Twenty-five years ago, comedian Chris Rock famously riffed on the divide in the African American community between black people and “N-words.” The latter, he said, would always brag about accomplishing and doing things that were considered by the rest of us as things you’re expected to do; most famously, taking care of your kids.
While in 1996, the bit was viewed as a black-on-black joke designed to be that community’s version of acknowledging that all cultures and races have their own version of “white-trash,” it turned out to be sadly prophetic for the entire country and culture writ large.
Enter 2021; where we celebrate the most mundane and basic things as actual accomplishments.
We brag about 19-year-olds who no longer live at home. We actually hold “graduation ceremonies” for kids segueing from elementary to middle school and middle to high school. Good luck getting a job with either of those diplomas, dipshit.
I have friends who own small businesses that have to thank their employees who actually show up on-time for their shifts. After a year of Door-Dashing and Instacarting, we’ve become a nation that celebrates when our orders show up as we asked them to. The RAD show gets emails on a regular basis from people who brag about working 40 hours a week…40 HOURS A WEEK…that’s 2 ½ days of work for a successful person, who, BTW, would never brag about it, for God’s sake. Jesus Jumped Up Christ.
Where did this all begin? No one knows for certain, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. For starters, congratulating people for getting pregnant is something that needs to be banished into the ash heap of history. There are 267 babies born every minute on this planet; there is absolutely nothing miraculous or impressive about giving birth; far less impressive is merely getting pregnant, which, if you consider abortion statistics breaks out to about 555 women getting pregnant every minute on Earth. You have literally accomplished absolutely nothing special by getting pregnant. More than 90% of the planet between the ages of 15-44 can do so at any time by merely humping. And if you’re in that unfortunate 10% that can’t, and wants to…sorry for your troubles.
For reference, 140 million babies are born worldwide each year, while 75 million abortions are reported, and about the same number are miscarried. Do the math…getting pregnant is almost the most simple, basic thing we do on earth behind breathing. So, congrats on that breath! Way to inhale! HIGH FIVE!!!
Yes, yes…I realize that we’re not usually congratulating people on the fact that they were able to become pregnant, but rather on the imminent joyful birth of their endless burden…errr….I mean baby, but you get my point. Or, maybe you don’t.
I trace all of this to the 1990’s; a glorious decade to be alive and, apparently, to also plant the seeds of America’s destruction. The economy was booming, America was at peace, and the most important things we had to worry about were making sure we saw Seinfeld, counting our calories from fat, finding SnackWell cookies, debating the emergence of grunge music, preparing for Y2K, and always having a water bottle in our hands. In other words, we quite literally had to make up things to worry about; and boy did we.
The 90’s saw the launch of the self-esteem movement in schools across the nation, in which we told children they were special, when they clearly weren’t. This was the decade that saw us begin to give out 7th place trophies, and award kids for merely “attending” school, not thriving at it. We even created “new math,” which quite literally was defined as whatever the kid said was the answer, was deemed to be correct. 2+2=5? Yup! Well done.
We even started basing kids’ grades not on subject matter and correct answers, but also on politeness, honesty, truthfulness, kindness, courage and conviction. Don’t believe me? That line was taken from a 1990 New York Times Article about the emergence of the self-esteem movement; we saw it coming, we knew it was stupid, and we did it anyway, all in an ill-fated effort to coddle our children; who now make up the majority of America’s adult population and cheer the most mundane and asinine things as accomplishments. https://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/28/garden/using-self-esteem-to-fix-society-s-ills.html
The oddest thing to me, about this, is the manner in which the very generation that created this mess, mine (Gen X), has also embraced it. Absolutely nothing about the way in which those of us over 40 were raised resembles the way we raised our children. It’s like the entire decade of the 90’s was opposite day…for 3,652 days in a row. Damage done, and, to this day, accepted and even cheered, and then not.
I have endless friends in their 40’s who complain about the “younger generations,” and how entitled and lazy they are. These same friends have their adult children, in their mid-20’s, living at home with them, jobless, and “finding themselves.” HUH?
News Flash: You are not special. As the movie “The Incredibles,” taught us: When you say that everyone is special, you are simultaneously saying that no one is. If we’re all winners, then there are no losers, which is why we also stopped keeping score at youth sporting events three decades ago. WE did…the kids didn’t…but we still found a way to beat out of them over time the idea that winning mattered. And what kid wouldn’t embrace that? Telling a kid that he or she matters, is special, and is important, even when they are failing at everything they try, is a child’s dream…and the ticket to modern day America; where everything that everyone does matters and is important. It doesn’t, and it isn’t. And saying that is now considered verbal abuse.
I blame Johnny Carson. Google him.
Johnny Carson is as close as I ever got to having an idol. I was actually taught to believe in myself and no one else and to aspire to be better than anyone or everyone I came across. It was a terrible time in which I was raised. I was led to believe that I would have to rely on myself for my entire life, and that, while I would encounter helpful people along the way, only I was in control of my destiny. I was made to own my choices and accept the consequences that came from them without making excuses. It was awful. Self-reliance and personal responsibility were actually a thing then. The agony.
Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show until May of 1992, when he retired and Jay Leno took over. And so, began the end of society as we knew it. The emergence of everyone and everything mattering began.
Don’t believe me? Don’t see the connection? Watch some clips of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, specifically his opening monologue each night, and then watch the comedy shows of today; Real Time with Bill Maher, the Late Show, the Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel, all of them…and notice this: Every single joke that today’s performers tell is applauded. Carson’s almost never were.
Johnny Carson was one of the greatest entertainers of all-time, and he almost never got ovations; because our standards were high, and so were his. Many of Carson’s greatest moments were when his jokes DIDN’T land and he made fun of himself. When Carson told a great joke, people laughed…and then waited for him to make them laugh again, which he did. Because that was the job. Make us laugh and laugh and laugh until you’re done.
Today, every single punch line is followed by a round of applause, no matter how lame the joke. Even bad jokes are applauded, just by fewer people. Watching Bill Maher is particularly painful because when he hits a punch-line, the first thing he does is look around for approval, hoping to see everyone he makes eye-contact with slapping their hands together because, I mean, hey, he’s standing there saying stuff and that makes him special.
So, yes…Johnny Carson is to blame, because he retired…and then died, just like our demand for actual effort and quality.
Stay with the theme and compare…In the 90’s, the dominant sit-coms were Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier. A decade later, it was Scrubs, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Two and Half Men. Need I say more?
The sports world mirrors this as well…somehow, people actually have the audacity to posit that Lebron James belongs in the G.O.A.T. discussion…he doesn’t. It’s not even close…he isn’t in the top 5, and barely warrants a discussion of being in the top 10, but because he’s woke, and the best the game has to offer today, he absolutely must be one of the greatest of all time because it’s our time, and only we matter, those who are here now. Michael Jordan? Pfffttt…what is he? Like 60? Pllleeeeaaassseeee. No one over 50 allowed.
We saw this Super Bowl Sunday as well; as endless amounts of hyperbolic praise was heaped upon man-child Patrick Mahomes. Jim Nantz, one of the best sports announcers alive, who had one of his worst days on that Sunday, actually started the game by saying that two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time were facing off. Pardon me? Patrick Mahomes and his one Super Bowl Championship and two appearances is already one of the G.O.A.T.’s? On what planet? In what reality?
Stop it…everyone just stop it. You didn’t accomplish anything by waking up today, or getting dressed, or showing up on time, or feeding your kids, or anything else that falls under the heading of the “bare minimum required for lifing the day.” Praising people for existing is what got us into this mess and it needs to stop. Bragging about someone who hasn’t gone to jail, beaten their spouse, or declared bankruptcy is akin to thanking Hitler for only killing 5 million Jews.
YES…I played the Hitler card. Because we’re committing our own form of societal genocide, except in our case it doesn’t discriminate. We’re destroying the entire fabric of everything that was once the American society and culture.
And now that I’ve finished doing my expected and assigned weekly column, I will await my parade and endless cheers for doing exactly what I was supposed to do. All hail me, for I have done my job, and nothing more.