Sunday, August 14, 2011

You're Not That Special

When I was in elementary school I remember having several concepts drilled into my head that I thought then and still contend now are utter bullshit. One of them was the concept that no one's opinion is wrong; which is something that is just senseless. The two that have pissed me off the most over the years are: 1)everyone is unique and 2)everyone is special in their own way. Seriously? Don't get it wrong, teaching children tolerance and inclusion is something that I wholeheartedly agree with. What I don't agree with is the way this sort of preemptive apology for mediocrity and idiocy has become par for the course in society these days.

This disease isn't the creation of the schools of this country,in fact, it probably started at home. We all grew up with those kids who were flawless in their parents eyes. The kid who would hit you in the face with a G.I. Joe and his mom would complain to your mom about what a bad kid you were when you beat the shit outta him. That child was the product of his parents constantly telling him how great he was. He was their precious little snowflake (©Fark) and although everyone in your neighborhood considered him an insufferable asshole at the age of six, they praised him at every step along the way. He never learned to be a good person because he was rewarded for being a fuckwad. If he was getting low grades, it was the teacher's fault. If he didn't play in the little league game, the coach was an asshole. If you beat his ass for being a little fucker, you were an out of control miscreant who needed better home training. He was never at fault.

When this little assbag went to school, nothing changed. He learned at home that a halfhearted apology and a little ass kissing made all the trouble go away. He also had his home teaching reaffirmed: he was special. His mom told him he was special and now his teachers all said he was special so he began to act like he was special. Never mind that the teachers said that we were all special (we'll get to this in a second); they were really only talking about him.

Now that kid is a 30 year old man. Every time something doesn't go his way it's "fuckin' bullshit, man". You can tell who the women are who don't laugh at his lame jokes or fawn over him because he'll explain to you that she's "just a bitch". He's the guy who does the least work and gets the most praise because he plays the game and kisses the boss's ass instead of working hard like the rest of us. This is all because he's been told the same thing since he was a newborn: you're special.

Let's just skim the the surface of the ludicrous nature of telling children that everyone is special. How does that make sense? If everyone is special, doesn't that just make us all normal? How can a superlative that is supposed to differentiate between the mundane and the exceptional be applied to everything? It would be like calling every athlete the greatest of all time. You can't possibly have something be special if there is not a normative level of achievement by which to measure and differentiate between. None of that stopped millions of parents and thousands of teachers from spewing this nonsense into children's heads for the better part of three decades.

We have a society full of "special, unique" people now. Everyone has to be handled with kid gloves so as to not offend their special nature. There is no personal accountability because no one is ever wrong. We've morphed the concept of respect into this Frankenstein of mindless phrases and actions because that is what has become socially acceptable to the special people of our society. I can do what I want when I want because I'm unique and special and you have to respect that. By the way "you have to respect that" translates to "give me my way" in special. You can thank our Baby Boomer parents and their entitlement issues for that one.

Most people aren't close to special. Hell, most people aren't even unique; just walk out your front door and count the multitude of same looking, same acting, same talking people in just your neighborhood. It amazes me that we preach individuality to our citizenry while bemoan anything that doesn't conform to convention as being "weird". If you don't dress the same way, like the same things, parrot the same ideologies, and enjoy the same entertainment that the vast majority does then you are boxed off into a little island of odd. So, different is bad and conformity is good as long as you conform to one of the three or four socially acceptable groups that allow you just enough difference to be just like everyone else. How exactly does special fit into that?

Every person you know has a long list of flaws and imperfections that they carry with them every day, but that doesn't mean we have to celebrate those imperfections. Ghandi was special. Martin Luther King,Jr was special. Albert Einstein was special. The guy who cures cancer will be special. There is a reason we can name those people out of the billions on Earth and the countless number of people who've come before us while most people on your street don't know your name. That is what makes special "special".

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