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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

5 Signs We're Lowering the Bar (And What We Can do to Raise It)

Robert Manni - Friday, January 26, 2018


Each time I scroll through the news online or even a good, old-fashion newspaper, I’m amazed at how crazy and dysfunctional our culture has become. The online news feed is a parade of real news, fake news, and oddities.

It seems like everyone is in debt, too busy trying to keep their job before being replaced by robots or AI, or too damn tired to realize they are being fed garbage and being told to like it. As a result, we are wallowing in a vast cultural slush. The bar has been lowered, amigos. People can’t afford to travel so they take boring “staycations”. They work more for less money, brown bag their lunch, and eat at their desks. They binge-drink in cramped apartments because they can’t afford to go out and drink at bars. These are desperate times.

Since technology shrank the world, entertainment is global. There’s less fresh thinking because the creative concepts need to travel. So we get K Pop, shitty sequels to bad movies, reboots or movies based on bad television shows, and generic music pumped up and pushed out by producers instead of talented new artists who can actually read music. When was the last time you heard some really fresh music? Cardi B? Timberlake, the new, urban woodsman? Really.

While we are being distracted by pop culture, regulations like net neutrality that protect people are being decimated. The rich keep getting richer while the rest of us are left fighting over the crumbs. Our culture reflects the discrepancies in income through the garbage sold to us as entertainment, often the same pile of refuse served up a different way.

Do we need another go at the XFL? Do we need to pay $100 to see an MMA fighter in boxing gloves get schooled by a boxer? They keep selling us crap. Why?  Because we buy it. Everyone was warned about the folly of the Mayweather vs. McGregor “fight”, but people still shelled out a Franklin because consumers are suckers who exposed to a month of media overselling can be brainwashed. Yes, a sucker is born every minute. Our culture is a mess. People are so fearful, worried, and in debt that they will consume almost anything corporate America feeds them just to escape their lives for a few hours.

So what’s a Guy’s Guy to do? Start by educating yourself and making your own decisions about how you want to invest your valuable time and hard-earned dollars.  Know that we the people collectively have the power to create change. People ultimately control what they buy. If they don’t open their wallets, products will be changed to suit their demands. Take organic food, for example. The only reason we’re not completely drowning in GMO’s and processed foods is that people realized that processed foods could be killers. Smart consumers don’t buy as much of the products sold down the aisle in cans or boxes. The change happened because consumers demanded better foods that foster good health.

So, we have choice. We may pay more for organic foods, but we forced Big Agra to listen. But change only occurs when our collective consciousness demands it. So the next time you reach for your wallet ask yourself if you are settling for garbage because you are flat-out tired and just need an escape, or if you can save that cash or put that money to use somewhere else until you get what you want.

Here are five examples of the dumbing down of our culture. I’m not discounting the fun quotient in some of them, but we can do better.

1. Eating Tide pods – This is not a joke. Young people are actually consuming those bright, swirly little plastic pouches that look like candy. They are not candy. This is DETERGANT and it is a very disturbing trend. Young folks, you can do a lot better things to entertain yourself besides eating soap. I have nothing else to add except, hey, P&G, how about changing those pods so they don’t look so tasty?

2. Bars featuring axe throwing- For me, the combination of alcohol, hatchets, and axes is not optimal. Is drinking and throwing axes fun? (editor’s note: surprisingly, yes) It must be, because there are more and more bars getting tricked out with an axe throwing area. What happened to bar shuffleboard and pool? I shudder thinking about what’s next after chasing Jack Daniels with axe throwing? Fight clubs for women? Hmmm, I think they already have that. If we need to get drunk and throw axes to blow off steam as a culture we are too angry and we drink too much.

3. Lipstick on pigs – If you haven’t noticed, those fast food and QSRs (quick service restaurants) are promoting the hell out of cheap menu items at $1, $2, $3 and whole meals for $5. We live in a fast-paced, fear-driven society where people eat suspect food quickly and on the go. There’s nothing wrong with a quick fast food fix in the rare times it’s absolutely necessary. But, many consumers live on fast food and the brands know it.

Lately, it’s gotten crazy. One affordable hamburger chain is now taking reservations for couples on Valentine’s Day so they can come to the store and celebrate their love with burgers served by table service. Be prepared ladies. Some broke dudes will give this a shot.

To keep their peeps coming back for more, chains also offer all you can eat delights like $3.99 for all the pancakes you can swallow. Here’s where we need to ask ourselves a few questions. How many pancakes should we be eating in one sitting? Three? Maybe four? What kind of flour is used in those pancakes? What’s in that syrup? Is it grade B organic maple syrup or high fructose corn syrup and food coloring? Ask questions and use your power. If it quacks like a duck…

4. Uninspired Hollywood – There are three trends in Hollywood just won’t slow down: superheroes, dysfunctional people, and violence. Every time I walk along the subway platform I’m inundated with posters for the latest movies and television shows. Besides posters for “Big Bang Theory” re-runs and “Young Sheldon”, the most frequent images are actors pointing their gun my way, people with blood spattered on hands and faces, or grim, angry, people dressed in black staring at me. And enough with the comic book superhero movies. Are we all still eleven years old?

There is another trend to blow out any movie that makes a few bucks into a franchise. Most of them are violent. Take the “John Wick” movies. The second one was actually better than the original, but the violence… Hundreds of brutal kills filmed beautifully. People love Keanu and this character, but when you think about it, aren’t we a bit insane to consume so much violence and murder as entertainment? Bad television shows like “Baywatch” somehow ran for years. Did we need a “Baywatch” movie? Did we need three “Hangover” movies? Nope, but here’s why they exist: The terrible sequels actually grossed more than the original because of sales in international markets. Hollywood is all about creating franchises that unfortunately have to get dumbed down in order to travel.

5. People don’t read – Every time I’m riding the subway and I see some reading a book I say to myself, “Hooray for New Yorkers”. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule. Studies show that the vast majority of both college and high school educated Americans never enter a bookstore or read a book after graduating from their highest level of education. This truly is the dumbing down of society.

I’ll give you this. When we surf the Internet, we are technically reading. But reading a book is a commitment. I prefer fiction and the power of story, but the simple act of reading and finishing a book is critical to our individual and collective future. It’s bad enough that we’re confused about what is news or fake news. Read books and grow.

That’s my rant. Why was it necessary? Because as a Guy’s Guy, I want the best for me, for you and for us collectively. If we accept all the garbage shoved our way, we’ll only get more.  We have power in our pocketbooks and wallets to foster change. Use this power wisely and will help change our collective consciousness.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is you, the reader. Yes, I mean all the people reading this post. The simple fact you’ve invested the time to explore one man’s, or in this case, one Guys’ Guy’s perspective on the precious state of our culture is important. I thank you and hope you’ll be back for more next week. 

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