I've had a lot on my mind recently, what with the recent anniversary of my unfortunate incarceration, and the students rioting and poking Camilla, England's finest thoroughbred, with a big stick, and my recent acquisition of a new job, and Christmas shopping (and then of course, wrapping the presents - not a skill I could put on my resume), and writing and sending Christmas cards, and catering for the Town Mayor, and making movies and taking photos and all that malarkey. It's enough to make you wanna spit.
I was reading about all the wondrous advances this species has made in the last century-and-a-half or so, what with electrickery and cars and phones and whatnot. One of the subjects under discussion was rudeness. How we, in general, as a culture, have become ruder and more self-absorbed and more concerned with the inconsequential. Especially with mobile phones. It seems to me that texting is not really rude unless you break off from an actual real live conversation with another individual to do it. Texting is an activity that one can perform quietly without disturbing someone else, but phone calls are another matter. No-one wants to be forced to overhear your private conversation with the wife about little Timmy's diarrhoea or the man who installed your double-glazing. But people carry on like this all the time. The best analogy I read for this was from Lynne Truss's book Talk To The Hand:
To me, the delight of people answering or making calls is that they suddenly - and oblivious to the enforced eavesdropping - reveal enormous amounts about themselves, as if they had, under the influence of hypnosis, stood up on a table and started stripping, and then, just as suddenly, got down again, adjusted their clothing, and resumed the anonymity of the everyday humdrum passenger.Another thing that has struck me as being a bit odd since I got back from the States is how free and easy we stiff-upper-lip Brits have gotten with the usage of the F-word. In the States, if you want to show a movie with curses of this nature in, you have to either show it on a premium channel such as HBO or bleep it out or replace it (which can lead to such odd sentences as "What the fruit is going on?"). Here, it's all over the TV, at not particularly late hours. I was quite taken aback the first time I heard it. 20 years ago you'd have been publicly flailed in the daily rags for uttering an oath on prime-time TV. It has now become so common that it's not even shocking anymore. Trouble is, with all the exposure to this, along with violent video games, the Internet and other such demons, the language of young children has also gotten to a shocking level. Many teachers face being cussed out daily by their pupils for giving too much homework or other terrible infractions. I have lost count of the number of times this year I have said to some person or other, "If I'd have said that to my mother when I was their age..." and of course, ended up sounding like an old fogey in the process.
But it's funny, two of the most popular shows on TV in recent years, Nanny 911 and Supernanny, have shown that unruly potty-mouthed tantrum-throwing kids can be transformed into halfway-decent children just by the judicious use of discipline and a little respect and consideration for others. Of course, that's just for the parents, those self-interested, self-ingratiating twats. And yet, and yet, despite the lessons learned by these families on a weekly basis in front of an audience of millions, the millions cannot seem to grasp it. We've all watched these shows - Wife Swap is another one - and tutted and shaken our heads at the fact that these parents are so concerned with not upsetting little Jimmy, even though the little snotrag's been having a tantrum for the last seven hours merely because he got a PB&J in his lunchbox rather than a Big Mac, when they should have been teaching him to tough it out ("You get what you're given, like it or lump it" as my Mum would have said), yet a large percentage of us act just like that, albeit to a smaller degree, with our own kids. We are so desperate to have a quiet life, it makes you wonder why we didn't think of that before we decided to have kids.
I am lumping myself in this, by the way. I am not hurling accusations and trying to paint myself as some sort of glowing example of parenthood. I, too, have been suckered into the delusional thinking that accompanies most bad parenting. But I like to think nostalgically back to my own childhood and think "What would/did my mother do?" because as far as I remember, she didn't take any crap from us kids, even though we occasionally dished it out. She gave as good as she got. And the F-word was something that you ONLY said around your buddies, not within any adult's earshot. Nowadays anyone wishing to not be exposed to rude language had better sell their TVs, CDs, computers and radios and buy a set of earplugs for when they are out in public. Better still, just stay in bed. Hey... that's not a bad idea.