Freedom and Standards. I believe adamantly in both! My belief in freedom trumps my belief in standards, but what some people consider freedoms trample all over the standards of others. Freedom is often balanced with standards to prevent chaos, sustain decency and present targets/goals to achieve.
I very much believe in personal freedom when no harm is caused to others, an ideal that anyone with common sense believes. However, we sometimes allow objectionable activity to go too far without objection. When we are silent about those things, they breed an aura of acceptance which isn’t really there.
One example is foul and misogynistic language in music to which children and adolescents have access. I would never advocate a law against free speech in music. This is not about government involvement, this is about everyday people protecting a decent society. If enough people speak up against the foul use of language in music, not to ban it, but to deplore it, to not buy it, then kids may not get the idea that it is okay to talk and think like this. But we often remain silent. I have an example where I, myself, have kept quiet in a situation I don’t care for. I have not yet said anything for fear of being ostracized.
I belong to a social media network of dads. These are great guys! Very responsible men who value their children and families. What many of them do, quite often, that makes me uncomfortable is the casual use of the disgusting f-word. It seems very acceptable to this group to toss various revolting forms of this word around, even in their various blogs. Now I’m not prudish about swearing. When close friends are together, maybe watching a game or in a locker room, say anything you want if no one cares. Social media is just not an appropriate venue!
We have a responsibility, to those we care for, to speak up respectfully to save those standards we think are important to all of us. What we say, and how we say things, our appearance, and how we treat others, simply matter! To think otherwise is naïve.
Some rules to consider before speaking up:
- Think before you speak!
- Standards are different in different cultures and societies. Their standards should be respected.
- Keep your comments only for people close to you, unless the alleged offenders directly impact you or your family.
- Your comments should be about positive advice, not negative complaints.
- Be courteous and sensitive to others’ viewpoints and rights.
- Have some skin in the game. e.g. don’t complain about the quality of ice in igloos if you’re not an Eskimo.
- You can’t be a loon! (You have to have some credibility)
- When you speak up, speak rationally.
- Expect blow-back! What is unacceptable to you will be acceptable to someone. But the conversation is valuable to both sides.
I read some banter a few weeks ago, about a principal who wanted to enforce a dress code for parents when they came to school. This was to set an example for their children, who often dressed inappropriately. Well, most commenters were aghast that the principle should try to tell them how to dress - and I agree. They shouldn’t be told, nor should they have to be told how to dress when coming to school.
It was more of a plea, in my mind, to have the parents think about how they are dressing, to set a higher standard. When men wear sleeveless T-shirts or women wear see-through blouses to their children’s school, and no one in the school says anything about it, then it becomes okay and the practice continues. In my mind, the way you present yourself to the school presents an image of your standards. If no one is offended then dads, wearing sleeveless T-shirts in school, is not a problem. It’s all about standards we agree on. My standard would be to dress as if I had an informal business meeting. I could be in the minority but others would have to speak up for me to know that. (Note: Yes, I realize some parents dress a certain way for work and may not have a chance to change – this is not about them.)
The longer you accept something which is against your values, the more you will have your values stepped upon. It doesn’t take a rant to speak up, just a measured response.
Our language is polluted by slang and shortcuts that our culture now accepts. I remember as a kid hearing racially charged words that would still be with us today if people hadn’t started speaking up. Some men and women wear pajama bottoms to the store. Is this a bad thing to do? No, it’s not bad, but it is in bad taste. I don’t want to see it! It may not be appropriate for strangers to say anything to these people, and they shouldn’t, but their spouse, kid, neighbor, friend, or mentor should give them some advice. To be sloppy in dress, manners, or behavior is a bad reflection on yourself, and your respect for others when you are out in public.
If you are wrong when you speak up, which could well be, at least you participated in the discussion and you should not be condemned for it. For instance, if an older person comments that you shouldn’t wear an American flag on your bottom, understand where they are coming from. The flag may have a totally different meaning to them in the world in which they grew up.
As is my case, one of the reasons we often don’t say anything is because we are afraid to be wrong, or afraid to be attacked. Bullies don’t have that problem and it is why they usually win the argument regarding appropriateness. The loudest almost always win. The rest of us can be lemmings and just go along, comfortable or not.
Foremost, I want us to keep our freedoms! But we should also have the freedom to live in a society with reasonable standards of success, decency and respect.
To those of you who disagree, speak up! But at least look at the rules first.