Sunday, June 28, 2009

Can be applied to the self-understanding vs. 'others understanding you' sequence

It is important to be sensitive to the superiority of doing the right thing the wrong way over doing the wrong thing the right way. Foundation is everything; subsequent missteps are easier to correct.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where the Hell did the lines go?

It seems that the lines- social rules, courtesies, and hierarchies- that once provided us with an opportunity to discriminate (non-prejudiced connotation) one person from another have been softened to the point of imperceptibility. Two linked topics of great concern are privacy and celebrity.

People may assume that because we live in a world today where little of one's life cannot be made public through some media- whether via facebook, blogs (whoops!), or twitter- that somehow people don't care about these aspects being kept private. Formalizing this concern, people may think that others don't value privacy anymore. I do value privacy.

A friend the other day took it upon himself to find my phone and start reading through my text messages. Really...really?? If this doesn't sound outrageous to you, then perhaps you have become desensitized to the softening of the social courtesies that I am speaking about. I mean this in the least judgmental tone possible, for I think it's easy for anyone to get caught up in it. But a phone is a personal device for keeping track of various communications, and the contents therein, likewise, personal. If I wanted you to see my conversations with people, I would have put it in a Word document and printed off a personal copy for you, and maybe even highlighted the good stuff for easy reader viewing.

This is far from saying that I have anything to hide. Just the person I am, there is essentially no drama for vicarious social vultures to feed upon. That said, this does not in any way grant permission or mitigating circumstances for viewing what is private.
It boils down to this, which I know I have previously written about: we need some...intangible things other than our bodily divisions that separate us from others in order to give us a sense of being separate. These features that make us us, and separate, are not necessarily in the name of making us "special," "unique," or "better," than others, but for God's sake, it seems like a human right to not simply be operators of common knowledge about each other, to whom some of this common information technically belongs. We become estranged from our own identities if this happens.

The second part, or maybe example, of these softening lines is the distinction between celebrity and non-celebrity. This line has all-but disappeared. Celebrities want to be normal: they join reality shows in their non-professional domain to experience a rush on the dance floor. They send out twitter messages to people on the side-walks and interact with fans. News anchors laugh with another in too-human a way and joke when they mess up. Celebrities create facebook profiles that they probably do not (and should not) have time to maintain if they want to continue to be great at what they originally gained recognition for. Likewise, non-celebrities want to- and can become- "celebrities" through any extreme act. They sing horribly or dress scantily on American Idol and may be on the finale show and get a Golden Idol from Ryan Seacrest. Survivor alumna Elisabeth has gone on to host The View and marry pro quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. Even celebrities don't stay put but rather move laterally within a profession characterized more broadly everyday as 'entertainment.' They are singers who really want to be actors; actors whose dream it really is to produce; ex-reality stars who always wanted to host a talk show and, with enough visual appeal, attempt to conceal lack of talent in the delivery of their lines, the crudeness of their articulation, and try to pass off their opinions as authority.
A certain standard has to be reestablished, and merit-based status rewarded. In this attention free-for-all, the loudest person will always be right. And we are all being taught to shout.

I am all for standing out in the crowd, differentiating myself, but I'd really like to do it in an 'honest' way; competitions in track, for instance, are determined by time or distance. If I want to stand out and be the best in an event there, I will have to do so against certain guidelines. The 'lines' help us keep track- we can differentiate ourselves from others, and even from our previous performances. Some people argue against lines because they confine us, but even the most creative people who "drew outside the box/lines" made use of these lines by virtue of having drawn outside of them!

The lines give us a reference and combat the free-for-all; they help establish a standard for who is what (I think people are afraid to be confined to labels and so want the aforementioned lateral movement; but again we need certain intangible boundaries that give us a sense of self); finally, lines provide us with structure for social expectation and comfort- they inform us that it is not ok to disrespect the boundaries of personal space and information. It is time to reestablish standards, recalibrate our expectations, and re-sensitize ourselves to our rights as individuals.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

We are all a lot more capable of doing things than we think we are, for better and for worse. The range of actions in which we may engage is much wider, on both sides of our norm, than we can consciously anticipate or entertain. I think often society promotes this idea in a one-sided form- i.e. that we are capable of doing good things, or advancing our skills, or breaking records (time) beyond that which we originally thought. However, I'm sure we also all have done things that we said we'd never do, and these situations were either incomprehensible or unfathomable to us until we find ourselves in them.
We oft deny the unconscious influence of the situation, but it is there. Consequently, our judgment for the actions of others should perhaps be tempered, even calibrated in light of this fact to assign their intentions a little less weight than we normally would, for it could just as well be ourselves that are venturing out into the tails of the behavioral bell curve.