When did it become cool to be crude?

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Styles, fashion, trends and culture are in a constant state of change. Nobody expects things to stay the same over the course of decades, that’s life. My father grew up in a far different world than his father did and I grew up in a much different place than both of them. The way people work and what people work at has undergone changes.  Likewise how we spend our free time away from our jobs have changed over the years.

New inventions, technology and discoveries in the sciences affect our lives. Styles of clothing, music, art and so many other aspects of culture and consumerism change with each passing year. We have grown to accept that cars will look different from year to year, just as we expect clothing, make-up and hairstyles to change with whatever the new fashion trends are at any given time.

“Change” by literal definition means to make or become different; to become new. There is nothing inherently negative about change. Change can be a good thing. It’s a good thing when you change the sheets on your bed, when you change your underwear, when you change the oil in your car. Changing your mind about something after you have considered all the facts demonstrates intelligence and flexibility in thinking.

Change in an uplifting, good way is the direction all sensible people should want to see in their society. Why change for the worse when you can change for the better? Sadly, too many areas in our modern world do not take the high road when it comes to change. Too much of the time when things change they don’t get better, they get worse.

Growing up I was taught not to use profanity, especially in public and never in the presence of girls or women. Now both sexes use profanity freely in all places and at all times. When did it become cool to use foul language all the time at any place?

What we used to call “dirty words” are now spoken everywhere, by everyone. Profanity is printed in books, magazines and of course on the internet. You hear it in the movies, on television and on radio. A person who used such language was considered to be low-class, vulgar or uneducated. It was thought that only longshoremen, sailors and thugs spoke crudely. When did it become cool to speak like a bum?

Having good manners and consideration for others has become a thing of the past for many of my fellow citizens. The very term “good citizenship” is actually a phrase of derision in our narcissistic culture of today. Asking a 20-something to show respect for his elders will result in snide giggles and smirks. The word “polite” in itself is archaic, an antiquated term belonging to another era, the fuddy-duddy time of holding a door open for a woman and giving up your seat for an elderly person. When did it become cool to be inconsiderate and selfish?

“Please” and “thank you” were once common terms of courtesy to others. You asked for something from someone and you said, “please.” When someone did something for you, the response was to say, “thank you.” Then in return, the other person would say, “you’re welcome.” These phrases are not heard as often as they once were. Chances are, if you say “thank you” to someone, you will sooner hear “no problem” then “you’re welcome.” “No problem” is not the same thing. When did it become cool to be ill mannered and boorish?

Going out in public once meant that you were well groomed, clean looking and nicely dressed. It demonstrated a pride in appearance and a respect for others. Not necessarily “all dressed up” but presentable, as they used to say. Hair combed, fingernails clean, clothes pressed, shoes shined. You know, well put together. Today? Well, you know what people look like today. When did it become cool to look like a slob?

Sometimes when I bemoan the lack of civility, the lack of manners and the general ugliness so prevalent in daily life today, someone will admonish me by saying, “Oh well, all things have to change.” Yes, they do. But so much of the time it is not always for the better.

Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.

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