Treating the disease, not the symptoms

(Warning: I’m venturing into a societal issue here. I’ll try not to make a habit of it.)

A coworker and I make jokes on a regular basis (too regular, maybe, and I’m not sure we’re always joking) to the effect that the world would be a better place if we ruled it. Usually this is sparked by someone doing or saying something that one or both of us thinks is stupid or shortsighted or hasn’t been thought through at all.

There has been a great deal of talk on social media lately about harassment, mostly of a sexual nature. Our society has recently developed a propensity toward choosing to be offended, but I actually don’t think that’s relevant to this discussion (I’ll save that topic for later, perhaps). I’ve also heard comments to the effect that it’s not surprising because people “become geeks” because they have no social skills to start with. This is obviously BS, of course, but that’s mainly because the statement doesn’t go far enough. I posit that the problem really starts with the idea that as a society we completely avoid teaching our children how to talk about sex.

Yeah, I know it’s weird. I never thought I’d say this, either. But also in the news recently we’re hearing about how movies are allegedly getting more violent, specifically PG-13 rated movies. And hearing that got me thinking about how it’s acceptable to expose children to violence but not sex. I’m sure I’m not original in asking if you would rather catch your teenager killing someone a la Dexter or getting a handy from another teenager. (Okay, the wording might be original, but the sentiment is not.) Sure, there can be some emotional damage from a bad breakup, but that doesn’t really rank up there with a body count, does it?

So are we really surprised when people hurt each other through harassment when we’ve made a point as a society to not teach our young people how not to hurt each other in this way? Socially we just dump our children off in a public school, where they receive no guidance from the adults and are therefore left to their own trial and error. And sexually it’s even worse – not only do we not address it, we totally forbid any discussion of it, forcing them into not only trial and error but also the burden of hiding it from us. If something is not acceptable, we have to tell kids that and reinforce it – preferably before they start trying to do it. You know, maybe if we could own it and start to handle it, we could solve some of the other satellite problems, like STDs and unwanted pregnancies and countless others. You know, actually manage the problem.

And this is usually the point in the conversation where one of us brings up ruling the world. Because it’s obvious that we won’t be solving the problem here today. It’s the point where we realize that further discussion might just be hopeless. But maybe if the discussion was bigger, it wouldn’t have to be hopeless. Maybe if we just admitted as a society that we might be doing it wrong, we could own up and start to change how we do it.

Or maybe I’m just dreaming, living in a fantasy world.

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