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Jewish World Review
April 22, 2009
/ 28 Nissan 5769
When old folks like me (anyone past 50) make statements such as "The younger generation is not like we were" or "Western civilization is going to hell in a hand basket" or any similar observations, many will laugh and say that all past generations have made those same comments for hundreds of years. Furthermore they will say that it isn't really true, it's just the way old people view things. Well, it may be so that past generations have made these same comments, but this time around things are dramatically different from just the standard, "I don't know what has gotten into these youngsters" sort of stuff.
For one thing, it is not just "youngsters" that have changed. Many older folks are adapting to new thinking and new ways of living within society. Another disturbing aspect to the change in our culture is how fast it has come. It happened all in the last 40 years or so, since the mid to late sixties. In just these last few decades traditional customs and standards have radically changed to such a degree that it is astounding if you really stop and think about it. Consider the following examples.
1. The extent of tattooing and piecing among the general pubic. In modern civilized society, tattooing was commonly looked on as low class and freakish. Indeed, the tattooed lady was part of the freak show in the circus, today she's the soccer mom down the street. Primitive societies historically had tattoos along with piecing and bones through the nose, now you will find such people in night clubs on any given weekend in cities across the country. Drunken sailors were the type most likely to get tattooed, not 17 year old middle class girls. According to a Harris poll taken last year, 14 percent of the population has tattoos. One in five (20%) of everyone who lives in the West has tattoos. Most people who have a tattoo say they do not regret getting it (84%). This wide spread trend in body desecration is a new thing in western civilization.
2. Names new parents give their kids. Felicity, Apple, Dweezil, Rain, Coco, Rumer, and Zowie, are but a few lovely names that celebrities have bestowed on their kids. Of course the non-celebrity new parents have jumped on the bandwagon and are imitating their heroes with ridiculous names for their own offspring. For past generations names such as John, Mary, William, Elizabeth, and Joseph were just fine. Now the tendency is to "push the envelope" with freaky names that will guarantee your children embarrassment and possibly long term hang-ups. Stupid names for children may seem insignificant, but it is yet another example of how much people have changed.
3. Now consider the way today's people comport themselves in public. Old time niceties are gone. Manners are nonexistent. Respect for authority is a thing of the past. No respect for elders. No respect for parents. It's all about getting what you want and the hell with everyone else. Do whatever it takes to get what you want. Lie? Yes. Be dishonest? Do it. Cheat? Of course. Whatever it takes. Never wait your turn. Never put someone ahead of your own needs. Never admit to a mistake. In decades and centuries past, the tone of civility may have changed with the times, but the very nature of civility always remained. Things are different now. Civility, mores, and virtues are disappearing fast. When the civility of our culture is gone, it's the beginning of the end.
I could cite other examples, but you get the idea. Interesting how each of the three examples harks back to a primitivism - throwing off traditions of Western civilization and embracing tribal ways. Certainly the tattooing and hole piercing of the skin is about as primitive as you can get. The same can be said for naming children after fruits and vegetables and seasons and other "things" as opposed to the more normal established names that have been used for centuries. It is another way of disassociating from traditional Western society and values. And the casting off of manners, decency, and what used to be called "common courtesy" is also a rebellion against Western civilization as well.
So why the changes? Why so drastic? Why so fast? These questions are anybody's guess. I could speculate, but I really can't explain it. Why do people, given an option, prefer to look dirty and unkempt? Why does one choose to permanently mark up one's body and drill holes in one's face? What is the advantage of being unkind to others? I don't get it. There is one thing I do know, however - the times have changed and continue to change in a direction I am not comfortable with, not at all.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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