Was the Meanness Meter High in 2010?

A recent NPR segment (12.30.10) proposed that people are getting meaner and that 2010 reached a new level of sordid. Their message was that comments in almost every venue were snarky, rude, and downright vile,

“The meanness meter went pretty high in 2010 — at least that’s the premise of a conversation on All Things Considered today between host Robert Siegel and satirist/blogger Andy Borowitz. He argues that this was one of the meanest years since 1651 — when Thomas Hobbes wrote The Leviathan and, in Andy’s words, made the case that man is at war ‘with each other all the time, 24/7’.”

After listening to the program for eight minutes I found myself nodding in agreement at the “beastly behavior.”

  • Yes, the rhetoric of politicians, politically charged news media, and even conversations seem to tilt the meter toward villainess.
  • Yes, religious leaders took judgmental pot shots claiming their “rightness.”
  • Yes, people were assassinating the character of Bristol Palin and her appearance on Dancing with the Stars.

Beyond that, I recalled that many people were just as nasty when they gossiped, did not give people the benefit of the doubt, and trashed people during break time.

Yuk! What’s up with that?

This blog isn’t a diatribe about the negative human condition or the environmental influences of a base culture. Rather, I find myself more aware that these forms of negativity are more normal than we care to admit

We will never transform – want deep change, seek deep change, or put rhythms in our life for deep change – unless we face the truth. I am a hypocrite. You are a hypocrite. Until we admit it, we will spend more time ripping apart others instead of looking for ways to approach life with more meaning and hope; even positivity.

Robert Quinn (Change the World) writes, “Over the years…I have come to accept an unacceptable fact.  I am a hypocrite. When I take this notion very seriously, it makes changing myself much easier.” This isn’t meant to bash but to uncover the truth and lay the foundation for change.

What do I need to admit about my hypocrisy? I would propose four unhealthy dynamics or mindsets:

  1. I am a comfort-centered person. I like the status quo (normal state). In this mindset when anyone opposes or represents something different, I will be prone to lash out – react – and sometimes with regrettable fury. Think about what happens when someone cuts you off in traffic.
  2. I am an other-directed person. I can state boldly that I don’t care what others think. Yet when it comes to the choices I make in clothing, transportation, recreation, etc. there are subtle ways I use them to impress or goad others.
  3. I am an inner-focused person. In some ways, I identify too much with Narcissus  who believed that the world revolved around him. In fact, we often use a phrase to express this reality. What’s a response to others which reflects our subtle glee that it didn’t happen to us? “It sucks to be you!”
  4. I am an internally-closed person. I don’t want to change. I am content being just the way I am and I resist the implication that I need to change something.

This isn’t harsh; just honest!

This isn’t mean; just the price of taking a personal inventory!

Here’s a thought as we close out 2010: instead of looking who might need our judgment or negative opinion (reaction or just plain meanness), spend the time turning the mirror inward. Take a look, a good hard look. You may join me in admitting some, or a lot of hypocrisy. If you do, great! At least you’re honest. And then, be gentle with yourself. Move on and continue the process of inner transformation. It’s not a guarantee that you won’t be mean in 2011, however, it is a step to being personally responsible.

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4 Responses to Was the Meanness Meter High in 2010?

  1. Interesting – especially how you made the connection between our increasing capacity for cruelty (meanness) to our own hypocrisy. Too often we look for blame in others before fix the faults in ourselves. As it has been said, we can’t change others, only ourselves. However, by changing ourselves, we become the change we want to see and influence others. Thanks for sharing Mark!

    • Mark says:

      @Benjamin – It is a challenging discipline to hold up the mirror to our attitudes and actions. There is really no hope of transformation unless we are willing to admit our hypocrisy. It reminds me of our friends from AA’s first step: “I have a problem.” My resounding answer is, “Yes I (we) do!” 🙂

  2. Pingback: Servant Leadership Observer - January 2011

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