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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The good old days

So I wrapped up a story today I've been working on about NFL legend, actor, and educator Jim Brown.

To finish things we had a long conversation about the state of the life in the U.S. of A.

I won't give away too much, 'cause when the story runs in a week or so you guys can read the whole thing at The Miami Herald.

But I will say this: at one point in the conversation we began talking about "young folks." It was a little ironic, considering he is 70, and I'm a little less than half that.

But what we did was raise a rhetorical question: Why don't youngsters have any humility anymore?

Big Daddy, I know you're gonna tell me that I'm being too old-fashioned and uptight for even asking, because we were all a little cocky when we were teenagers.

But I'm not talking subservient attitudes. I mean back in the day when we'd be talking smack in a group and a senior citizen would walk by. It was like the gray hair and wrinkles triggered temporary good sense in us and made us bite our tongues until they had passed. Same goes for our posture. We stood up straighter when an old person or a woman walked by, even if it lasted only a second and we slouched again as soon as they had passed. If an adult - the exception being everybody's drunk Uncle Willie - asked us something, we may have been seething and sulking inside but we answered with a straight least until they walked away. Kids are cockier now. And no one's gonna convince me it's 'cause life is worse for 'em than it was for us 20-, 30-, 40-, and 50-somethings. I also don't necessarily believe it's 'cause they have more legitimate reason to be cocky. So your average teenager can set up a set up electronic devices and download cooler ring tones. So what?

I thought about this rhetorical question as I sat and waited for my train ride home this evening. after watching a group of teenagers laugh boisterously at an old man who staggered and nearly fell. The same group was cussin' up a storm as a woman who could've been any one of their mothers approached and stood near them on the platform. You think they piped down or got bashful about their language around her? Not for a second. A janitor trying to sweep the platform asked the boys if they could help him out by letting him sweep where they stood. They stared him down till he hung his head and slinked away.

We messed w/people when I was a teenager. But there was a time. Maybe not always a place. But we knew when to turn off the attitude.

I'm getting old.


  • Think it's bad now? I predict within twenty years older folks will cross the street rather than to cross the path of a teenager because the gap will have grown so unmanageable. This is the first generation where today's youth may not have it better than Mom and Dad. Next generation's kids will see only rich old grandparents yet feel they themselves've got nada. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 10:13 PM  

  • maybe I'm getting old too...but I think it has to be taught-my mom could get us to behave by just giving us "the look." She didn't let us do whatever we wanted and we had to be home by a certain time. It's not the only thing, but I think it certainly counts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:19 AM  

  • I whole heartedly agree. Today's youth has no cooth! (hey, that rhymed!)

    I've always respected my elders. If I didn't, I'd get my ass whooped by my Dad if he found out something I'd done, or said.

    I do my very best to instill that in my child as well. Instead, our kids watch MTV and ape the disrespectful stuff they see and hear there.

    Sad really.

    By Anonymous tony, at 7:35 AM  

  • if you can't be nice to a janitor, you need a beating (preferably with a pocket book)....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:41 AM  

  • Hmm. That's a pretty good observation. I think it might have a little bit to do with the increased glorification of bravado and civil disobedience. I mean, when I was growing up, we were watching shows like Family Ties and Diff'rent Strokes. Now it's the Simpsons and Jackass. It's the MTV effect.

    By Blogger The Dummy, at 12:17 PM  

  • I always get a little nervous chiming in about the good old days and how different people were back then. I remember an old eccentric from my hometown that talked endlessly about the youth of the day and how disrespectful they had become. He's been dead about 40 years now and he was talking about the boomers at the time. I think his exact words were "Dang long haired hippies. They aught a be lined up against a wall and shot".
    I'm just saying, you know.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 12:50 PM  

  • Matt, can I put a horseshoe in my pocketbook?? :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:14 PM  

  • I prefer putting large oranges or grapefruit in my backpack. That makes a good beatdown tool and doesn't leave scars.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:20 PM  

  • JB, I'm going to agree with you that these young jit's show no respect. I'll also agree that we used to show a little. But you must admit that it's hard for young 'uns to act right when their folks constantly gripe about acting polite and curse out someone (i.e. a teacher) who tries to guide their youngster. We have the end result of the distrust and disrepect to authority that the baby boomers preached in the 60's. Everyone is as discredited as Nixon and no one deserves respect. I think these former counterculturalists turned Unitarians are finding out that means you too, chump. I like the anti-establishment rhetoric but must admit that getting sassed at Mickey D's by a social and scholastic moron is trying.

    So our options are taking back the nights by installing a controllable badass to run street traffic or giving all these young thugs a get into jail free card. We should just cut the middle man and make prison time mandatory for American young 'uns like military time is for Israeli citizens. We couldn't spend any more money for anything more wasteful than we have right now.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 4:30 PM  

  • This started long before MTV... Think Dr. Spock.

    Parents can't even reprimand their kids anymore for fear of being "reported".

    My mom was a look giver too and let me tell you that was all it took. It has to be learned at home. Respect, morals and values are taught. But how can parents teach their children when they barely get 3 hours a day with them. I see parents drop sleepy kids off at 7 AM only to pick them up at 7 PM and put them to bed shortly thereafter. Parents feel guilty and let their kids get away with more.

    So who is left to parent when a parent isn't around to do the job? Teachers? They barely get paid enough to show up for work.

    It's incredibly sad. I agree with Big Daddy, there has to be something in place to pick up where parents leave off (or left out) like mandatory community service in order to move on to the next grade level in high school and then finally so many credits in that area in order to graduate.

    Just a thought...

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 3:19 AM  

  • JB:

    Interesting observation and one that I seem to notice myself as well sometimes. My first thought is that our elders I am sure probably thought the same things about us at times. The difference probably isn't as great as we would like to think it is. That said, it probably isn't nearly as small as the younger generation thinks it is either. Look forward to the Jim Brown interview.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:42 AM  

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