Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Breaking down a culture

A great way to get a snap-shot of a culture is to look at its proverbs. These paradigms have helped map out a set of morals for centuries and have defined what is legitimate to believe. As Americans, we’ve got some really virtuous ones to attach to our brand.

We’ve got some uplifting ones, like, “Don’t cry over spilt milk,” “Gold is where you find it,” and, “From little acorns mighty oaks do grow.” We’ve even got some good advice ones, like, “If you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus.” Who could forget this one, “Leave well enough alone.”

Some are funny, like, “In God we trust; all others pay cash.” Some are serious (and borderline rude), like, “Put up or shut up.” Some are even peacefully sexy, like, “Make love, not war.”

However, some encapsulate American materialism, ignorance and other negative cultural traits. These bad eggs have leached into society to the point where they aren’t seen as opinion, but as facts of life. People deem the thoughts instilled by these cliches to be natural since generations have passed them down as acquired knowledge.

These culturally poisonous faux factoids are well-known, yet don’t present themselves as mentally dangerous. The proverb “ignorance is bliss” is a good example. It implies that a lack of knowledge results in a gain of happiness. The more a person knows, the more they have to worry about. Child-like naivete becomes an object of value, whereas scholarly notions of reality are taught to make a person pessimistic and unhappy.

Where is the love for education? Where is the value in opening up your eyes to seeing the world around you? Where is the drive to make things better? Isn’t bliss better when shared? It’s much easier to share knowledge than to share ignorance, and much better for the world.

Here is another one: “Praise makes a bad man worse.” Really? What about confidence? Doesn’t praise promote confidence? Doesn’t confidence improve people’s morale and ability to produce good quality work? Without praise, the only reward for hard work comes in the form of flat, green pieces of paper with dead presidents and quotes about God plastered on them. Maybe this bad man in question really just needs a pat on the back and he won’t be so bad anymore. Maybe his Mom never hugged him enough? A lack of praise doesn’t shrink a bad ego; it only strengthens the desire for tribute.

When forms of admiration only come in the form of cash, you get proverbs like this: “A poor man is always behind.” So a rich man is always ahead? This hierarchy, when put into black and white, cannot only cause too lustful a material desire, but can also cause mental oppression among less fortunate people.

How much money you have in your pocket may put you behind some things, like payments or other menial monetary things, but it doesn’t put you lower on the ladder of human worth. Money isn’t everything. You can’t be in front or behind of some things in life, you’re just a part of a whole.

Poor or not, people are scattered all over a multitude of scales for all that life contains. Labeling a person for how much they’re worth in dollar signs takes away a person’s worth in wisdom and virtue. There are a lot of people ahead on morals who don’t have much else to give but their knowledge of experience.

The vague nature of the word ‘behind’ and its relation to the proverb’s meaning is seen in many other traditional American sayings, such as “boys will be boys.” So what will they be exactly? They’ll be their gender? They’ll be a sex organ? That sounds tough.

When a mom has to come down into the basement where her third-grader is pelting his friend in the face with a BB gun and has to scream at him to spare his mortal enemy of losing an eye, it wouldn’t be culturally shocking for her to go upstairs to a half-laughing husband who claims, “Boys will be boys!” In context, what that argument means to say is: Boys will rough each other up ruthlessly.

It is non-descriptive and generates stereotypes. If a little girl was to bite her friend’s hand for stealing her mood ring, would her mother say, “Oh, girls will be girls!” to the mood ring thief’s mother? Doubtful.

One proverb irks America as a silent threat. It would appear that it has only good, wholesome intentions in educating; however, this is a lie. “A dog is a man’s best friend,” would seem like an endearing, animal-loving and sweet statement. But, what is actually being said deserves further thought.

This proverb seeks to prove how important the relationship is between a pet and his/her owner. It shows the companionship between owner and pet in such a way that it personifies dogs, giving them human like qualities.

Like best friends, dogs are seen as trustworthy, dependable, loved, special and capable of having bonded attachment. It not only shows the kindling of man to animal, but it also displays what qualities best friends should have.

In a more practical sense, it shows society in a negative light. If man’s best friend depends on him  for everything, for instance food and shelter, doesn’t talk back and is considered property, then what does that say about friendship? It enforces power complexes and hierarchy.

These same hierarchal ladder rungs that our culture has taught us to sit on, as demonstrated by many proverbs, are the same we stand on. If we’re ever going to learn how to climb the ladder as high as we can, we’re going to have to start thinking about the lessons we are taught, and not just as they are, but with full spectrum of thought.

Leigh Greaney is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at lgreaney@student.umass.edu.

Comments
3 Responses to “Breaking down a culture”
  1. Brandon says:

    “One proverb irks America as a silent threat. It would appear that it has only good, wholesome intentions in educating; however, this is a lie. “A dog is a man’s best friend,””

    ….Honestly?

  2. muad'dib says:

    Congratulations, Leigh, on your very own Sokalistic post-derederedeconstructionist nonsense piece. Twist a saying hard enough and you can make it mean anything you want.

  3. Jack says:

    “If we’re ever going to learn how to climb the ladder as high as we can, we’re going to have to start thinking about the lessons we are taught, and not just as they are, but with full spectrum of thought.”

    This article is just another example of how Americans over-analyze the wrong things. Greeney, if you made your sentences as apt and clear as those proverbs, you would be a better journalist.

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