When Did We Become So Thin-skinned?

I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s. At that point in our history, America had a certain attitude about things. We were the premier nation in the world and we were unapologetic about it. There was little mincing of words and we were just fine saying what we thought. The feelings of others were of little concern to us because we were far more concerned about the truth than catering to the whims and emotions of the frail. It was a time when we still believed in the idea that strong people were to be respected and the weak could go sit in the corner until they figure out how to grow up and be an adult.

These days the climate has shifted drastically. It has become crystal clear that the focus is no longer on getting things done the best way possible. Rather it is far more about placing an emphasis on some ephemeral emotional quotient that can’t really be measured. Rather than cold, hard facts that determine how things are going, we have turned to people’s opinions. In a world like this it has become nearly impossible to navigate with any certainty.

The thing is that I really don’t believe that most people are truly on board with this way of thinking. Nearly the entire voting public is around my age or older, which means that we all grew up in the same era. To be sure many of my generation wished things to be different, but I have to imagine that most of us share the same basic point of view when it comes to how to deal with reality. We might not agree on policy, but we had to live in a time when your feelings came second to results.

How then have we come to this point? I could certainly be wrong and perhaps I’m somehow in a super minority, but my experiences growing up and living before the second decade of the twenty first century tells me that for the most part people agree with the traditional way of doing things. It’s only the very disgruntled people who end up wanting to buck the old way in the desperate hope that their way can somehow work. A track record of progress doesn’t seem to matter.

There are certainly things that need to change and improve, and our history shows that we have always had those who are willing to stand up and fight for what we always knew was morally correct. The problem we’re facing now is that we’re starting to run out of things to fight about. Few of us are imposing our prejudices on others anymore, our business world is highly regulated to prevent exploitation, and the average person makes more than enough money to make ends meet. But we still feel the need to find heroes to go out and right the wrongs.

So rather than focusing on getting something meaningful accomplished, the leaders in our society have shifted our focus to trivial issues to keep us at each others’ throats. This has turned us all into overly sensitive, thin-skinned people who can’t seem to deal with the opinions of others. We are forced to walk around on eggshells because so many people are ready to fly off the handle about the smallest perceived slight.

Of course, this isn’t a real thing. What we’re seeing is what the manipulators of our systems want us to see. Most of us aren’t like these ridiculous people. They just want us to think that we are. Just about every person you meet will simply brush off whatever you say, assuming you aren’t going out of your way to be offensive. Society wouldn’t function if we all walked around getting highly offended at every possible phrase.

What we are struggling with today is a war of perception. The media and leadership want us to believe that people are clamoring for change, but I think the reality is that we’ve never had it better and most people know it. What the average person wants is to simply live his life in peace, gaining as much success as possible and striving to attain his dreams. Everything else we’re seeing today is a combination of contrived theater to boost the ratings of failing media companies combined with a very loud vocal minority who gets support because our attention is grabbed by a “just cause”.

The only way we can start getting back to any semblance of a normal America is to do what we normally find reprehensible. We need to start shunning the people who run around stirring up trouble. We believe in freedom of speech, and I would never advocate silencing anyone. However there needs to be a concerted effort to make it clear that we disagree with those opinions so that these vocal minorities stop gaining so much power and influence. It is when we feel alone that we are powerless, and the more of us who stand up and make our voices heard, the better chance we have of living in the world most of us want to live in.

What do you think about catering to personal opinions? Should we bend over backwards for the desires of a few, or should there be a general consensus of viewpoints? Can a society function if we have no common ground? We fight about a lot of things, but at the core we are all Americans and we share a history and legacy that has shaped us into who we are today. It is important to remember what we stand for, even as we look to the future.

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