Audio Attitude Exploring situational influence on attitude and behavior.

July 23, 2008

Teaching Attitude a Lesson

(Updated 7/24/08)
As might become clearer as you read this post from yesterday I find ironic how I am compelled to make some changes to it. The ironic part is I do so in hindsight. My original title was provocative I’ll admit. I got some feedback about it so I changed the title, and deleted a wisecrack or two about the last name of one of our characters. Editing blog posts is not the proper thing to do I suppose but I think this post is important enough to take a risk. Since this post is about image, I’ll rename it accordingly. The old title almost certainly gave the wrong impression, which in itself may be a bit ironic. Now, on to the post…

The only time I sag my jeans is when I try to fix the plumbing around my house. My sagging isn’t intentional – it just happens. Sagging – you know, the intentional art of wearing ones pants lower than ones boxers and prone to exposure of one’s crena analis when bending forward at the waist by more than 10 degrees. Plumber’s crack isn’t a pretty view as I am sure our Sunday evening dinner guest can attest if they saw mine when I worked on a clogged a kitchen drain before dinner.

I might have been arrested had I lived in another Michigan town whose new police chief is on a mission to end sagging in his town. Or maybe he just responds to kid crack since the town’s kids are the object of his crackdown. Frankly I am a bit surprised today’s youth haven’t moved on to something else to express their rage at their situation. Wasn’t sagging started by people who now have grandchildren? Even so some kids in this particular Michigan town sag and the chief thinks it is a crime.

Chief David Dicks is putting an end to the fashion. The city counsel likes Dicks and supports the hard line Dicks is thrusting at juvenile crack. You see at the bottom of this particular city’s problem is image. The city counsel is aroused and taking action.

The city is Flint Michigan. Flint, in case you were really busy or not here yet in 1989, scored some national attention when Michael Moore released his first big documentary “Roger and Me.” In his film Flint native Michael Moore obnoxiously pesters a guy named Roger, the head of General Motors, for leaving Flint barefoot and pregnant by skipping town and closing the car factory. General Motors essentially screwed Flint and left her without so much as a kiss. Now the kids are getting big, strong, and unruly. And you know what else? They sag. That’s right. The kids lower their drawers in protest of their rich life.

Key to understanding this situation is blame. Flint knows about blame. Blame Roger. Blame the big business. Blame General Motors. Blame the politicians. Blame the state. Blame the neighbors. Blame the economy. Blame the bank. Blame the music. Blame the media. So, naturally a town that knows blame attributes at least some of its unpopularity to the way the kids dress. If only the little thugs would cover their asses everybody can get back to eating happy meals and visiting the Big Mart without the godless trouser-slippage keeping Roger from bringing back the factory.

It reminds me of a single mom who works two jobs so she can keep food on the table for her teen kids whose father abandoned them to start a family in a better town with some hot babe barely old enough to buy booze. When the kids talk to him once a year around Christmas he promises to buy them stuff or maybe take them on his new boat. But, he never does. One day the kids forget to do their chores. Mom gets pissed and takes away their Nike’s for a week. Having nothing to wear to school they skip classes. Again. See the lesson here?

Flint hasn’t learned to live without big Roger. Recently the State of Michigan, acting like a foster parent, for a while took over city management. Its African American mayor was a few years ago recalled in an atmosphere of relentless racial bickering. From a safe distance way up here in the Upper Peninsula I view the leaders of Flint, perhaps unfairly, as keeping a town from discovering its potential. Visitors and potential businesses are skittish about going on a date with Flint, much less moving in with her. She seems so stressed and her kids don’t behave, but she is a cheap date so they keep in touch.

What the Flint City Counsel does is use a lot of makeup. The counsel also does what we all do too frequently. Attribute too much to attitude of a person or group and ignore the situation – the context – where that person or group exists. The Flint Counsel thinks their image problem is their kids’ attitudes but fail to understand that these kids are growing up in a home town without pride for two decades. Who wouldn’t grow up with an attitude in that situation? So we want to dumb down the youth commentary about it?

Instead of building on its people’s strengths, this town’s leadership turns on its young people for expressing themselves. Sagging teens now get to look forward to a year in jail if they don’t keep their pants hiked up like the righteous grown-ups. That’s right. Up to a year in jail or a $500 fine for being caught wearing pants like the town’s favorite son Michael Moore might if he were to fix his own plumbing. (Sorry for the visual there, bare with me.)

Flint throws bliss by proxy – happy meals and discount deals – to their colorful kids and what does it get for their generosity? They get an eyeful of thug sulcus. Sagging economies aside, Flint thinks making progress is about covering up. As soon as the least of Flint’s population – you know, the ones with the attitude problem – are tossed to jail one at a time to join the child molesters, the murderers, the thieves, and the rapists Flint will be safe for you to move in with your family and open a business.

If you do decide to move to Flint be sure to bring the white paint because this town has fences. But remember one thing Flint leadership cannot stand is the sight of independence so forget about moving in if you like to fix your own plumbing. They don’t want to see that kind of attitude.


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