Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The culture of overcompensation

Today I planned on writing a blog about the dad who punched to death a man trying to molest his daughter. It was going to criticize the disturbingly high number of good people who cheered this act of vigilantism under the delusion that two wrongs make a right. But I kept reading responses to the “You’re not special” speech and those reactions continue to nag me as well. It’s hard for me not to see the support behind this speech as an overreaction to perceived failings in raising a generation of kids — times are tough, kids are idiots, obviously we’ve failed in making them think they’re special to us. So, hey, kids, you’re not. The world is indifferent to you and, by the way, you suck at your activities.

Apparently it isn’t enough to teach them that they have to earn their place in the world — now we’re telling them they aren’t even special to their loved ones until they amount to something. You know those movies where a child strives to succeed to please his parents, but then in the end the parents love them for who he is? Well, I suspect we’re going to see more Tiger-Mommish cinematic moments from here on out.

Overcompensation. That’s what we’re about now.

Someone commit a heinous crime? Let’s form a mob and kill the bastard!

Are our kids arrogant? Let’s tell them they’re no different than ants, and offer nothing but conditional love!

Terrorists attack our country? We can attack their (or some) country so much better!

A decade-long dip in the economy due to reckless deficit spending and irresponsible tax cuts? Time for drastic austerity measures that punish those who didn’t cause it!

Global warming? Not only is it not real, I bought a massive SUV just to spite you!

The NFL. Enough said.

The common thread in these examples is that the solutions don’t address the real problems, but they do satisfy primal urges. Times are tough, we’re told, so we don’t have the time, energy or money for thoughtful, responsible and lasting solutions. We do it because even if we have doubts, “something must be done.” We must be reactionary, hoping two wrongs make it right this time. (Hey, it works in countries that have been fighting for 2,000+ years!)

The reverse — solutions that actually help and don’t scratch our vengeance itch — is not popular:

BP oil spill? No talk of banning all drilling, or even of making it safer.

Woefully underfunded government? No talk of raising taxes.

Dangerous chemicals or fats in foods? Eh, buyer beware.

Justice through the justice system? What fun is that?

Nope. Overcompensation is satisfying, and we’ve decided tough times make the perfect excuse. Nowadays, even our solutions have to keep us entertained.

I yearn for a better show.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it is because I read Maddox's blog or watch George Carlin standup routines, but his speech felt almost copied, to me?

I thought some of the things he said were excellent, mind you- just not deserving of this much attention.

I also agree with you that the speech satisfies some primal instinct instead of a real solution. But then again, does such a solution exist?

Ian McGibboney said...

Good point about the cribbing. I'm familiar with Carlin's routine and love it — mainly because he clearly addresses it to arrogant parents, and focuses mainly on babies.

I don't know if there is a real solution either. But I'm not ready to cede to the emotosphere just yet. I thought the point of being an adult was that we didn't do that anymore. (Holding on ever so tightly)