Of the many things I am tired of this week, the lack of class in the media, the several entities that make up our societal structures, and the comments section of many an Internet site – has got to be right at the top. Because someone will inevitably mention that there are “REAL” problems in the world – disease, poverty, hunger, etc. – I want to make it clear that I understand this, and on most days I am quite informed about them. But these problems do not negate the phenomenon of poor taste and lack of class that I observe, experience, and sometimes have unfortunately participated in, in some shape or form.
This week has been an intense week of discussion of celebrity antics and their influence – I even wrote an article about it. But I am not bringing classy back because of this week solely; I am bringing it back because our generation seems to have lost our sense of it. As someone who writes on the Internet, I cannot begin to count the amount of cringe worthy moments I experience in one day. The Internet is a place where people tend to express their most sordid thoughts under the guise of free speech, and sometimes with the privilege of anonymity. I make no secret about being a person who believes that people owe a level of appropriateness to society in general. Indeed society is complicated and people’s experiences influence their understanding of what constitutes “appropriate.” I do not discount this.
But ultimately to live in a society that functions civilly, lines have to be drawn. Even if those lines are dotted rather than completely straight; even if those lines are always up for debate and available for change – they are needed. Not just because we do not live in an anarchical society, but because relating to human beings in a way that is inclusive and respectful despite difference requires social agreement; social contracts, if you will. Yet every day, on the internet and in real life of course, people wish to ignore or completely overthrow social agreements simply because they want to be supposedly liberated or edgy or something. Of course most of the time, this ignorance is simply a subscription to a competing social agreement of the one they wish to defy.
These days people want to be bad bitches or ass***** or other things that would render their identity as something the popular culture would deem favorable. People want to be seen as not caring at all about any rules of human decency because well, that would be something prudes do. People want to be offensive; they want to be seen as aloofly sexy – usually by some popular but arbitrary standard. People want to communicate and perform their identities for shock value. People sometimes want to be flat-out rude and disregard how their words and actions affect other people. After all, nobody wants to be responsible for this thing we call, “society.”We’re all too busy being “individuals” and being “free to do what we want,” because we like to believe that we don’t owe other people anything.
The reality is other than taxes – you do in fact owe society something. You owe people respect and you owe them love. And if you’re wondering what kind of love you owe them, it’s this: helping people when they are in need. We’re in an age where people do not want to take responsibility for anything that they see around them. And every day that we participate in society in a way that is self-centered and that disregards social agreements, we become part of the problem. Every day that we choose to communicate and to perform our identities in a way that not only does a disservice to ourselves but to others – especially people who look up to us – we choose to be part of the problem
No one is perfect, and I do not write this to insist on a specific code of conduct but rather to recount that we are still in need of a broad one. Take writing for example. When I write either for my own personal therapy or for public consumption – I try to take into consideration that I have a responsibility to my audience. And while I insist that one has to write for one’s own self first, this doesn’t negate that I do keep in mind my social responsibilities simply as a human being. And while I have sometimes felt like I have failed both myself and the my audiences, I still aim to keep my writing – especially about culturally relevant topics – as level-headed, balanced, and thoughtful as possible. Because as a person and as a writer that has the privilege to have an audience, I owe the world a certain responsibility in what I communicate and how I communicate it.
So I’m bringing classy back. I want to be honest but without any need to be hurtful. I want to be kind without the expectation that it will be returned. I want to be useful in whatever capacities I work in simply as a matter of responsibility to those who I am with. I hope too, to take life less seriously – and to also laugh at it as sincerely as I do sarcastically. I already consider myself a “self-censored” person in terms of many conversations. I refuse to discuss certain things on the Internet and really among anybody but my closest friends and family, because I believe certain topics are in fact distasteful to divulge publicly. I hope to never ever ascribe to this falsehood this generation seems to perpetuate that everything one thinks or one does is worth sharing. It is not.
We need to have some kind of common sense in how we approach the way we live and the way we treat others. I suppose above all, even when someone vehemently disagrees with me, I still want to treat them with a certain dignity and respect and love – even when I challenge their positions. I wish to represent myself as much as I can in a way that is indicative of the kind of person I want to be, knowing full-well that I am a complex individual, as we all are. This to me is what class is all about and it is severely escaping society – in real life and certainly on the internet. So if you’ll join me in this classy movement; here’s what I think could be our manifesto:
Class never runs scared. It is sure-footed and confident, and it can handle whatever comes along. Class has a sense of humor. It knows that a good laugh is the best lubricant for oiling the machinery of human relations. Class never makes excuses. It takes its lumps and learns from mistakes. Class knows that good manners are nothing more than a series of small sacrifices and minor inconveniences. Class bespeaks an aristocracy unrelated to ancestors or money. Some extremely wealthy people have no class at all, while others who are struggling to make ends meet are loaded with it. Class is real. You can’t fake it. Class is comfortable in its own skin. It never puts on airs. Class never tries to build itself up by tearing others down. Class is already up and need not attempt to look better by making others look worse. Class can walk with kings and keep its virtue and talk with crowds and keep the common touch. Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class because he is comfortable with himself. If you have class, you’ve got it made. If you don’t have class, no matter what else you have, it won’t make up for it. – Esther Pauline Friedman
So, who wants to bring classy back with me?