Affectations of Swagger

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The world is moving on, and I’m not sure I like the direction it’s going. Our culture, the ideals and tenants of proper behaviour, are being replaced by a new set of values. The ideas of courtesy, good nature, manners and common sense are being replaced by loud mouthed little shits in Ed Hardy t-shirts who seem to care for nothing and no one but themselves.

The idea of do unto others as I would have them do unto me has been replaced by do unto others as often and as ridiculously as I possibly can, and then hope I don’t get caught. 

Now, I am not one to stuff people in a box and make them into conformists: I wear t-shirts and jeans, and have an unhealthy devotion to “hair metal”, and if everyone were just like me the world would be fuck boring. I am of the firm opinion that people should be allowed to dress as they please, read what they want, listen to whatever strikes their fancy, and write the story that speaks to them. That being said, I’ve seen a kid with a purple mohawk three feet high hold the door open for an old lady, and clean cut businessmen drive over people and then flee so they can’t be held accountable. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie to be a good person, but you can’t spend your whole life being a douche bag.

 One of the worst places I’ve seen this is the gym (where I spend a good portion of my spare time). Young men stalk around, all carbon copies of one another,  their chins stuck in the air while they glare at nothing with sour expressions on their faces. They seem to think they need to fit into some kind of mold that requires they behave poorly and treat people with discourtesy. It seems that they are not satisfied with their lots in life unless they can bully someone into thinking they’re tough.

This attitude doesn’t seem to be innate, however, and if you catch one of these young men (or young women) in a room alone they have nothing to say. Without a mob mentality to guide them they don’t seem to have a personality of their own. They don’t have the depth of life or the strength of character to have any swagger of their own, they just seem to be borrowing it from some greater source that makes them into assholes. It is all just affectations and hot air. It doesn’t come from themselves, and it doesn’t mean anything.

Where does this rampant disease of poor behaviour and weakness of character come from, then? I’m really not sure. I’ve ranted before on this blog that reality television is largely to blame for the ills of the world, but can that band of misfits really be held to account for all these troubles? I’m not certain, to be perfectly honest, but I do know that a solution has to be sought.

And I think the solution can be found in a story.

Let me be clear that I am not talking about specific stories. I am not referring to morality tales that teach us right from wrong, and bend all our behaviour to a standard societal norm. Like I said before, a world full of people who are all the same would be awful (can you imagine if you had to wake up every day to a world full of people that all looked like me? We’d all kill ourselves from boredom!). What I think we need is more story, more tales, that allow kids – and some adults – to begin that most feared activity: Thinking.

When you read a book you are required – forced – to think. You have to deal with different points of view, different personalities, and different ideas that are not your own. Even if you don’t set out to do so, you cannot help but think about these things, and thinking is good for you.

In every book I’ve ever read, I’ve identified with one character in the story more than any other. As I grew, and read more, and started thinking about what I was reading, I took cues for my behaviour from the heros I identified with. I didn’t prescribe to any specific doctrine that was preached at me from the pages of a particular book, but I took the varied and eclectic points of view given to me by the storyteller and used it to start my thinking about the world around me. I really do believe that what I read when I was growing up helped make me into the man I am now, and I’m not completely disappointed when I look in the mirror.

I don’t think you should fill up a pillow-case with books and beat the shit out of the next mannerless prick you see. Neither am I saying that more reading and more stories would fix all of the worlds problems – If someone decides to read a book about mass murder and most identifies with the serial killer then we might have a problem. What I am saying is that if people read more, and thought more, then it might even us all out a little.

We, as storytellers, have a responsibility to give back a little. We have a duty to pay forward the thoughts and inspirations that made us who and what we are, and hope it reaches someone. Your story may have as simple a function as making someone think about one line they read in your writing, or it may be so grand that it changes their entire lives. It might just give them a smile and get them through a bad day, or it may pull them through the deepest crisis they have ever experienced in their lives. All of these effects, big and small, are equally important, equally valuable.

There is much that I see wrong with the world, and that is why I write. I write about the way I think things ought to be. I write about what I think matters. I write so that someone might read my story and take something from it, whether it be a chuckle or a different perspective on life.

It is up to us, the storytellers, to help the world move forward, but in a good direction.

I hope you’ve read this post and have had a couple thoughts of your own.

Thanks for reading.