The world is a violent and chaotic place. Ok, I can accept that. I can accept that governments are corrupt and capitalists are greedy and that bigotry and hatred are, perhaps, inevitable consequences of being human. Ok. It’s a tough place out there and life isn’t for the faint of heart or the overly sensitive. Got it.
But can we stop being so goddamned mean to each other?
So much of our mediascape, from Top Model and Trading Spouses to Fox News to our political campaigns, seems designed around the principle that there is nothing so entertaining as setting people up to be judged and ridiculed. There is a growing meanness of spirit to our culture that has nothing to do with ideological differences but seems, in my mind, to do with a basic lack of empathy and of manners.
I blame—at least partly—the Trix cereal commercials from when I was a kid. A generation grew up with the idea that it’s perfectly all right, perfectly innocent to be deliberately cruel to another sentient being. Sure, the rabbit was a bit of a cereal junky and probably needed an intervention and I am well aware that the rabbit was a cartoon and, therefore, not real. But the message of the commercials was quite clear: hey kids, it’s ok to be mean and cruel to someone not as fortunate as you, someone who may need some smak cereal real bad.
mean 2 |min| |mi?n|
1 unwilling to give or share things, esp. money; not generous : she felt mean not giving a tip | they’re not mean with the garlic.
2 unkind, spiteful, or unfair : it was very mean of me | she is always mean to my little brother.
• vicious or aggressive in behavior : the dogs were considered mean.
3 (esp. of a place) poor in quality and appearance; shabby : her home was mean and small.
• (of a person’s mental capacity or understanding) inferior; poor : it was obvious to even the meanest intelligence.
If you think about it, the connection between these different definitions (selfish, spiteful, vicious, and mentally inferior) are not so much different definitions of the word “mean” but are actually four sides of the same coin.(1) To be any one of those is to be the others. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that, as we dumb down our entertainment, it becomes vicious, as we become increasingly aggressive toward the world at large, we learn selfishness and spite. As we become less generous of spirit, we degrade our mental capacity.
Being Mean = Being Stupid
So stop it. Please.
1. Don’t ask, I have no idea.