Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Nickname Is "Mr. Attitude"

People should somehow be penalized for giving themselves stupid, self-congratulatory nicknames. The fact is, nicknames ought to be issued by others, preferably friends or family members, and should generally be concise and neither too flattering nor too demeaning. "Kitten Killer", for instance, isn't much of a nickname. "Saintly Altruist" represents another misfire. From Shaquille O'Neal deciding many years ago he was "The Big Aristotle" to Bill O'Reilly dubbing himself "T-Warrior", the trend of Self-Nicknaming has gotten completely out of hand. Let's have no more of it, except among rappers. Not that some MCs don't go overboard with their handles, but who wants to hear "Mama Said Knock You Out" by James Todd Smith when it's supposed to be LL Cool J?

It appears adulthood has become a thing of the past, if it ever existed at all. But not only does adulthood seem to be dead, the terminal childhood from which many grown people suffer is a warped and crippled variety, endowed with plenty of petulant sneering and cruelty but not much wonder or joy. The workplace often serves as an extension of high school—same small-minded rivalries, same backbiting and jealousy, same explosive mix of people preoccupied with individual agendas. Unfortunately, work doesn’t seem to have very good teachers. Perhaps the instructors we had in high school were just as dreadful, but we were too young and foolish to notice.

Of course, it could be I’m just hanging about in the wrong clique. It isn’t merely that a lot of what I hear is negative, but that people really do not know how to gripe! So many seem to have a crucifixion complex, obsessed with the idea that they have been singled out for persecution by someone, somewhere, for reasons not entirely understood. I’m not against griping—I’M DOING IT RIGHT NOW—but is it too much to ask that our incessant moaning at least occasionally become amusing, whimsical, self-deprecating?

What bothers me more than anything is the current love affair with humiliation and confrontation. This is not because confrontation is inevitably a bad idea nor to suggest there are not occasions when we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for dealing with a serious problem head on rather than cowering to avoid conflict. On the other hand, I don’t need to hear about how you told off the six dollar an hour server at Applebee’s because you asked for French dressing and not Thousand Island. Why get all self-congratulatory for browbeating an underpaid lackey? Is this how you validate your ego? What about referees at sporting events? Do you heckle them as well? How about at youth sporting events? Even more impressive.

The humiliation angle troubles me even more. I realize some people probably deserve to be humiliated, but I’m more concerned about those of us turning into vultures perching on a dead tree just waiting for someone to embarrass. If you are a frequent, or even infrequent, viewer of reality television, you have almost certainly observed this syndrome. People watch programs to see which “contestant” is going to be singled out, shown up, and sent packing. And then you’re happy because you didn’t like his haircut, or the way she dressed, or her “attitude.” Can we get rid of that last word altogether? It’s so overused I don’t even know what it means anymore. I have seen people humiliated enough. Maybe many of them have it coming, but I don’t think it’s anything to be happy about. If you can’t get your jollies any other way, perhaps you are the one who needs to re-examine your own… well, how about “outlook”?


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