I need to address a topic from the flip side once again. This time, it is the concept of sensitivity to criticism, and all of the other things that have come together to create ‘snowflake culture’. Conservatives like to believe that there is something inherently wrong with anyone taking exception to what they, the conservative right, deem justifiable criticism. If such a person expresses upset, hurt, or indignation at the criticism received, then that individual can only be a liberal wuss.
The problem, however, lies in defining what justifiable or ‘constructive’ criticism actually is, when it is appropriate to use it, and what the correct approach to it should be. Sadly, many people these days have difficulty understanding the concept of boundaries insofar as what can and cannot be criticized, what should and should not be criticized, how far to go with criticism, and the importance of tone in its delivery. Contrary to what they believe it is not okay, and it is not their ‘right’ to tell someone else that the shade of green they are wearing today makes them look nauseous. Nor should the victim of their barbed tongue simply ‘suck it up’ and change into more complimentary clothes. The same goes for a whole host of other things that many people these days believe falls under the category of ‘freedom of expression’.
One of the worst ideas bouncing round in people’s heads is that of ‘tough love’, which is often used as an excuse for being direct, blunt, and unforgiving. You don’t like your friend’s new hairstyle or significant other? Then grab her/him by the arm, drag her/him off somewhere, and tell her/him what a lousy choice she/he has made. After telling her/him this, just use the excuse that you are only doing it because you care, and you like seeing her/him making a fool of her/himself. Behavior like that is not only way outside the ballpark of what anyone who actually cares would do, it is also socially inappropriate – and this where the problem began. When people refuse to acknowledge that there are limits on what can be criticized, other people within striking range will end up being subject to endless brutalization at that person’s hands.
The same can be said of those people who refuse to show others respect unless it is ‘earned’. The inverse is actually true: people deserve respect until they do something that proves they haven’t earned it.
It is important for everyone to understand that society created codes of civility in order to protect people from insensitive clods. It is not simply a matter of people having to ‘suck it up’; it is about people not having to put up with being bludgeoned day in, day out by other people’s nastiness. If things have now come so far that young adults are having meltdowns over insignificant ‘micro-aggressions’, it is because that code has been smashed to pieces in recent decades. The elastic band has snapped and overcompensation is the result. As a reaction to one section of society becoming increasingly rude and insensitive, another section has become increasingly obsessed with stamping out that rudeness and showing concern for people’s feelings.
That’s life / live with it.
The attitude of “that’s life / live with it” is often used as an excuse for the uncouth to behave in a mean or malicious manner, to the detriment of our society. If everyone had the empathy needed to put themselves in another person’s shoes, then there would be no need of moral codes to govern our conduct when interacting with each other. Since that is not the case, and because there are numerous individuals who get a sadistic pleasure out of the ‘cruel to be kind’ bandwagon, we have no choice but to create codes of conduct. The right of one person to be mean, nasty, and insensitive to others does not override the rights of everyone else to go about their lives in a peaceful manner. That is why every culture has developed its own set of social conventions.
Now to the ‘snowflakes’. Is it normal, or even acceptable for them to behave as they do? Ummm… no. That is taking it way too far. But they are the product of increasing rudeness in our society. Their parents, their teachers, and other people around them have all had their own experiences with the rudeness and vitriol that is currently infiltrating every aspect of our lives. They now see increasing incidences of bullying in their own children’s lives at schools, at parties, and on internet sites, and are concerned. As parents, educators, social workers, etc… they want to do something to protect the young people under their care. They also want society to return to a saner time, a time when people actually treated each other civilly.
The only way to get society back on track is, in fact, re-education. That means teaching children the old rules of behavior, and having a zero tolerance policy towards uncivil behavior. Etiquette needs to be reinstated, with penalties for anyone who feels it is their right to run stomping on other people’s sensibilities like a maddened rhinoceros. Children need to be taught, in no uncertain terms, that it is rude to comment on things that are considered to be of a highly personal nature. They need to learn to keep their opinions to themselves if nothing constructive can come of them, and to never use ‘constructive criticism’ as an excuse to tear someone else down.
Verbal abuse is one of the most painful things you can inflict on someone else. Sad to say, much of what goes by the name of ‘criticism’ these days is little more than that. This is the end result of loosening social constraints way too far, and the emphasis on ‘personal freedom’ over respecting and genuinely caring about others. People have become so battered and bruised that they really do need safe-places to escape into. As someone who endured verbal abuse throughout my childhood, I can vouch for the PTSD it leaves you with. The ruder our society becomes, the more people will find themselves unable to cope. That is something to be concerned about. Unfortunately, people who believe they are saving the world by spewing venom at others are not going to listen to me, or anyone else.