Jim Meskaukas, VP Director of Online Media
There was a post to the Oldtimer’s List a number of weeks ago about one of the members’ recent experience with trying to fill an open job position.
The member declared a fear for our future when, in response to his query for applicants, he received a bevy of responses that A) failed to follow his direction, B) were filled with misspellings, C) included profanity as “colorful metaphor” and D) possessed a seeming lack of familiarity or concern with grammar.
What can businesses expect if the future personnel with whom they are populated cannot communicate clearly? How can the business of the future be populated at all if those seeking employment cannot express themselves appropriately to those who are choosing them to become the human capitol of the next generation?
To bemoan poor spelling, grammar and an inability to follow directions as prevalent among the “youth” of today makes one sound like a curmudgeonly old man… “In my day, we didn’t have arms! We had to shovel coal with our faces! And we didn’t have legs! We had to drag ourselves to school with our tongues! And we liked it!”
But the issue with bad spelling, nonchalance for grammar and an inability to follow direction are all endemic to a larger social environment, and perhaps even more of a zeitgeist, of complete casualness about all things.
After a century of elevating the self above society, it became more important to satisfy our own needs and desires than it is to find equilibrium between our selves and other people. A hundred years of Frued, the Existential Self, and the Me Generation has put the needs of the one above the needs of the many.
The casualness with which people approach others, with which people enter the public forum, could be said to be the logical extension of a post-deconstructive relativism that insists that all things are of equal importance, or have the same truth-value assignment, if looked at from a particular perspective.
This is because, of course, nothing is "true" in every context. It is an extension of the attitude that the self is just as important as the Other, and so, what the self thinks, says or feels is also just as important. But more than that, it is just as RIGHT. It is the attitude that opinion is what matters most, because opinion is egalitarian (we all have one and are entitled to it), which in turn gives short shrift, at best, to fact. Looked at from this view, what else is proper spelling or grammar than merely a collection of facts, spawned by the elite and foisted upon the people? If the most important person in the whole wide world is "you," then why shouldn't "you" be able to think, say and spell whatever or however you want? After all, you are just as good as the next guy. Each one of us is special, a center of force. Therefore we are all equal.
This is why the jugenvolken don't spell, don't follow instructions, and don't really care if you think they should. Little Taylor, or baby Jordana, or Mackenzie or Preston has spent a lifetime in a state of, on the one hand, moral relativism; and on the other, an orthodoxy of solipsistic narcissism. This has created an almost fascistic insistence on the self while at the same time carrying an appetite for myriad social and cultural stimuli.
The Internet also shares blame in this. Its ability to promote “thuggish anonymity” on the one hand while providing a forum for an unprecedented degree of personal public display on the other has created the conditions for behaving in public as if we were private.
And what are verbal offenses or linguistic indulgences other than the peccadilloes of private conversation? What is at risk, however, is rendering language, which has been for millennia what unites and identifies a people (either willingly or, admittedly, by force) a private form of expression that only the speaker/writer commits, yet assumes the public should completely understand. When more and more of a person’s time is spent in a state of isolation that consists of the illusion of connectedness due to the preponderance of communication technologies and networks, it will become commonplace to think that the self’s form of communication is everyone’s form of communication. Instead, one might end up speaking “Nellish” rather than English ("'Lees', Nell,' Ma say, 'afa I done go, guy ange com.")
The primary objective of language is effective communication. That can be accomplished with an emoticon, a foreshortening of letters or a grunt and a gesture properly placed. And sometimes, that is sufficient. I don't mean to sound like I am railing against the utility of much of the form of language preferred by the new generation of entrants into the business world. I am really just expressing concern about the possibility of a more serious movement that might not be such a good thing.
My own concern is not so much an increase of utility achieved through the intentional diminishment of formal structure. My concern is that the unintentional diminishment of formal structure – be it due to a lack of familiarity or a willful rejection of it because of some belief that it is authoritarian or elitist -- will lead to structure’s eradication all together. Utility only and always without at least knowing what formal structure needs to be violated in order to achieve it leads to homogenizing, standardizing and monotonizing. There isn't too far to go before a volksgemeinshaft is being advocated by a populist press and politicians and ... oh, wait, that's already happened! Then what?
Yes, the utility is necessary and sometimes sufficient. Yes, a bridge can be accomplished with some planks and pontoons, and there are times when that's enough. But you want to leave room for the possibility that one can still build the Golden Gate Bridge or the St. Charles over the Vlatava.