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Posts Tagged ‘conformity’

And thus ended the date.  Well, in my mind anyway.

What prompted this?

I said something along the lines of my typical evening is going home, snuggling my cats, maybe watching a movie while I sew or spin.  Basically what I enjoy was stuff that wasn’t going out to bars/parties with friends or staying up late.   I’m thirty-seven, for peetsake!

I realize that it was probably a not-entirely serious comment, I realize that it wasn’t really meant to be mean, but what it told me was that my idea of a relaxing evening wasn’t comforting and relaxing but was in fact lame and boring and that based on someone else’s opinion I should be doing something else with my evenings to be worthy of the label of “having a life.”

But y’know what?  I’m happy.  Going home to relaxing evenings with my hobbies, snuggled on the couch with cats watching the rain fall, enjoying the quiet moments life has to offer is not lacking a life.  It’s living my life.

There’s lots of similar phrases that get tossed around these days.  “You need to get a girl/boyfriend!”  is another one I’ve heard far too often, as if someone who enjoys being single and doing things that aren’t considered the typical single party things to do is therefore in *need* of someone else to validate their lives.

It was really a bummer because it wasn’t like he had been a jerk or anything.  He was nice enough, I had even been looking forward to the date, but when he told me that I decided he didn’t seem to respect me or my life enough to be further considered for inclusion in it.

If you want to be part of my life, you have to respect that I already have one without you.

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Part of what contributes to the general apathy and sense of absent culture in America is that very little of America’s culture actually means anything!

I realized this at last when watching a documentary about the rise of Ghost Dances among Native American/American Indian (please pick your preferred adjective) tribes.  These dances had profound meaning to the tribes who practiced them.

That’s what got me thinking about what anything in American culture means, and realizing it means nothing.  There is no spiritual aspect to our dances, there is no deeper heritage connected to our daily lives, our folk-tales no longer teach or warn but have been watered down and sterilized for the masses by Disney.  Even our holidays have limited historical context and are either highly commercialized or highly alcoholized.

Drive fast, shoot guns, buy shit, get drunk, and live happily ever after!  Fuck Yeah, ‘Merica!

Parts of the country have communities that share more among their neighbors than merely streets of address but there is very little depth to any aspect of uniquely American culture.

Even parts of it that aren’t unique have less depth for us than for others.  We have a pitiful voter turn-out rate.  I remember watching the news a few years back where people in Iraq brave IEDs, suicide bombers, and more just to cast their vote.  In the US, a heavy rain can keep someone from the polls.  Even among those who had to fight hardest to get the right to vote, there is a sad turn-out of voters.

Without any meaning to why we do some things, the things themselves become empty gestures, traditions without foundations.  No wonder so many people seek meaning elsewhere, from other places in the world.  There is nothing that American culture has to offer the spirit.

We have fast food outlets in hospital cafeterias while proposing laws regarding the size of our sodas and whether or not we can have table salt in restaurant dishes.  We are a culture that has embraced a certain level of daily insanity to the point that we can’t even see that it’s insane.

Meanwhile, I curl up in my 58 degree Fahrenheit house eating cold food with my fingers that society tells me should be eaten hot with utensils while discussing the insanity in our politics and social interactions, and am thus informed of how not normal I am (totally complementary, by the way) by those closest and dearest to me, leaving me to wonder what normal is for everyone else because this *is* normal for me, I don’t know any other way of living and thinking.

Sometimes we focus too much on what other people think.  Sometimes we don’t think enough of how other people will feel.  We play a strange balancing act between herd mentality and individuality.

We dress just like everyone else in the latest brands, then get upset if someone else is wearing the same thing we are.
We want to have the same stores available no matter where we go but we want everything packaged in single servings.
We go to the same restaurants but have ten caveats for every meal we order.

It used to be if you visited a different town, you had different stores, because stores were owned by people instead of nation-wide franchises.  If you wanted Bill’s Best Garden Tools you had to either be lucky enough to live near Bill’s town, have a relative in Bill’s town, or you had to travel.

Later we had Bill teaming up with Ted to bring Bill’s goods to Ted’s store in another town, Bill’s goods being popular enough to demand a greater supply and Bill being able to produce enough to supply a greater demand.  This was great, especially if the local Garden Tool guy’s goods weren’t very good quality, or maybe you just really didn’t like him.

Now you can travel not just town to town but state to state and find not only the exact same stores, but the store looks exactly the same, the building is built the same, the inside is laid out the same.

Sure, it’s nice I guess, but we’ve lost so much richness and creativity to this kind of universal conformity.  It means nothing we buy really means anything, either.  Half of it is disposable to begin with, and for all we value individuality we have almost nothing that is truly unique (and then we go to other countries and tell them to be just like us!)

So now we have useless traditions filled with meaningless objects and we can move anywhere and have all the things we’re used to and yet we belong nowhere.  And the more we’re forced to be the same the more we act out to set ourselves apart, the more we look to other cultures to find some sense of meaning and fulfillment because American Culture is rooted in being dissatisfied with what you have and who you are: you don’t make enough, you don’t own enough, you aren’t thin enough, your hair isn’t straight enough, your clothes aren’t new enough, your beat poetry isn’t edgy enough, and no one understands you!

So what?

Maybe the reason no one cares about American Culture is there’s a whole lot that isn’t worth caring about.  But there is some that is.  There are some beautiful, golden threads to be found in this vast American tapestry we have woven.   I think my next entry will be looking at some of those.

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