The biggest point he hits, towards the end of the article (aside from what my buddy Mike, who sent me the article, says is the best term he's ever heard to describe low lives; Feral Humans), is that at the root of the problem is that we have no Ethos.
Joseph Campbell, who was the world's authority on comparative religion, not only explained but showed, that every religion across the Earth, EVER, was essentially exactly the same, teaching the same exact lessons. And those lessons were taught through bible stories and mythology, ritual dance and so on. The point of all of it was to teach us how to be adults, and how to get by in a tough world when our mentors were no longer here to guide us.
25 years ago, in a television interview which later became the book "The Power of Myth", Campbell stated that the problem we have is that "We have no Ethos, or way of doing things" and the closest thing we have to mythology are movies and comic books. If you read this blog on a regular basis you know what trash most movies are these days.
I had read "The Power of Myth" just before the ex took off on me in the middle of the night, and that book probably saved my life. But beyond that, that was the book that started me on my spiritual and psychological journey towards Personal Performance Consulting (yeah, I like that!) But that term, Ethos, the way we do things, stuck with me, ringing in my head over and over again over the years.
John Wayne was once the ideal of what it was to be an American man. As the story goes, he was such a symbol of what it was to be American that Jospeh Stalin actually sent the KGB to assinate him, figuring his death would be a crushing blow to American morale. He escaped Soviet agents.... twice. I had never met my mother's father, but between my parents and my uncles I was surrounded by John Wayne so much that until I was about 7 years old I actually thought he was my grandfather. That goes a long way towards explaining why I have the attitude that I do in regards to what it is to be a man, like generations of Americans before me, I thought that was how it was done, he was my example.
But John Wayne famously said that "A man's got to have a code, something to live by" speaking about the importance of having personal standards to hold oneself to. And it doesn't take much more than sitting through five minutes of MTV to see that those standards simply don't exist anymore. We have no standards. We hold ourselves up to nothing.
Just like with Joseph Campbell, I tend to bring up Anthony Robbins quite often. Simply, they know what they're talking about. In his book Unlimited Power, Robbins talks about the 7 essential character traits that every person needs in order to be successful at anything in life. One of those is value, and by that he means a list of things that are most important to you. But when you ask people to make that list of these things, more often than not the way that they live their lives is directly in conflict with what's most important to them. For instance, a woman may state that the most important thing to her is a loving home and family, yet when she dates, the men she chooses aren't the type you can settle down with. And then we wonder why we're so unhappy.
And until recently I had been doing the exact same thing without realizing it. I wasn't holding myself up to my own standards, which I thought were pretty lofty. As it turns out, that's not the case at all; it's that others have none at all. Or the ones that they have are twisted.
But if you think it's bad in England where they're having hoodlums riot, it's far worse over here. Someone I used to know, who's actually from England, was talking about how they wanted to see the upcoming film Immortals. The film is based on Greek Mythology, which is still taught in schools over there. This person couldn't believe it when I told them that they haven't taught that in schools in the US in my lifetime. Of course, this same person, who is a talented artist, later tried to put me down based on what I currently do for a living because their career as a graphic designer was more "professional" than my pushing papers.
The picture that you see above you was taken from the board of my classroom from the very first lesson that I had ever given as an English teacher. If you can read what's on the picture, I had on the board The Knight's Code, an ideal of chivalry taken from a distant past that speaks to how nobel folks are expected to act. This was the standard that I expected my students to uphold in my classroom, and I hoped that it would somehow carry over into the rest of their lives.
When I walked into that classroom most of my students reading and writing comprehension scores were in the 30%. They were keeping up with the Kardashians, could tell you everything about them, people that are famous for exactly.... shit, I don't know, but never saw old Rod Serling Twilight Zone episodes, never saw Casablanca, the greatest love story ever told. The kids could tell you everything about the Jersey Shore, but couldn't write a paragraph describing what they did the night before. The girls would sing all the lines to whatever new hip-hop song they were into, but didn't understand the lyrics enough to see that the singer was actually calling the very same girls listening to the song whores, or understand enough to know that if you walk through the streets projecting that image, then that's exactly what people will think of you, and eventually exactly what you would become. And we aren't even talking about inner city kids here, these were white kids from good families.
So I broke them down and showed them the better parts of life, or trIed to. I had them read Poe, O'Henry and others, forced them to show me that they understood what they were reading, find the deeper meaning in what's out there (Incidentally, we only use 30% of the vocabulary that Poe used in the 1840's. We literally are 70% stupider). When I left that classroom only 1 student was reading and writing below the 60%, and he didn't do a damn thing all year. I made 21K that year to do so, the lowest salary I had brought home since my first job at 20 years old.
As a reward for my work, the principal threatened to sue me twice, once over a matter of another male teacher allowing his 13 year old female students to lay across his desk in their skirts at lunch time without other adults present. And I was told that I couldn't handle the students. I vowed never to teach again.
My point in telling that story is to illustrate how screwed we really are. Even when we see the issues at hand we're not allowed to do anything about it. We're not allowed set those standards we lack and teach or expect others to follow them. And should we try, we're the ones examples are made of, in all the wrong ways possible.
Which brings us back to the Brit. While this person does have a professional job, and is talented, how many business logo's would they have to design in order to match the impact that I had by teaching even one of my students HOW TO READ? How many marketing flyers are required to have the same effect of even one of these kids taking that Knights Code to heart and actually becoming a better person in life?
Yet socially, the way people look at things these days, the Brit is exactly right, they're a professional and I'm a broken puke and a loser. What makes the difference is how much money you make and how cool other people with no standards who can barely read think your work is. So even when we do attempt to uphold standards, even when we follow an Ethos, a way of doing things, what standards are they we're living up to? Is the way we do things these days even close to they way they SHOULD be done?
It doesn't matter. And do you know why?
Cause Snooki want smoosh smoosh!
And THAT is why we're all screwed!