Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Touch of Class

Let's bring back a touch of class. And restraint. And modesty. And _____ . License to say and do anything ain't working.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting we all start behaving like the characters in a good old fashion mainstream American movie or TV show restrained by good old fashion American censorship. I am suggesting that we walk the culture back a step or two from the edge. If anything goes, nothing is edgy anymore. When nothing is edgy anymore all that's left is to try and be more shocking and/or disgusting than the next guy. Embrace your inner infidel.

[In an effort to promote cultural tolerance, gentlereaders, I offer up the phrase inner infidel. I see it as a bridge that will help us to connect Muslim culture to the other major cultures on the planet. It also sounds way cooler than barbarian, which is somewhat played out, as a word I mean. Sadly, there's no shortage of barbarism loose in the world.]

"A man got to have a code," Omar Devone Little: A fictional character in The Wire, played by Michael K. Williams in the third best television show ever made. Mr. Little was a charismatic, gay, Honey Nut Cheerios-loving thug that made a nice living robbing, and if necessary, shooting, drug dealers until he was killed in the shows last season. In spite of his occupation, he had a strict personal moral code that included not working on Sundays and not harming innocents.

When the baby boomers tossed out the tot out with the jacuzzi water and upended the traditional (and yes, often hypocritical) moral standards of the West, we began the Age of Relativity. It's like, all relative, dude.

From urban DICTIONARY (.com): "It's All/Everythings Relative means the world is in the eye of the beholder; all people look at things from a different perspective... Everything is quantifiable in terms of individual perception.

You can have your code, I can have my code. We can choose not to have a code. Who needs a code? If it feels good, do it, you only live once!

I wrote a column, well, two columns actually, I'm Glad I'm Old, parts one and two (1.23 & 1.30.16). I could maintain an ever growing list of reasons of why I'm glad I'm old but (cognitive dissonance alert) I'm more glad that I'm still alive and prefer to dwell on that. Note, I didn't say I wish I was young. No well adjusted Sexy Senior Citizen should, but that's another column, and, I strive to be nonjudgmental, so I won't bring it up.

[Could we move on please? asks my imaginary gentlereader as Marie-Louise pokes me in the ribs.]

Fine. One of the many reasons I'm glad I'm old is because I'm so ancient that I was raised by two members of the Greatest Generation and up until the age of 13 or so I was steeped in a cultural consensus that vanished in a remarkably short time. I do not long for its return. It wasn't a utopia and I'm very much a seize the moment kind of dude.

However, my childhood provided a firm foundation to build a life on as well as a feeling of being a part of something bigger than me, an organizing principle, however flawed, that I could join, or try to change, or even try to destroy. But if there's really nothing to join, change, or try to destroy, because anything goes, and to declare that one value system is superior to another makes you a hater, well, I'm glad I'm old.

If adolescents have nothing real to rebel against you wind up with a hookup culture where making love is just having sex, just another easily dispatched biological need. Where allegedly liberated young women have to worry about being labeled prudes if they don't use their smartphones to distribute soft porn (or worse) starring themselves. And about not getting enough likes if they do.

This is why I understand and respect where traditional religious believers are coming from, even fundamentalists, assuming they reject violence as a legitimate tool for spreading their faith. I not only was raised to be a believer, I sorta/kinda still am, in a very non-traditional way. I'm a meditator, a philosophical Taoist, and I find there to be much wisdom in Stoicism. (Fear not, I couldn't hope to explain myself adequately even if I were so inclined.)

However, I emphasize with traditional believers primarily because I suspect that an anything goes philosophy is repugnant to any more or less well-adjusted grup, it's not just because of their religious beliefs. They would feel this way even if they weren't religious. The organizing principle they've chosen, or take for granted because that's the culture they were brought up in, and it works for them, just makes things seem that much worse

[That organizing principle thing again? Define your terms sir! sayeth the gentlereader. Marie-Louise is scratching my back, she understands.]

It means exactly what you think it means. Wikipedia: "An organizing principle is a core assumption from which everything else by proximity can derive a classification or a value." Or, the framework or the grid you use to make sense of the world and decide on how to make your way through it.

I also understand and respect where atheists are coming from; I'm a staunch ex-catholic. However, I define myself as agnostic because I'm a firm believer in maintaining as open a mind as possible to counter the scientifically documented phenomenon called confirmation bias. Or, don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up syndrome.

George Will, one of my intellectual heroes, describes himself as an amiable, low-voltage atheist. I mention this because of the stark contrast between his position and that of snarky, self-righteous arrogant atheists that feel the need to make fun of believers, and run to court over world-shaking issues, such as prayers at public school football games, at every opportunity. Yikes! atheistic fundamentalists. And more than a few atheists will tell you that while Stoicism might be OK, Taoism is definitely out there in the goofy zone.

Flexibility and a willingness to update your organizing principles are required for a life well lived. Too much flexibility, particularly if built upon the shifting sands of political correctness, or even worse, no framework beyond if it feels good do it, will result in a hot mess. Fine lines.

"A man got to have a code."

Have an OK day.

©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

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