Sunday, August 28, 2005


Something to add to the previous list: TV weather forecasts that take five minutes and feature highs ranging from 60 (downtown San Francisco) to the high 90s (Fremont).

Have you read Men in Hats? This is a comic strip I featured in my AIM profile for quite a while. If you haven't, do yourself a favor: read through the archives starting from the beginning. Or randomly, it doesn't really matter. Now, go to the home page and read the agonizing post from the creator.

I'd given up on checking Men in Hats when Aaron stopped updating it, so I didn't see this post until last week. It really made me mad. The post conjurs up the spectre that has haunted me since grade school, the tyrant's proclamation that if a minority misbehaves, all must be punished. I still remember my fury when my third-grade teacher canceled recess for the entire class because two rowdy boys were noisy in the hall. "A few rotten apples spoil the whole barrel" was her justification. That sense of unfairness and generalized malignancy has fuelled most of my present-day political leanings.

I was increasingly upset as I read Aaron's post. If he didn't feel like writing the strip, then don't write the strip! If he got email that hurt his feelings, block the email! If he wanted to vent, vent at the people who had caused his misery instead of dumping his emotional garbage on all of us! Then I reached the bottom with his picture and realized what a young kid he is. All my anger melted away. Earlier on I'd thought how immature and oversensitive he was behaving; however, you can't blame him for that if he's literally immature and oversensitive. I think it's the nature of kids, especially kids in out present American society, to get caught up in social acceptance and peer-approval; we can bemoan that fact but we shouldn't blame individuals for the kind of society they live in.

In many ways, the single most important skill someone learns when growing up is how to stop worrying about what other people think. Not to say that everyone should become a rebel or anything like that; but if you want to become a middle-class housewife, you'll be much happier if you don't constantly ponder what Mrs. Pennysworth thinks of your new dress. If you're in middle management, you'll be much happier if you care more about making the right decision than what people will say about you for making it. We need to consider the feelings and thoughts of others, but we should never make that the most important part of our decision-making process.

I do realize that I'm just a few years older than Mr. Farber and, frankly, it weirds me out to use words like "kids" in this context. Still... I don't know. I guess I do see a division between young and old, a division that isn't based on their age or employment, but on their independence and security in themselves as individuals. You might say that Mr. Farber is still stuck in the third Kohlberg stage of moral development. You can't blame him for that, just recognize it and wish him the best.

There's a lot that I like about Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, but the one scene that touched me the most was a great interview with Trey Parker, a creator of South Park and former student at Columbine High School. Parker talked about how vividly he remembered the culture of high school, where conformity is demanded and there's a relentless pressure to drive, to succeed, to be the best at everything you do or risk being a failure for the rest of your life. Parker said that he wished he could go back in time and tell those kids that the things which torment you in high school just aren't a big deal after you graduate. The year after you're out, nobody will care at all what you did in high school or whether or not you were cool; it means nothing.

He is, of course, absolutely right. Unlike him I had a great high school career and I treasure the memories, but things just aren't as important as people lead you to believe. The same can be said of any sort of evaluative process. That snide email in your inbox might hurt your feelings today, but in the grand scheme of things it means less than nothing. The only power it has is that which you choose to give it.

Of course, I am still ticked that there won't be any more Men in Hats. I hope Aaron's new strip is good, and wish him all the best.

No comments:

Post a Comment