I was thinking about social angst amongst high school kids this morning. Thinking about bullying, cliques, social outcasting and the various miseries that seem to increasingly be part and parcel of the high school experience. It seems to me that there have been a number of Hollywood movies villainizing the so called "cool kids" in high school who, let's face it, are usually the source of the aforementioned miseries. Off the top of my head I can think of "The Heathers" and more recently "Mean Girls" and I know there must be more. Also the TV show "Glee" jumps to mind. I admit, I have never seen an episode (far too busy watching The Office) but from what I understand from the bits and pieces I have caught, Glee also villainizes the "cool kids" and makes heroes of the social outcasts. The problem is that whenever "cool kids" are villainized in popular culture, they are portrayed in such an exaggerated, over-the-top way, really more of a caricature than anything else so no one winds up identifying with them. I wonder how effective it would be to make a Hollywood movie about bullying or social outcasting by the "cool kids" where the "cool kids" were displayed in a realistic, believable manner. Portrayed in such a way that actual, real-life tween, and teens who are in the popular crowd might actually identify with the characters and see similarities to themselves. Then if the movie was intelligently written and had decent plot and character development and if the pain felt by the less cool victims was sensitively portrayed - perhaps this would be more effective in preventing high school miseries than public service announcements and after school specials etc. etc. It's probably not that simple is it?
Anyhow that train of thought (which was moving at about 13 km/hour this morning - great run this morning!) got me thinking that as adults, no one ever ADMITS to having been in with the popular crowd in high school. The standard comment I always hear when the topic comes up is along the lines of: I hated those kids, they were idiots, I was totally uncool, I was an outcast - the inference being "and I succeded, I turned out great! suck on that!". As an adult no one ever identifies with having been in the popular crowd. Could it be that no one wants to admit it? Maybe. But I wonder if what is really going on is that the popular kids never existed in the first place. In the sense that, maybe no one really ever felt like a popular kid. Maybe everyone felt anxious and insecure and always on the verge of being publicly humiliated or outcast so that even individuals whom the majority of the class would agree were popular, didn't actually experience it that way.
I don't know if this is coherent or not but let me try to approach it from a different angle. Just like I have never met an adult who, once upon a time, was a popular kid in high school, I have never met a person who will admit to being an average or below average driver. Everyone and their cousin all rate themselves as above average drivers! Yet daily experience on the road clearly indicates otherwise. Not to mention, of course, it is mathematically impossible for the vast majority of people in the population to be an above average driver. Unless, I suppose, there are HUGE outliers at the "bad driving" end of the scale. So no one thinks they are a below average driver yet we constantly see examples of egregiously bad driving on the road, where is the disconnect? No one identifies with being a bad driver because amidst the backdrop of all the chaotically bad driving out there people do not perceive their driving gaffs to be particularly significant. The omnipresent bad driving in almost every North American city is the sum of infrequent mistakes on the part of most drivers, moments of inattention, lack of consideration or impatience on the part of most drivers. And so in making a little mistake, accidentally cutting someone off once, not letting someone in once, following too closely (by far the most common BAD DRIVING), a person becomes, de-facto, average or below.
Which leads me to assholes. I don't believe that assholes exist. Or, at the very least, I don`t believe that they are as common as most people believe. Let's take me as an example. I would very much like to believe I am not an asshole. In fact, let me go so far as to state straight out that I am not an asshole. Yet, last Saturday morning found me waiting for the bus. It was early in the morning and there was hardly anyone out and about. My calves were cripplingly tight and I managed to get into a deep, almost orgasmic stretch against a bus shelter. I was occupying most of the sidewalk but like I said, almost no one was around. Then along comes this man down the sidewalk. I did not want to break my stretch because it felt oh... so.... good. So I half assumed/half hoped without checking that there was still room for him to get by me or secretly I hoped he would step into the street to go around me. Instead, he stopped next to me and said, itchy with sarcasm, "I hope I'm not bothering you too much?". At which point I broke the pose and made room for him to get by. Again, I'm not an asshole... but it was kind of an asshole thing of me to do... So given that that is the sum total experience that that random stranger ever had of me, from his perspective, I am an asshole. But I'm not an asshole, really. I am a mostly good person who was having a lazy/selfish/inconsiderate moment. My point is that I think most of the jerky/assholesque behaviour that is perpetrated in society (barring extremes of course) is not perpetrated by assholes... rather it is perpetrated by average, mostly good people who are having careless/selfish/thoughtless moment. But there are a lot of us out there, which sadly makes for a lot of careless/selfish/thoughtless moments which then, of course, leads to the impression of there being a lot of assholes. But humans are quick to jump and label aren't we? I guess from the individualistic point of view it makes sense - all that man will ever know of me is that I am an asshole, he has no further knowledge. But isn't it just exhausting and depressing to think that the world is full of assholes? Isn't it just so much more uplifting to think it is full of people who had social anxiety in high school, are average to below average drivers and who, very occasionally, behave like assholes?