Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When Propriety Goes Out the Window

I like that word, propriety. The thing is, I don't think most people under the age of 40 even care what that word means. No offense to those under 40 that do care (and yes, I know they exist).

It occured to me today, that I think I've finally hit that magical age in every generation, where I feel right at home saying "these kids today" and feel rather sad that something in the younger generation has been lost. I actually had that feeling about 20 years ago, but I wasn't old enough to say "these kids today". When I was in my early 20s, one of the girls that used to hang around my crowd of degenerate friends was a 15 year old girl. She was pretty, and she was smart, and witty, but she was also rather gross and disgusting. She'd belch outloud (really loud, and on purpose) and never say excuse me, and she'd cuss up a blue streak like nobodies business. She did this in front of anyone, she didn't care. I told her once she was a pig, and she just laughed. She was like a little sister to me, and I didn't want a pig for a little sister. That was really the first time I noticed something was missing in the generation coming up after me, but somehow that thought just got shifted to the back shelf as my own life and all the details associated with it, took precedent. I had the chance to speak with her by phone a few years ago, and it was hard to listen to her speak with every third word being the F word. She had changed a lot from when I knew her when she was 15. She was much worse, unfortunately.

I've never studied cultural shifts and human behavior (and how the two blend together, or why), but it doesn't take much to look around and see how things are so completely different today than they were just 20 years ago. What we once called "polite society" doesn't even exist anymore in the larger context of society. It exists if you hang out at a retirement home or with folks over the age of about 40, but under that age the majority of society doesn't look OR sound the same at all. I think in some ways that's okay (times change, and it's not ALL, always bad), but in other ways its actually quite disturbing. The one area that bothers me the most is that almost nothing is private any more. There seems to be no such thing as topics that are off limits to be discussed in mixed company. It's all out in the open, no matter what it is, or who wants to discuss it. To be clear, I am specifically referring to the most intimate details of someone's sexuality - whether married, single, heterosexual, homosexual, or any other preference. I wasn't old enough to observe the "free love" phase of the 60s, but I have to wonder if in some ways, this is what it looked like and sounded like in the subculture of that era?

I think about these things and I wonder how we got here. I wonder if the internet and all its psuedo-anonymity had a hand in feeding our already sinful, self-centered, self-gratifying egos? As we all know, on the internet you can be/do/say anything you want. It doesn't matter if you're an overweight middle aged man, your avatar shows a buff 20something guy and thats who you think you are (and who you want people to think you are). You can engage in all kinds of discussions with all kinds of people and there is quite literally NOTHING off limits, as it pertains to topics open for discussion. Add to this, the rapidly increasing push for having "hyper-connectivity" with everything from cell phones to social networking sites, and suddenly the entire world is almost quite literally sitting in your house (if not your bedroom), knowing every detail about your life. They know it because you tell them. You tell them in text messaging, you tell them in your videos, your provocative profile photos, the chats you have with them and the things you write about on your MySpaceBookFace pages. Nothing is off limits, even to complete strangers. We act in ways online, that was virtually unheard of, just a few years ago, offline. And it has become common, to this generation of younger people.

It's common (and therefore socially acceptable) to see a female of just about any age, walking down the street with "hotty" plastered across the backside of her pants/shorts. Have you ever stopped and thought about what message she's really sending? More than once I've wanted to walk up to these women (and young girls) and ask them "so, your pants say "hotty", what does that mean exactly?" I think the only reason I don't ask, is because I'm afraid they might say something like "it means I'm hot and I know it, you idiot!" That would make me sad, but I have a hunch many would say something just like that. Along with propriety, modesty is also out the window and it's common to advertise your wares, so to speak. (Didn't we used to call that prostituting one's self? When did that become common as well?)

Its common to see "adult" dvd stores in the main part of town, when not that long ago you had to go to "the other side" of town to frequent those shops. Its common to have community-wide Gay Day or whatever its called in your part of the world, where the meaning of the word shame, is completely lost. Once upon a time, deviant sexual conduct carried a shame with it that it no longer does. It's all common, it's all out there baby, free love.

Then, to make it even more bizarre, you have pastors of Christian churches (and this is just ONE of the many examples of this) jumping on the bandwagon and making this theme THEIR theme, on a regular basis. Whatever happened to privacy? Whatever happened to modesty, and responsibility? Whatever happened to not conforming to the world, but continually transforming our minds to the mind of Christ? Well, for a lot of Christians, apparently, being culturally relevent is more important. Pragmatism rules at the end of the day, and the ends justify the means, no matter how much of a prude you are, and live in yesteryear.

Nope, we don't live in a polite society anymore. Propriety now means doing whatever the norms of society say is okay to do. Pragmatism says it's okay for Christians to look and sound and act just like non-Christians because we're reaching the lost that way, and speaking their language, and identifying with them. The fall of the Roman Empire, anyone? If you've never read what culture was like in those days, you should. You might think you're reading a current event report of North American culture, 2008.

Well, color me an old fogey at 43. Color me culturally irrelevent. Color me someone who doesn't bag morality, propriety and modesty because my culture says it's okay. My God says it's not, and I'll take His word over any other, any day.

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