The 7 Stupidest Things That Make People Proud
Some people pat themselves on the back for the strangest things. You know, people who think liking one band makes them a superior human being to someone who likes another band. Or people who think being able to copy and paste a quote from Douglas Adams into their signature makes them a profound thinker.
Or people who are proud of this kind of crap:
Not Liking Something Popular
There are some people who think proclaiming that Justin Bieber sucks is the freshest, most daring opinion since not liking sliced bread.
A lot of popular things suck, I'm not arguing with that. But there's no reason to be smug and pat yourself on the back for hating a popular thing, whether it sucks or not.
Outside of North Korea, everything popular has a huge backlash made up of people who genuinely don't like it and are put off by the hype, as well as anticonformist rebels who have to do the opposite of what the majority is doing, whatever it is. So your contrary opinion doesn't put you in an elite Clever People's Club, but probably numbers you among millions of like-minded folks.
In fact I think one of the eHarmony compatibility questions is about whether you hated this scene or not.
It's easy to see someone get lauded for ripping into some pop culture phenomenon and think that all it takes is a negative opinion and some swears for people to find your ranting fresh and compelling. People think that they can just say something like, "Twilight is full of fucking homo sissy vampires!" and others will be either scandalized or excited by their refreshing and clever truth-telling.
What they don't notice is that all the good ranters provide much more than just shouting "I DON'T LIKE IT" really loudly. A good ranter makes accurate, insightful observations the average person would have missed, like in the Plinkett Star Wars prequel reviews. Millions of people can (and do) whine about how the acting was wooden and how Jar Jar was awful, but only the Plinkett guys could point out specifics about how the movies didn't have a protagonist or that there was way too much dialogue about a trade dispute.
Plinkett also offered his viewers pizza rolls. That's called being considerate.
People didn't put a whole hour of time into watching their Episode 1 review just because Plinkett dared to insult Star Wars, but because they did it really well and pointed out things we never thought of or couldn't put into words. The average Phantom Menace-despising person has no reason to pat themselves on the back for making comments as incisive as "That line about sand was very bad!"
Even worse, what if you later find out you are wrong? Maybe the thing is actually pretty good and you misunderstood something or didn't get it. Ten years from now when you finally get it, you will want to put a bag over your head when you remember how proud you were.
After seven years of calling out the lies in Batman Begins, Calvin learns it was not a documentary.
I'm not saying you should feel bad in any way about hating Katy Perry or FarmVille -- those are valid and probably correct opinions. There's just no reason to be any more proud of it than there is to be proud of not sticking your finger in the electric socket this morning.
When you are a kid, in most cases the world is bright and sunny, mom and dad are the best, Santa Claus is real, nobody dies even in movies, etc. The next stage of life is when all these illusions start getting shattered. That wasn't really Mickey Mouse, that was just a Disney employee in a suit. Some of the other kids don't have a mom, or a dad, or are scared of them. The pony you got doesn't talk, it just eats and poops.
"Dad, I think this one's retarded."
So when you're an adolescent, you tend to think you have finally gotten to the bottom of things. For years you had been living a lie, but now this -- all these negative things, all these clouds behind silver linings -- this is the reality behind the facade. A mature, observant person (like you) is therefore someone who can see the negative (or "realistic") side of everything. Someone who sees positive things is clearly behind you, at the innocent child stage.
But life doesn't stop there. As you grow into an adult, you find out it's not a simple two-step process of positive illusion then negative reality, but more like the Frogurt routine from The Simpsons. When you're a kid, you think owning a puppy will be all sunshine and roses. Then as you get older and take responsibility, you realize it's a lot of poop and barking. But then, after a while, you find out all the poop and barking doesn't matter when he loves you just the same no matter what stupid mistakes you've made. Then you realize you didn't know how much it would hurt when you lost him. Then you get a free Frogurt from the vet. But then the Frogurt contains potassium benzoate.
There is no final answer. Observant, curious people keep finding out more and more about everything in life, both good and bad, because life is fucking complex. The person who stops at stage 2, decides they've figured out "the real story" and stops looking has their curiosity stunted at adolescence.
People pride themselves on being cynical because they think it makes them street-smart and sharp-eyed, able to see the truth behind everyone's bullshit. If it's a matter of being skeptical, and always thinking and asking questions, that's not a bad thing.
But a real wise person of the world keeps looking for all the angles -- curse or Frogurt, cloud or silver lining. They look for all sides of the story instead of assuming there are only two. Being proud that you are able to jump to a negative answer quickly -- that's just something most people figure out by turning 14.
Why not just be proud of turning 14? It's an achievement of sorts in a world full of reckless drivers and unattended table saws.
Not Being Shocked at Things
You see this everywhere. Someone posts a video of a child being run over by a bus, people respond with shock and horror at this awful thing and eventually some guy feels the need to tell everyone that it didn't faze him at all and he didn't even stop drinking his Mountain Dew. He totally sees worse things than that over on 4chan every day, but he totally understands why sheltered people like you might have weaker stomachs.
These are people who equate shock with weakness, visualizing a bunch of people who have to fan their faces and reach for their smelling salts. This kind of thing happens all the time, they think. If you delicate people have a fainting spell every time you see something mildly disturbing, why, you must be fainting all the time. How can you even function?
"We never should have let him watch that scene where Mufasa dies!"
Well, when we're talking about a child being beaten or killed, or dead bodies being defiled, that kind of thing should not happen all the time. Maybe it does, but the only way anything is going to get done about it is if people react with surprise and revulsion that someone would allow or accept this, or, in a word, are "shocked." Shock means you don't just calmly expect a child to be beaten on video with the same attitude you expect the bus every morning.
If you accept that this sort of thing just happens and your first thought is pride at not having reacted to it, you're not tough and worldly. You're a self-centered ass. You're thinking, "How does this make me feel?" while other people were thinking about what the person in the video was feeling.
I like to refer to this as "Trumpian" behavior.
Incidentally, people who are shocked can also be obnoxiously self-centered when most of their conversation is about how outraged and self-righteous they feel, getting on a soapbox and arguing heroically against imaginary people in their head who are defending the bad thing. What you're going for here, as a decent human being, is some kind of reaction that's about the person in trouble and not mostly about you.
I know people can't control how they feel, and some people really might feel nothing due to a variety of reasons, but it's not about the initial reaction, it's about whether they're going to walk into a discussion about another person's horrific incident and act like the most important thing they can contribute is to inform people how they themselves personally didn't react to it. I think it's safe to say someone who really needs to let you know that is an ass.
Offending/Confusing Other People
When I was an editor on my high school newspaper, I had an ongoing contest with the editor of the sports section as to how many people we could offend every month. See, like many teenagers, we were familiar with cases of people saying something controversial and stirring up a shitstorm. Sometimes these people were bravely speaking truth to power and their comments started a public dialogue on something important, and sometimes the media just pretended like that was the case.
Like when that guy made up a study about vaccines causing autism.
We totally bought into that and assumed that every time you offended a bunch of people, it was a sign that you'd really "hit a nerve" and said something that was difficult to hear, but important. You'd made people face some taboo they were afraid of.
This is the kind of thinking that makes people blurt out things like, "Adolf Hitler dead baby Lady Gaga rape anus Abu Ghraib menstrual blood" or create a LOLcat macro incorporating all those things or whatever. Then when people tell you it is gross or tasteless, you applaud yourself for really pushing people out of their comfort zone. If they got mad at you, it really showed you were right somehow, because you'd hit too close to home or something.
"I'll have you know my mother had an anus! You brought up some very painful memories!"
But seriously, it is not hard to offend people, and it doesn't take any skill. There is nothing narrow-minded about being offended by stupid and horrible things, or by simple rudeness. There's a push to make people ashamed of being offended by anything, as if it reflects on how delicate you are, as opposed to just having a sense of right and wrong. That's the only way you wouldn't be offended by things -- if you had no sense of right and wrong. Being offended is just a name for your response to wrong things.
Someone who offends you hasn't "got" you or "won." What they said, and why, matters. They don't get a free pass on being scrutinized on any of that just because they got a certain reaction.
If you say something truthful and important, be proud of that. You should be proud of doing the right thing, not of how many people it upsets.
Being Part of a Mob
As for this one, I just don't understand when going along with peer pressure turned into something to be proud of.
Take the Ocean Marketing fiasco. Some idiot PR person responded to a customer with a series of emails alternating between exaggerating his own self-importance and belittling the customer, which is the sort of thing you should only do in a rap. The customer forwarded the emails to Penny Arcade, which published them, causing the whole Internet to yell at the stupid PR guy.
Most of them metaphorically, by typing, but some of the older Internet users may have yelled literally.
Whether too many people yelled at him, whether they yelled at him too harshly, whether they should have left his wife and child out of this, whether he actually has a wife and child or whether he's lying about that, too, are all important questions that I don't really care about. Let's just suppose that all the yelling was totally right and nobody overstepped any bounds.
Even in that case, there is no reason for an individual yeller to have the attitude that she was really brave in yelling at him and standing up for the little guy, and that it is a good deed she should feel proud about. First of all, you just typed a message to some email someone else posted. You weren't exactly running guns for the French Resistance.
Apologies to any readers who actually did run guns for the French Resistance.
Secondly, thousands of people did that. Since these things tend to move by word of mouth, probably all the people in your peer group were doing it. People on your favorite forum or website, or your circle of friends. You're just doing what everyone around you is doing.
If they're doing the right thing, there's nothing to be ashamed of, but it's nothing to be especially proud of, either. It's like hating racism. It's totally right to hate it, but everyone sane hates racism these days, it's not a particularly outstanding virtue to brag about. It doesn't make you a hero, just a normal, decent person. You don't go around telling your friends, "I saw someone say the N-word today and I felt it was wrong!" and expect them to say, "Wow! Good for you!"
"It took some real courage for you not to beat up that woman with Down's syndrome!"
Sometimes doing the right thing is doing what the majority is doing. By all means, you should do it, but it's not hard or brave. If you're the only one doing the right thing, and you're getting flak for it, that's the time you get to feel a little proud of yourself.
I'm guilty of this myself. Sometimes I will shake my head condescendingly at kids these days with their Xboxes and 8 GB flash cards and feel the need to let them know that when I was a kid, I had an original Atari system and a computer that saved things on cassette tape.
I wonder if my dad bought it because of this Bill Cosby ad?
Then I catch myself and wonder why I think it is such a badge of honor to have used slow, primitive computing equipment. It's not like I invented the Atari, I just happened to exist as a child at the same time it was sold. I'm basically being proud that my parents happened to have sex 20 years before this kid's parents had sex, which is really more something for my parents to be proud of, if anyone.
You can kind of see that feeling among some people who ask what's so great about Lady Gaga, saying you basically can get the same product (attention-mongerer with weird clothes) with Madonna. Maybe one of them is better or more original than the other one, I don't know. I'm not a music person. But even if she is, there's no reason to be proud that you were alive when Madonna wore cone-shaped bras. Saying she is better is one thing, but acting like it reflects on you somehow is kind of weird. It isn't like you had any control over the year of your birth, unless you are the avatar of a deity, in which case you have better things to brag about than Madonna.
Like that kickin' shade of blue your skin is.
People are the same way about sports. "LeBron, ShmeBron. When I was a kid, a guy named Michael Jordan was playing. Heard of him? Back in my day we had real superstars." Sometimes we drift into phrasing things like this golden era of sports was caused by us existing simultaneously. Like the moment I turned 8, God caused Michael Jordan to enter the NBA draft so I could enjoy basketball. But it's silly to dismiss LeBron's obvious talent just because Michael Jordan's career coincided with your childhood. We should dismiss LeBron's talent for the right reasons -- because he is a jerk.
Not Falling for Something That Nobody Is Falling For
It's 2012, so we're starting to get a lot of annoying people talking about whether the Mayan apocalypse could happen, and even more annoying people seriously debunking the first people.
Usually some gullible person floats the idea that maybe it could happen, and while most people sort of treat him the same way as someone who is wondering how Santa gets to all those houses in one night, there are inevitably a bunch of people who lay out some massive, detailed 10-point rebuttal explaining how the Mayan calendar might be miscalculated, linking evidence from anthropologists and present-day Mayans about what their actual end-of-calendar beliefs are and laying out a step-by-step logical argument based on how our calendar works. Then they wrap it up with something along the lines of, "Bam! Q.E.D., bitch!" as if they just proved Fermat's Last Theorem or the existence of God.
Yeah, I know some guy "proved" it in 1994, but it was 100 pages, who is going to read that?
First of all, these people are not usually very smart. Being proud of demolishing their "arguments" is sort of like being proud of dunking on an infant. It's not really your finest moment.
Secondly, by making a serious argument about what the Mayans really meant, you're basically admitting that the Mayans can tell the future. Because what they say about the end of the world only matters if you agree they know how the world will end. If you don't believe Mayans actually possess magic, there is no reason to argue with people about how their magic works.
If someone is trying to prove to you that their phoenix feather wand would be more powerful than a dragon heartstring wand, are you going to argue about how hard it would be to put a feather inside a wand, or are you going to tell them that Harry Potter is a fictional book series?
This is why shelving books correctly is so important.
So as I've mentioned a few times, a lot of these things aren't bad things at all. Disbelieving Mayan apocalypse theories, hating Twilight and remembering Atari games fondly are all things I recommend. But so is showering regularly, and you don't get a medal for that. If you want to feel proud of yourself, go with the old staples. Do something difficult and extraordinary or help someone out. Earn those "attaboys."
For more from Christina, check out 8 Stupid Amazon Products With Impressively Sarcastic Reviews and 5 Reasons Why Anticonformity Is Worse Than Conformity.