From all of us at Classic Style, many happy returns in the New Year!
All you have to do is look and listen in almost any public space these days. Or visit Yahoo News. Trashy has taken over in public life as far as attitude, behavior, speech, appearances, and even discourse go. Tacky, cheap, stupid, uninformed, and/or just downright offensive aren't far behind. Sigh.
Now, infer what you wish about ol' yours truly, but unless you have your eyes closed, there is no doubt we are feeding somewhere along the bottom in the second decade of the 21st century when it comes to how people conduct themselves privately and in public. And the kinds of things we do. To ourselves and to others. We have lost something with the push for the increased democratization of society and related egalitarianism. Fine ideals in and of themselves, but by throwing the baby out with the bathwater where acceptable personal and public standards are concerned, we sink ever further to the lowest common denominator with the rather unpleasant result that many more people than ever before have become far less pleasant to brush past, even if only momentarily, in the great ocean of life.
Several years back, Charlotte Hays examined this strange and troubling phenomenon in When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? (2013). Theodore Dalrymple has also looked at the issue in more than one book on the subject. While I have read neither author's work, I can certainly grasp what Hayes and Dalrymple talk about in no uncertain terms. Rather than aspire to be anything better, to be more, to improve ourselves beyond the most base levels of existence and habit, in a vast litany of ways we now take our cues on how to exist, routinely and childishly, from the very dregs of society.
This seems to be the case all the way to the top of the sociopolitical heap here in the United States. We certainly have very few examples to emulate now when it comes to attitude, appearance, and behavior. There are a few such public figures out there, of course, but they are very thin on the ground. Do we find examples of how to dress and behave by looking toward politicians? Athletes? Celebrities? Current pop stars? Please.
Too often, those people who conduct themselves in a polished way -- them wot is consid'rate -- are regarded as weird curiosities, if any attention at all is paid to them, simply because common decency and pleasant conduct are such foreign concepts to so many now. It almost seems like common decency and pleasant conduct lack credibility with the vast majority of society. As the late Elvis Presley once remarked in another context, "People think you’re crazy if you talk about things they don’t understand" (Thanks to Mature Style for the quote.). We all know that people tend to ignore what they perceive as "crazy" at best, or worse do their level best to criticize and marginalize it. The "it" to which I refer includes the most fundamental of social skills of course.
Where, when, and how did we go wrong? A rhetorical question really. There are probably many causes behind our current malaise when it comes to teaching, learning, and practicing the most basic social etiquette. Clearly, though, looking and acting like the worst possible guttersnipe seems to carry more weight with a great many people, and help garner so called "street cred," than do what I refer to in my own family life as daily niceties and even social graces. And no, before anyone inquires sarcastically, I am not talking about white gloves and pillbox hats for the ladies, calling cards, or high teas.
At any rate, while I promise not to launch into any further tirades in the coming year on this subject (it is just too depressing, and others have put it much more eloquently than I might), I'll simply conclude today's year-end post with this thought.
The character Forrest Gump, created by novelist Winston Groom, might suggest, "Trashy is as trashy does." I must concur. Just say "No!" to trashy in 2018.
-- Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke