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Opinion

Cultural classiness succumbs negatively to pure laziness

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February 19, 2009

So none of my ideas from last time panned out. Too bad, I guess genius will have to wait. This week I’m onto classiness, a topic that-since it’s been on my mind-has caused me to experience severe cognitive dissonance and general uneasiness. No worry, they’re two conditions I’ve gotten used to, and perhaps grown a little fond of.

To be classy means to display a sense of style and elegance in one’s general behavior. My ambivalence on the subject stems from my crude style, which is unsettlingly reminiscent of a vagrant’s. But I’m just a dude with frugal apparel and I’m writing a column on classiness. I’ll start now.

I think the philosophy of convenience has overridden classiness in my generation-and in the broader culture. Convenience is everywhere-fast food franchises cling to the two lanes in every town in America and probably most of the world. Billboards plastered with sweaty burgers waiting to be inhaled at the next exit line our nation’s highways. We’re treated to portions fit for the fattest of kings. Not very classy.

Our fashion lacks classiness as well. Baseball hats dominate-there’s nothing wrong with a good baseball hat now and then, it is my favorite sport after all. But the general abundance of baseball hats and beer t-shirts and jeans engineered to look old and shitty amounts to a shortage of cultural class. Rappers took it a little too far with their heavy chains saturated with gold and diamonds. I guess jewelry can be too elegant, after all.

Also, the dancing associated with hip-hop and modern club music clearly lacks class, but then again, sometimes you just gotta bounce that booty. Gone are the classy days of slow-dancing to “Sleepwalk”-a seminal hit at the high school proms of yesteryear. We need a bar with a weekly retro prom night-get wasted on whisky and beer and slow-dance the night away, romance in the air.

Our vernacular has suffered from a sharp decrease in class. People are now abbreviating the most ridiculous of things-actually speaking the letters “lol” has replaced real laughter in a growing number of cases. Some shorten “just kidding” to its internet abbreviation, JK. But I always think they’re talking about J.K. Rowling. Those are some really unattractive shoes… JK!

Wait, J.K. Rowling has ugly shoes? What?

This obviously all stems from the general popularity of text- and instant-messaging, which has, in my opinion, clearly altered our language in the youth culture (whether you like it or not, lit majors!). I’ve also noticed many people frequently adding the suffix “-ish” onto too many words. To speak with class, one must speak with clarity and precision. I do it okayish, I guess.

We don’t respect our elders very much, which can’t be too classy. “Mister” and “Missus” has almost left the language as a reference to one’s elders-we now even call the parents of our girlfriends or boyfriends by their first names.

James Bond wouldn’t do that. He’d say Mr. Hager or Mrs. Hager, even if they asked him not to bother with that. James Bond has ultimate class-even when he’s in the midst of violent, ass-kicking carnage. He emerges bloodied, his clothes torn. But Bond remains undeniably classy. And he probably doesn’t like reality TV, which I think lacks class. There are exceptions-Top Chef is a new favorite of mine. But I somehow can’t picture Bond draped on a couch with a wine glass and the latest issue of National Enquirer, scoping out the latest consignment of ladies for The Bachelor to woo on ABC. He’s got too much class for that BS.

So is it a generational thing or an age-related phenomenon? Has our culture changed dramatically since the cultures of previous generations, many perhaps classier than our own? Or maybe we’ll grow out of it, and we’ll lose our ignorant sense of entitlement, and we’ll mature as a culture into one that reflects the classiness of the past. But then again, vulgarity and blatant unclassiness in generational conversation can be deeply entertaining, and often makes me chortle and guffaw.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.