A Culture of Meanness

The deaths of Phoebe Prince, Carl Walker-Hoover and Tyler Clementi are terrible tragedies for all of us. My heart goes out to their families and all who love them. The aftermath has brought countless forums, seminars, interviews and editorials. Our schools, churches and youth organizations offer programs and curricula to address bullying. We have new state laws. Still, we can’t seem to grasp what’s gone awry. We scramble to assign blame. Then unrelentingly bash those upon whom the finger comes to rest. We complain that our schools are not doing enough to teach social skills to 12 year olds who should have learned them long ago.

It’s time to look in the mirror. We live in a culture of meanness. It is pervasive and insidious. It is no longer fashionable to work out our differences. We must annihilate those who don’t share our views. We see it in our politics. We see it in sports. We see it in foreign policy. We see it in video games. We see it on sitcoms and reality shows. We even see it at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. Our kids see it, too.

 We (and even more so our children) live in an amazing world of technology. It offers us entertainment, organization, and an avalanche of data. We can analyze anything and everything.  We have become so enthralled with our technology and the data it provides that we have failed to recognize its sinister partners, objectification and dehumanization. When people are reduced to objects, numbers, test scores, screen names, and avatars we don’t have to be concerned with feelings.

 It’s time to look in the mirror. How do we, ourselves, participate in the perpetuation of this culture of meanness? What are the lyrics we and our kids listen to? What video games do we give them money to buy? What movies do they go to? Do we watch TV with them and laugh when the characters insult and hurt each other (as the canned laugh track prompts us to do)? What language do we use when we talk about those who are different from us? Do we provide our children with communication devices without providing the wherewithal to use them humanely? 

Yes . . . humanely!!!  We need to reinvest in the Human Connection by doing whatever we can to stop the pervasive spread of dehumanization in our society. If we want our kids to stop bullying, then we must stop applauding, reinforcing and voting for it. 

It was Walt Kelly’s Pogo who said  . . .“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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