Keeping some of the culture at bay

Decreased Cultural Pollution

Modern American culture is not family friendly. It is loud. It is intrusive. Its eye is always on your pocketbook (which can be a good thing for the jobs sector but isn’t always a good thing for children). It pulls parents and children apart.

At school children are introduced to the competitive consumer culture through choice of clothing, transportation or amenities. The Jones children set the standard by wearing the latest clothing, carrying a lunchbox with the current crop of cartoon heroes emblazoned on the side, and getting picked up from school in the current year’s model of car. The non- Jones parents are asked by their children for this, that, or the other Jones-thing so they can keep up with their peers and not feel inferior.

Few children know of Eleanor Roosevelt’s opinion that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. More children know that if they don’t have the latest gizmo that some of their peers do find them inferior. Children express their individuality by conforming to the ideas of their friends. They all follow dance of merchandisers who peddle whatever the corporations are selling . . . this year.

Before yesterday your child may not have known about the existence of [insert latest fad: Micky Mouse ears, hula hoops, Barbie, Transformers, Pong, Pac Man, Cabbage Patch dolls, Care Bears, He-Man, Elmo or Beanie Babies]. Today she can’t live without it. Granted, these items add interest to the tapestry of our lives, but a cloth made of novelty threads, metallic fibers and spandex does not make for a fabric able to withstand the extremes of blizzard or scorcher, drought or flood. Our common culture sells pizzaz instead of steadfastness, style instead of substance, and cotton-candy pleasure instead of the warm strength of a parent’s embrace.

People are social creatures, and we all conform to our society’s preferences to one degree or another. Very few of us would walk into a department store tricked out like Elizabeth I who was the style setter of 16th century England. [2008 comment:  consider the common-culture reaction to the women’s dress from the Yearning for Zion ranch]  And no matter how beautiful kimonos are, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone wearing one into a fast food restaurant in Middle America unless it’s Hallowe’en. But the degree that our children are targeted with a hard sell that is reinforced in a mandatory laboratory of social inculcation — school — is difficult for even the trendiest parent to accept. One need only spend time in a grocery-store checkout line watching a parent contend with a child begging, “Please, Mommy. I’ll never ask for anything else ever again.”

Culture is bigger than children, bigger than parents, bigger than families. For the most part in America, only people such as the Old-Order Amish have kept mass culture at bay. Regardless of whether you send your child to school in Hollywood or if you homeschool in the back of beyond, culture is going to ‘win’ one way or the other. In the back of beyond, though, at least you get equal time with it.


Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

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