flourished in us and in the examples we set for the generations to come.
We have done it to ourselves.
But this is good news, because once we realize that fact, then we can do something else. I’m not sure it can be undone, per se, but we can move in a different, and perhaps better direction. The question now becomes…
…Do we want to?