Saturday, August 5, 2017

STEM (Part One)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My sublime, drop-dead gorgeous muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

"Compassion is the basis of morality." -Arthur Schopenhauer

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

A few letters back, Wild-Eyed Libertarian (Part Two) to be exact, I talked about my conservative impulses. I pointed out that I don't consider them to be conservative impulses. To me, they're just a combination of my natural inclinations, life lessons, and coming of age at the tail end of the Black and White Ages.

I mentioned modesty (M), strategic taste (ST), and good manners (GM). I created an acronym (GMMST) designed to roll easily off the tongue and be easy to remember. This was because I planned on returning to the subject. I'm returning to the subject.

The acronym mentioned above, in the time honored tradition of our consumer culture, is now NEW and IMPROVED! It's been newed and improved to the title of this missive, STEM, which stands for strategic taste, etiquette, and modesty.

[Brief digression -- when I use phrase consumer culture I do so without snark and/or sarcasm. I'm a fan and a future letter will be devoted to the subject.]

As far as the other current use, and significance, of the acronym in question -- the study of/training in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math -- that's yet another letter. However, in the short term, I'm unashamedly appropriating it for my own non-nefarious purposes.

I'm a sexy seasoned citizen who has reached the ripe old age of 39. I was born in the Black and White Ages and survived the sixties. (The sixties began in 1965 and ended in the fall of 1977 when the movie Saturday Night Fever was released.) I'm delighted (mostly) to have lived long enough to meet the Jetsons.

I'm a (happy) cultural warrior of sorts. However, I'm not allied with any of the more vocal factions in our currently raging culture war(s). I'm neither a conservative _______ (insert name of a given old school religion, here), a passionate progressive, or a militant atheist. Organized religion just ain't my thing. 

I want to live in a culture that can be summed up by my (destined to be famous) Playground Analogy, "I want the playground to have minimum rules and maximum fun. I want just enough rules to give everyone an equal shot at some swing time and neutralize the bullies."

That is, my idea of the good life is a playground where all the kids are free to pursue their individual notion of a good life without feeling the need to bully (or kill) any of the other kids.

There are more than enough Rules&Regs on the books and no shortage of grupstitutes (substitute parents -- legitimate and self-appointed) to enforce them.


The devil, as always, resides in a comfortable condo in the details.

For example, it may be hard for you to imagine, but when I was a kid, and later a callowyute, I was taught (among other things):

That most people believed (or should) in some version of a Judeo-Christian God,
That the ten commandments were, well, commanded,
That good-girls didn't do "it" before getting married,
That pregnancy outside of marriage was a disgraceful for a girl/woman and her family,
That divorce was shameful,


There were many many more rules. Eventually, I discovered there was also lots of exceptions to the rules, and lots of hypocrisy. But most folks at least paid lip service.

Our society (I speak only of the US, consult your local crank if you live elsewhere) then tossed out much of our cultural consensus (the unwritten Rules&Regs) with the Jacuzzi water. Many have since embraced the code of the Bigfeets. Jer-RY! Jer-RY! Jer-RY! Cultural consensus was replaced with cultural chaos.

CC + DS x IIC = Y!

Cultural Chaos + Dizzinformation Syndrome x Infotainment Industrial Complex = Yikes!

Now, my dear Stickies, for all I know, by the time any given one of you reads this in the relatively near or dimly distant future the world may have caught its breath. Or, Having come of age in chaos and taking it for granted, you may legitimately ask, chaos? what chaos? I'm bored.

Regardless, King Crank's STEM System is not a moral or ethical code. It's a way for people with wildly divergent moral or ethical codes, even people unfamiliar with the words moral or ethical, to get along, to peacefully share the playground.

As I've repeatedly promised, I shall be a benevolent, mostly hands off monarch content to remain behind the curtain. I'm just, as they say, puttin' it out there. You can't impose a cultural consensus on a given country anyway without enslaving the citizenry and that's too much like work.

What follows is a truncated explanation of the acronym in question. Part two will expand on all three concepts.

ST is for strategic (as opposed to good) taste. As an intimate friend of mine once said, "Strategic taste refers to, well, here's an example. Sometimes a good fart joke is just what's called for, but all fart jokes all the time? not so much. That is to say, knowing when to show some class or style, as opposed to knowing when it's time to get down and dirty."

[Full disclosure: yes, the quote above appears in a previous letter -- I like it, and it's my column, OK?]

E is for etiquette. As in "the customary code of polite behavior in society...". This was the very first definition that popped up when I googled the E word. It's perfect so I stopped there. See, I'm not talking about, nor do I care, which spoon is for what. I'm talking about some common sense rules to prevent citizens in general, and Bigfeets in particular, from stepping on each other's toes.

M is for modesty. First Google supplied definition, "the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one's abilities." Third, "behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.

In other words, while self-confidence is important, science has demonstrated that many people that think they know what they're doing don't have a clue.  And yeah, you may be hot (or not...) but believe it or not, we don't all want to see your _______. We especially don't want our kids to see your _______. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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