If you were a quiet kid in school, the middle of the road type who did your work and didn’t make a fuss, no one likely gave you much notice. You were left to fend for yourself. If you were an honour student, you were showered with praise and teachers smiled with pride when you raised your hand to answer a question. You got lots of attention, sure, but nothing like the kid who was belligerent, smoked or sold pot, got into fights, and did whatever he could to get noticed. That kid got some serious focus, the kind only microscopes can provide.
This garnering of attention happens in families too. It did in mine. As a kid, my sister and brother took every opportunity to remind me that I was the chosen one. You’re such a suck, they would say in that way that puffs you up with rage yet leaves you feeling small and vulnerable as though you’re to blame for who you are. You’re the one who can do no wrong. Lucky you, they’d say, elongating the “you” as if there was something bitter in their mouth. Usually, one would pinch me or make a face while the other would turn their back as a tactic to negate me.
We’re all in our 50s now and they have never let me forgot that I got all the attention. Although in my memory, it didn’t feel like it, particularly after my sister, then my brother went a little wild and became my parent’s sole concerns. I’m sure we each remember the same situations in different ways. Even the stories we tell about those childhood events seem to suit our view of ourselves. But I’ll save that topic for another blog.
What is interesting to me about the issue of attention, and how much we get, is it doesn’t change much as a person moves through life. The reserved ones continue as adults to get little to none of it. Perhaps they like that. I don’t know. I’m not all that quiet, as you’ve probably gathered by now, so I can’t really speak for them.
The driven, type A folks continue to get noticed and applauded. Sure. But those problem kids, now adults who seek notice by outlandish and negative means, still lap up the bulk of the attention. We, and by we, I mean the media, society, all of us zero in on over-the-top behaviour with the kind of concentration and single-minded fascination we have for an accident scene.
Over the last several weeks, the media has reported non-stop on the antics of the Republican’s extreme right wing arm, the Tea Party. This group that purports to have their country’s best interest at heart has brought the United States government to its knees (and made global markets nervous) because they want things their way and will stamp their feet and throw a temper tantrum until they get it. If we were to stop giving them so much airtime, would they have the same clout? Doubtful.
There has also been the diatribe (misguided at best, chauvinistic backwater crap at worst) of author David Gilmour. His statements won’t be repeated here because they aren’t worth my effort to type. He says ridiculous things and we all react, giving him the kind of media play this guy craves as if it were chocolate.
And then there’s the issue of our national anthem. Margaret Atwood and former Conservative (you had to know it would be a conservative) prime minister, Kim Campbell want to change the words of our anthem, “true patriot love in all thy sons command” to make them more gender neutral. Apparently they think this current verse excludes women. Really? Come on people. I don’t feel unequal or excluded in a country that protects my human rights. And no words in a song are going to make me feel more or less equal.
There are other issues in the world: girls in other countries who can’t safely go to school, poverty and disease among our First Nations, children dying in unregulated factories, boatloads of illegal immigrants perishing at sea just because they took a chance at a better life. And there are people who quietly work every single day to improve these situations. How about we shine a light on these people, these situations, refocus our gaze and perhaps make something positive happen.
When I complained that my brother and sister were teasing me or pinching me, my parents would say, “if you ignore them, they’ll stop.” Good advice for dealing with the enfants terrible whoever they may be.
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