Monday, November 26, 2007

the yapping point

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell defines the "tipping point" as "that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once." This blog entry is not about the tipping point. However, it is about a similar phenomenon that I have encountered, and I'm going to call it the yapping point. Allow me to explain.

Every so often, I'll be with friends--typically guy friends--and someone will open a bottle of rancid milk or something similar and he (or, sometimes, she) will say, "Oh my god. That's disgusting. Smell that." Now, you have no doubt made note of the irony here--if it's so noteworthily disgusting, why would you impose that odor on someone else? But here's the thing--everybody makes this observation. In fact, they make it so often that I dread hearing someone suggest that a friend "smell that" for that very reason. This is the yapping point. It's the point at which the public outcry against some contemptuous individual or idea becomes more contemptuous that the individual or the idea itself. Britney Spears is another great example. I don't think I particularly like Britney Spears; she seems sort of insane. But I'm beginning to outright loathe all of the magazines/telelvision "news" shows/etc. that make it their job to constantly point out how insane she is. Britney has reached the yapping point.

I bring this up because this morning I had a radio station on--I think it was AM 620 out of Milwaukee. For those of you don't listen to talk radio, that station is conservative to the point of absurdity--a host named Charlie Sykes is the most egregious offender. And they had a guy on talking about his new book, the thesis of which seems to be something like this: We are making the current generation of children soft by trying too hard to make them feel good about themselves. This is a concept that has, without a doubt, reached the yapping point.

Now, this doesn't mean that I disagree with the sentiment, at least not entirely. I do think that there are examples of our culture coddling our children a bit much. I do not, for example, like the idea that every kid gets a trophy just for playing Little League baseball. However, those examples are rare, as are virtually all examples of crazy behavior. But guys like this one (and I wish I had listened long enough to catch his name) seem convinced that this sort of behavior is rampant. I am quite certain that it's not. I teach high school, and I am sure that I hear people complain about how soft our kids are getting much more often than I see examples of actual softness in these kids. But I suppose that he wouldn't sell many books under the premise that this stuff barely happens at all--he needs it to be a national epidemic, so for the purposes of his book, it is.

At any rate, I am here to tell you that most kids are fine. Some are strange, some are socially awkward, and some smell like rancid milk, but those instances are rare, just like the instances of coddling that this guy is in a tizzy over. And that's why I'm more sick of him than I am of those rare instances, and that's why this idea has reached its yapping point.

Later gators.

1 comment:

Claire said...

This is mostly unrelated, but your mention of kids who smell like rancid milk made me think of Jane (I think it was Jane)'s story about the kid who vomited inside his t-shirt and tried to hide it. A disgusting aside, but I'm practically in tears laughing about it here at my desk, so I had to share.