A couple of weeks ago, while I was knee-deep in deciphering the debt ceiling debacle, I ran across a disturbing AP story out of Philadelphia.
Young people—some barely teenagers—were organizing themselves via social networking and beating the hell out of random people in Center City. Center City, man. That ain’t the ghetto, brother. I’ve vacationed there enough times to know. It’s nice, the kind of nice we wish downtown Birmingham was, and now the folks there are afraid to walk outside and pick up the morning paper. Presently, a city-wide curfew is in effect.
A couple of days later, I ran across another disturbing story, this one out of Atlanta. A massive cheating scandal has implicated dozens of educators in 44 of the city’s public schools. Most of the students involved are your so-called “disadvantaged” types. The teachers, in pursuit of performance-based bonus cash, figured that the only way those kids would pass a test was with the answer key. So they sold those kids out on their standardized tests.
As I write this, with apologies to The Clash, London’s burning. An unchecked mob of shockingly ill-mannered teenagers—again, organized via various social networking web sites—are smashing, grabbing and burning the city and neighboring towns, largely unchecked. The reason? Well, using tried-and-true South Park logic: Step one, they’ve realized that life is unfair; Step two, they pillage; Step three...profit?
What am I getting at? Well, look, there are tipping points within each generation whereupon some folks figure the end is nigh, civilization has become irreparably damaged and martial law is just a matter of time, but I honestly believe that this time we may have gone too far. Years of loose parenting, eroding social mores, failing schools and a popular culture that values fame and fortune at any cost have finally caught up with us. Thinking men and women, so-called decent human beings, are becoming a sideshow attraction, and that’s pretty bad.
Let me preface this by getting the religious argument out of the way. That’s not what this is about. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or a Buddhist, Druid or Hindu, Mormon or Muslim; you should know that (a.) Parents have to mentor their children on how to be proper adults; (b.) Children should not be exposed to certain things in society that are of an explicitly sexual or violent nature; (c.) Education is the foundation of success.
Western culture has almost completely blown up the idea of parents actually parenting their children. The generation of kids that’s turned London into “Grand Theft Auto: Real Life,” are by-products of the “time-out” generation. Parents are more into friending their kids rather than disciplining them, which blurs a child’s respect for authority. When a child has no respect for authority, well, turn on CNN and watch what happens. Parents have to be actively involved in their children’s lives in order to perpetuate a civil society. This country and others have lost sight of that over the past few decades, and now we’re paying the price.
Now these children, absent authority figures and parents who give a you-know-what about what they’re up to, are turning to pop culture icons for pointers on how to be successful adults. I speak for you and me when I follow that with a “God help us all.”
Look, I’m a 27-year-old white guy who lives in the suburbs. Yes, I am a Democrat and I write for an alt-weekly, but I’m not the target audience for rap/hip-hop culture. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about how it started, but I’m pretty sure it started honestly and earnestly, much like country music, with which I’m also largely unfamiliar. But, regardless of its original intent, here’s what it’s devolved into now:
“I put the pussy in a sarcophagus, now she claiming I bruise her esophagus.”
That’s an actual line from a real-life song. I don’t know when the history of music actually began and I don’t claim to be an expert of any particular genre. But I’m going to step out on a pretty sturdy limb and say that this particular song lyric is the nadir of musical history. The artist is a man named Kayne West. He made a video for the song, too. Some anonymous Wikipedite gives us a play-by-play:
“PolySigh” is a weekly political column by Matt Hooper. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.