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Sunday, May 4, 2008

"Toughen up!": Society's Cold and Calculating Control over Our Emotions

First, some housekeeping:

The weekly videos have been updated. The videos highlight Brooke White, an amazingly talented singer and songwriter who just got the boot from American Idol. Also, the poll has been updated. Three wonderful people took the several seconds it takes to vote, so there will now be a weekly rant. The new question I am asking in the poll this week is about the blog layout. I was thinking some people might find the bright green colour visually offensive... and some people might find it near impossible to read the banner (and I'll admit I didn't put much time into creating the banner). So, I'm letting you (the readers) decide (to some extent) what the blog will look like.

Now, onto the weekly rant:

I shed a tear to see Brooke White leave American Idol this week - television does not generally make me emotional, but it was heart-breaking to watch this fabulous musician break down sobbing. So, a pretty good artist gets booted off of American Idol and that deserves a blog post? No, not exactly, or else there would be several blog posts (I was rather disappointed to see Amanda Overmyer and Michael Johns go as well this year). What warrants the blog post is the harshness of our society; we're cruel, sadistic little demons... and I think there's a hidden motive for our behaviour. Brooke just happens to be my sacrificial lamb, so to speak, because she's one of the more popular examples I can think of at the moment.

You don't have to be familiar with American Idol to be aware of the gross lack of sensitivity expressed by North Americans (I don't know enough about the rest of the world to make such an accusation about other countries). The reason I use Brooke as an example is because I am familiar with American Idol and for as long as I've been watching Brooke pour her heart out into her performances, I've been watching people go on about what a bubbling train-wreck she appears to be. It seems as though a celebrity, or at least the next young person to be the new "role model" for young Americans, should be cold and detached. Goodness forbid they show any 'excess' emotion - because tears mean you're unstable!

Jason Castro, another contestant on American Idol this year, is experiencing a similar problem... he doesn't have to haul out the kleenex after every performance. No, he stands there with a soft grin and brings the music down to his own mellow state. Yes, Jason, too, has made the mistake of just being himself... his natural mellow state has inspired people to report endlessly about what a "stoner" he must be... and those who don't attribute his happy-go-lucky attitude with hallucinogens are busy assuming he's "dis-respectful", "full of himself", or "just doesn't give a shit" (about what? And, if he doesn't, should he?).

We, as a society, claim we want to see more representations of "real" people. So, when I see the actors, actresses, and contestants on "reality" TV and put that together with how people react to these shows, actors/actresses, and contestants (worshipping shows like "America's Next Top Model" or trashing an "Idol" contestant, because they showed emotion, on their blog), I really wonder what kind of warped definition we have of the word "real". We're so cold now... so distant... that we hardly even interact outside our close circles. Try sparking up a conversation with, or even just smiling at, a total stranger... maybe I'm just a freak, but I've noticed that usually results in the stranger just giving you a really strange look (if they even acknowledge you spoke to/smiled at them)... sometimes you might be lucky enough to get a grunt, but only sometimes! We are such a deceitful society that the more genuinely kind someone appears to be, the more we suspect they have some hidden motive (or mental illness).

Keep in mind that the leaders of society, those whose voices are heard, are the ones in control. They want to keep this control... but the only way they can keep this control from moving to those who are wiser and better qualified is to try to convince us that their ideals are the best. How can that be done, or how can they get away with this, if there are actually people who are better qualified to be leaders of society? Corruption! If we can distort what people see as 'right' and 'wrong', we can get people to go along with almost everything.

For this to work, it must start very young... and it does. In childhood, the victim is often the one who is punished. The child who is teased is taught how to be "less eccentric" (not to mention, virtually any child who is slightly eccentric seems to now be labeled with a developmental disorder), the child who is beat-up is forced to change their routine (or in some cases, even their school), and the child who shows excessive emotion (tears or laughter) is generally seen as a "cry-baby" or a raving lunatic.

I remember "back in the day" when I was beat up most every day after school... my father went to see the principal and was told there was "no way" children would beat up another child for "no reason" and therefore the blame laid with me... for these children to beat me up every day, there clearly was "something wrong" with me... I was "bringing it on myself". The children in question would not be punished for "acting as children do" and I would have to "act more normal". If need be, I could leave school 15 minutes early at the end of the day. Yeah, great idea, draw the attention to the bullied, not the bullies. I experienced something similar when I was working at a daycare and had to deal with one of the two year olds being picked on by a group of other two year olds (that herd mentality starts young, eh!). Of my six co-workers, five were more focused on finding out what the victim's "problem" was than actually finding out how to stop the other children from being so violent... and although that's too small a sample to mean anything, I think it's more common to further victimise the victim than it is to put the repsonsibility on the victimiser (which is why I would NEVER tell a child to "just ignore them" if they're being picked on).

Any society that punishes a child for being bullied is a sick society. The society that is treating our children as hard-nosed professionals in a cold business world is the same society that labels someone emotionally instable for actually expressing their feelings... which makes perfect sense - if we were encouraged to freely express our emotions, and if we actually treated the righteous as right and forced the wrong to self-correct, we wouldn't stand for a lot of the shit we put up with, would we?

Personally, I think it's time we start listening to what our gut feelings tell us again... without letting pseudo-scientists try to tell us how irrational and "un-evolved" that is. Maybe if we weren't so quick to see our "instincts" (and stopped refusing to identify them as such, confusing them with "reflexes" so as to further distinguish ourselves from the Animal kingdom) or emotions as supernatural 'fluff', we'd better understand ourselves and each other. Did we seriously evolve to the point of being able to create a computer simply so we can aspire to be computers? That seems to be what society's leaders want. I'm inclined to think these attitudes have already had the effect of de-humanising our leaders; they believe what they spew, which is what allows these ideals to be passed onto the rest of us so easily and convincingly.

We are not machines, so we cannot think and act like machines (cold and un-feeling)... and I really think that by trying to act like machines (or, "emotionally detached individuals"), we are treated like machines (pre-programmed and externally controlled).

1 comment:

dave said...

yeah i had the same thing happen when i was being beaten up at school. they said "boys will be boys" and my mom fucking spazed on the principle. they take no responsibility for the children in their care it is sad.