Are People Getting Dumber and Ruder Than They Used to Be, or Have We Always Been This Way?

iphonetrain-20110315-111731At the local Y, changes have occurred over the years I’ve been a member. Now when I visit the weight room, people have left 50-pound moveable plates locked on the ends of the bars, usually perching the contraptions on racks far above my head. Since I’m neither six feet tall nor a muscular football or soccer player, I can’t remove or change them for my own use. Smaller dumbbells are strewn across the rooms, handy for tripping over and breaking toes. Towels litter the exercise areas and actually seem to reproduce or replicate in the dark corners and under benches of the locker room, in damp white-ish piles.

Then there’s the matter of smart phones. Young exercisers are getting their fingers in great shape since they spend more time sitting on equipment to text their friends than they do actually using the apparatus. Or perhaps they’re checking the stock market. In any case, again, no one else can use the gear.

What can be done? Nothing, an attendant told me. There are no rules regarding this behavior.

Are humans, or at least Americans, losing their basic intelligence? No other explanation for this behavior, for we used to learn at our mother’s knee to endeavor to pick up our own messes and be considerate of other people. Don’t think the phenomena exist only in gyms and health clubs. What else accounts for drivers who merrily plow through red lights and drift the wrong way down one-way streets? Surely they don’t want accidents. Or the empty-headed pedestrian who crosses an interstate freeway at the height of rush hour? He’s ignored or never learned the inevitable result of that attempt.

Are we getting ruder? Maybe this is the cause of the poor behavior I’ve mentioned. Strong signs support this theory. People believe that day-to-day behavior has become more aggressive, less patient, and certainly not as sympathetic.

My inclination is to blame modern technology for both these phenomena. I no longer need a memory as long as my computer and phone remain ever-ready. And since I’m dealing with humans almost totally via these lines of communication, I can’t begin to sense the humanity that links me with those on the other ends of the networks. They’re just voices or words, symbols or algorithms.

I may be frothing at the mouth because I’m frustrated at the state of the world in general. I’ve pledged to do my best to combat the growing tide of stupidity and rudeness. I can’t do a thing about a man being beheaded half-way across the world, but I can try to improve my little corner.

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