Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Friends" Like These Are Even Worse

It's no longer news that police in Florida apprehended a gang of rabid cheerleaders after they beat down one of their own. It defies all reason that these girls would be not only so vicious, but so stupid. They were conscious enough to premeditate an ambush, videotape the assault and upload the beating for all to see on the Internet. How could they think there would be no consequences for their behavior?

The world is looking toward Lakeland, Florida in horror, fascination, amusement. I Googled "cheerleader beatdown" and the first link is the video listed like so:

Myspace Cheerleaders Beat-Down Video

Free videos, humor, comedy, hot chicks & pictures for guys. - 64k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Humor. Comedy. Hot chicks and pictures for guys? I'm sure that's an accident.

The cheerleader beat down is but a symptom. Violence isn't new or special, but understanding what it's born of is crucial. How could this group of even reasonably educated teen-agers possibly say they had no idea what they were doing was not just terribly wrong, but illegal? They had two scrawny punks on look-out detail--they knew. But what? They didn't want to get caught until they dropped their new video on MySpace and You Tube?

What was their motivation? How did not even one of them feel even a stirring of empathy or even common sense through the whole process? If they were hoping to send a message, the message I got is: "Yes. It really has come to this."

The victim of the beating had apparently been talking smack about some people, and this is the way they chose to deal with it. That's heartbreaking and all, but the complete lack of awareness of the consequences of their actions is what terrifies me. Even while being hauled in by the sheriff, one of the girls asked if she'd be sprung in time for cheerleading practice the next day. There is a total dissociation there, a fundamental lack of understanding and remorse. It's terrifying.

That story is newsworthy: a bunch of brain-dead cheerleaders (you want a copy-selling archetype, that's it right there) turn on one of their own. Story at eleven. But it's happening all over, and it's not just the kids.

About a year ago, a woman I know was in the bathroom at a local bar, just a quiet place attached to a family restaurant--hardly Roadhouse material. She overheard some girls talking shit on one of their friends. One of them discussed the possibility of having casual sex with the other girl's boyfriend just to, you know, stick it to her.

When my friend left her stall, she piped up with, "sisters before misters," thinking to remind these other women that we should stick together. She got jumped by three of the four girls for her trouble. They got her on the floor and started kicking her, whaling on her. Finally when she cried out that she just wanted to go home to her baby, the fourth girl awakened to the reality of the situation. She tried to get the other girls to lay off while my friend crawled off trying to assess the physical damage.

Pack mentality isn't new and it's amazing how little it takes to spark not only a violent reaction, but a contagious one. It makes me sick to think how easy it is to forget what we owe each other as fellow human beings, how detached from love or even basic human decency we are becoming. Better not mouth off, ladies--a bunch of your fellow women might ambush and beat the shit out of you.

No, it's not us; it's them, right? They're the ones who are all fucked up. Right? Not so much. These isolated events are not isolated at all; this type of blatant antisocial behavior is just one manifestation of how far away from psychologically okay people are becoming overall. Even the once-innocent image of an American cheerleader has been reduced to violent and criminal.

There is no they. We're all together and responsible for the breakdown of society. These girls serve as the opposite end of the angry teenager spectrum. Isolated, marginalized, "antisocial" males who take out their victims in public places with guns have their female counterpart: packs of girls who couldn't be more in the fold, socially speaking, who draw another girl into a private place and beat her with their bare hands. Or, my friend who got beaten in a women's bathroom, another place that's symbolic of privacy.

Looking at the continuum like that seems just like a twisting up and perverting of all my traditional associations of gender and society. And it reminds me of something Mitchell said in regards to what "fucked up" means to him. He said, "When everyone is fucked up, fucked up just shifts a level down. It's relative. [What used to be] fucked up becomes normal."

It seems that the relativity of fucked up formula applies to this situation. If the Cheerleader Beat-Down is the new standard bearer for how dissociated from reality and humanity people are becoming, the next generation is certain to bring the level of fucked up down to unthinkable levels. And my bet is you're sure to see it on the internet. But look around: it's happening all around us.


Anonymous said...

Now I don't believe the world is anymore fucked up then it used to be. Though the times have changed, I don’t think we have.

Violence is nothing new to our species, if you read the history books you can read of samurai killings hundreds of people, including themselves in ritual suicide, you can read how Vikings raped and pillaged the coast of England, How the knights templar tortured their prisoner using such wonderful contraptions like the rack. Violence is almost our heritage, man’s inhumanity to man has been going on since the dawn of time, why should our generation be spared.

The only thing that has changed in my eyes, is the instant gratification, that we have instant access to any perversion or violence we want. This makes it seem like we are bombarded by it, the media shoves it down are throats. When you see stuff happen everyday on the news, in your car radios, on your computers. You think oh my were going to hell in a handbasket. What do you think the people thought when Barbarians sacked Rome?

Will we ever rise above our violent heritage, and soothe the savage beast, I don't think so.

Nora said...

I actually said violence isn't new or special--it's the impetus behind it that makes situations like this stand out. It's what this type of behavior represents that disturbs me.

Sure, instant gratification and a lack of recognition of consequences can lead to this kind of bullshit, but those factors are symptoms of the rents in the fabric of our society.

Refer again to Mitchell's formula. This kind of behavior is just the new standard. It's fucked up right now, but in a year's time, this event will be overshadowed by something even more fucked up and indicative of the emotionally and psychologically dissociation that's occuring on every level of society.

I agree that jacked up shit has happened throughout history. But to put a group of Florida cheerleaders on the same level as Barbarians sacking Rome is unwise at best. The Barbarians were executing a land grab and governmental coup. These spoiled little bitches were retaliating at a little shit talking. Proportion, River, is important when considering these issues.

Mitchell said...

Yes, violence did exist before. Some of it unspeakable.

But here's the big difference:

Vikings, barbarians, Nazis, whatever all did their disgusting, violent deeds with a purpose of one sort or another.

They did not do it because they figured it would be cool to video tape it and show it to other people.

The sick thing about the violence these days is that it gets more and more severe for stupider and stupider reasons.

Yes, there's always been disgusting, brutal violence, but it's been based on beliefs, survival, religion. Not entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Here's my side of this argument.

Nora said...

Well said, Mitchell. These chicks ain't gladiators. They're priveleged teenagers who don't know dick about principles or what drives their own anger. It's ignorance, plain and simple. Their agenda, if they even have one, cannot be poltical and can't be excused as typical of anything.

The most disturbing thing is the willful ignorance, rampant stupidity and common cruelty. I think it's symptomatic of the trouble that is yet to come. We're supposed to evolve, not devolve.

Anonymous said...

The masses are ignorant, they always have been. When we get in a group we stupid shit. Thats what it's like to be human.

This is all human nature, and I am not surprised, nor worried about it. I don't think were devolving either. Basically "Same shit, different day"

These things tend to be cyclic, sure right now kids don't have much respect for anything, the pendulam will swing the other way, and maybe year 2040 people be wearing chasity belts again.

Evolve, before we get rid of violence I want some wings, or some gills, an extra penis maybe. So chicks got something more to laugh at.

Nora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nora said...

I do agree that this isn't out of line with human nature, River. THat ain't my thing. My argument is that what we hold as a standard of what's acceptable is slipping.

And I also agree that nature is cyclic. I just find it interesting that you can discuss how judgmental you can be with people you encounter in your daily life, and how your friends accuse you of being too critical, yet with this particular instance, you have a laissez faire attitude. So, a deaf guy getting handy in a bar gets 86'ed, but a brutal pack of cheerleaders gets the "Eh, that's just human nature"? I don't get it.

I actually do understand your attitude. Life's going to go on, regardless. But I feel like a "what's the big deal" attitude is exactly what makes the relativity of what's fucked up slip down a level.

This event is symptomatic, but it's not that unusual. My point is we have to look at, analyze and address these situations if we want to improve society. That's not a job for other people. That's our job as people living in this society. If we lump sociopathic cheerleaders in with marauding Visigoth warriors, we're not doing anyone any service. We're as responsible for setting the boundaries of what's ok and what's not as any policy makers or media outlets. In fact, we're more responsible--we're the consumers, we're the market. We're society. We're responsible, too.

Nora said...

I would also like to remind readers that my original point is that these girls committed a major crime on videotape and then broadcast it in a public forum. The jarring lack of intelligence in such a decision is something we should all fear.

Why don't these kids fear consequences?

They're not basing their thought processes in reality. They're dissociated. That's becoming a wide-spread phenomenon. It's becoming the norm, and I don't think that's ok.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you do stupid shit as a kid without thought of the consequences?

Nora said...

Perhaps misdemeanors, not felonies.

Nora said...

And I'm pretty sure you've missed my entire point, River. But you definitely bring some good discussion topics to light.

Anonymous said...

Decisions & Consequences...what a major thought!!!! I don't think a lot of kids today have ever had to to decide NOT to do something because they haven't had to learn at a very early age what a consequence is.I hate to go back to previous rants about parental control and teaching of basics,but I do believe herein lies a big part of the problem. Sometimes it's easier to buy your kid off than spend time with him(or her).Give 'em money,drop them off at the mall,pick them 5 hours later,pick up some carry-out before you go out to dinner with your friends who probably did the same with their own kids.Give them the jeans with the newest Thug singers name on them,or the $300.00sport shoes,which no one uses for any sport. And lets not forget that the schools are there to baby-sit not teach...God forbid you are asked to come for a conference 'cus your little pride & joy is acting out in 2nd your kid..he must have been taunted in to it.Then project to high school and see where this has led...he's never had to face a consequence,because MOM & DAD have been to busy with their own agenda to properly raise the child.
I do think things are a lot more "fucked up" than they were 20-30 years ago.Most families took pride in themselves and their children.There wasn't the rush to be grander than the guy next door.If your kid got into trouble,he was usually dealt with immediately,and probably severely(consequence )Not when you got back from a week in Mexico. I see so much more apathy in kids today than ever before,they don't feel valued,or cared for . You can casually say I Love You to a kid all you want,but unless you can show them that you really do you will lose them. Showing your love sometimes is have to put boundaries up that can't be taken down until YOU the grown up parent says so,and this starts very early,and can't let up no matter how tired the parent is.This is a full time job,24-7,and a lot of these parents are failing,as you can see by the actions of the kids.
I think a lot of parents are afraid their kids wont like them.That is scary.If you do your job right they shouldn't like you 'til they are about 25,and if you have done well,you will actually like them too!!

Mitchell said...

You're my hero, Jude.

Nora said...

That's what I'm saying, Jude. I'm so glad you're my mom.

Luke Baggins said...

I'll address the shock and horror at the sheer stupidity of the crime and disregard for the consequences later. First, the idea that things are getting worse needs looking at.

20 years ago was the 80's and violent crime rates were substantially higher then. They were at the beginning of a downward trend in 1988 which continued throughout the 90's. Homicide is the most thoroughly tracked crime and you can see the trends here:

There has been an upward trend the past few years, but nothing like the rise from the mid 60's to the late 70's and the numbers, increased over 1999 though they are, are still way below 1990's numbers right about even with 1970, in other words, 30 years ago, 1978, there were more homicides than there are now. Oh and I just realized I was looking at the "number of victims graph". Per capita numbers, which are a lot more meaningful, were way higher in the 70's and are as low now as the early 60's

Youth crime followed a similar pattern. So the world (the US part of it anyway) is quite a bit less fucked up in terms of violent crime than it was 20 years ago. Other forms of violence are way down across the globe as well. I think it's the access to Internet porn that's making people so much less fucked-up than they've ever been.

here's the youth crime numbers:

The craziness of not even trying to get away with the crime is also not new. In the 1950's Merle Haggard got caught trying to jimmy the back door of a restaurant while drunk. He was caught by the owner of the place who was there because the place had been open and was serving customers at the front end by the time the burglary attempt got started.

Young people have always done fucked-up things. They're just doing less of them now.

Anonymous said...

Jude, brought up some good points, and Luke gets what I'm trying to say.

Let's rewind the clock 20 years ago to when I was a teenager. I knew kids that were doing dope, and drinking by the age of 14, myself included. I knew teenagers that would rob and steal. In 8th grade me and 20 8th graders busted into a 7th graders house to beat the shit out of him . True story. No I don't things have changed so much with teenagers. I think things are just more in the open, and more televised. Also a little more extreme in their methods. I think teenagers will always feel angst, and disassociated we just need better outlets for them to funnel that rage and angst. Throughout history every older generation worries about their children, and of course we worry about ours. Didn't we survive the scare of Rock and Roll? Didn't we survive the scare of the 70's free love movement? We will survive this, don't let the bad apples of the universe spoil the bunch.

Nora said...

I guess I'm just lamenting the loss of innocence. The good old days when teenaged girls would just ostracize one of their own or start a rash of rumors about the girl who stepped out of line. Good old psychological warfare--nothing illegal about that.

Ratherto said...

I think one of the things that is missing here is the overall lack of thinking things through. In the heat of the moment it probably sounded like a good idea, " hey, let's beat the crap out of Susie for talkin' shit about us. Why don't we film it and put it on myspace so everyone can see?" What's missing from this statement? The friend who pipes up with, "Guys, I don't think that would be a good idea."

In general, people don't think about consequences at all anymore. Believe me I used to (and still am sometimes) be the friend telling everybody what could go wrong. I think everything through, almost to a fault. I grew up with a father who is a cop and the consequences of our actions were foremost on my mind.

I'm gonna throw this out there. Maybe...just, maybe, it's time to start whupping (not whipping, whupping. My family is from the south.) kids again. I'm not saying beat them within an inch of their life, but make them go out and cut a switch (branch) off of the tree and bring it in to get their ass whupped. Now that's psychological warfare. I know I grew up thinking about my actions before I did anything. There is nothing more I hated more than getting my ass beat. That'll make you think things through,"Hmmm, if i do this and get caught, I'll get my ass handed to me. Maybe I won't do that."

It's not a perfect solution, far from it, but I think it's healthy to have some fear of the consequences of your actions. I am by no means supporting child abuse. Because the guy who comes home drunk and beats his kids because he's not happy the way his life turned out is a coward and should be shot as far as I'm concerned. But a healthy swat when someone does something wrong wouldn't be that bad.

Nora said...

Ok, Ratherto, now we're talking.

I understand you aren't advocating a beating, per se, but rather an actual and very unpleasant consequence. And if such consequences were a regular feature--physical or not--from the time kids were young, we might not be looking at such a slippage of intelligent choices.

There are few, if any, consequences today. Parents are too afraid to upset their little angels. They're more concerned with being friends with their kids than putting up boundaries.

How much do you want to bet the cheerleaders' parents are going use the equity on their houses to get a lawyer to get their angels off for the beat down?

Consequences? There are few, if any on the home front these days.

Jude said...

Nora,Glad that you espouse decisions & consequences,bet Lady(?) does also.I'm sure that alot of people that should be considering this radical approach to child raising are now watching "The Real Housewives of New York City"....isn't that the way we all live? if the cleaning lady and the gardener would just show up, I could get back to my bon-bons!!

Ratherto said...

Nora, you got it. The other problem here is the parents. Let me state for the record that I have no kids. However, at what point do you step back and let the kids deal with the problems themselves? Too many kids get away with murder, and all too many parents are there to help them get out of trouble. At some point you have to let kids make their own mistakes and deal with the consequences.

Nora said...

Ratherto, you nailed it again.

You gonna be a good daddy.