The Gutter Culture

“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.” —George Orwell


I. The Culture

In discussing cultural hegemony—the leadership or dominance of one social group over others[i]—we may observe that among the variety of cultures in America some concede to dominant cultural practices more so than others. This concession occurs in several forms, from consumerist trends and food-culture to lifestyle values and health habits. In America, acceptable cultural norms include: paying taxes, keeping up with news, furthering education or skills in order to be gainfully employed, following fashion trends, and more. Conversely, some cultures possess characteristics that not only are different from the dominant group, they actively oppose accepted cultural norms and are thus labeled deviants. In sociological terms, deviance is defined as “behavior that violates the norms of the social group in which the behavior occurs”[ii]. It’s important to note that being a deviant is not an inherently negative quality; deviants simply do not reflect the practices, beliefs, outlooks, etc. of the majority. Instead, they establish an identity constructed from a different set of values and customs. Many deviants are our heroes, our champions, and our pioneers—they are accomplished innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs who’ve found success through deviant behaviors. Deviance is a highly normative aspect of culture, and many functionalists argue that it is a constructive, necessary quality of every society. However, there are other types of deviants, both individualistic and cultural, which are troublesome and antagonistic. When a culture of purely negative deviance flourishes, not the innovating heroes mentioned before—but the group of teenagers who knock down mailboxes—this has a corrosive effect on our larger systematic society.


When Humans Study Humans

If the goal of a philosopher was not only to inquire about the nature of life and the universe, but to discover concrete, testable truths, he should have been a scientist or mathematician. Discoveries in the hard sciences are no less revelations of truth than those sought by the persisting philosopher; they illuminate the unseen mechanisms that hint at how the universe works. But rather than focusing on the world of humans—a world comprised of emotions, personalities, spiritualities, etc.—these hard sciences exist in a realm of numbers, elements, and matter. And just as the pioneers of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and other hard sciences worked with a relentless diligence to discover scientific truths that are both testable and replicable, this same diligence can be found in the soft sciences, such as psychology and sociology. In the social sciences, philosophies regarding ethics, morals, values, and other “truths” of the human condition are now and shall ever be of great study. These soft sciences have made discoveries, crafted theories, and perform frequent studies for the betterment of the world at large.

But unlike the consistent, replicable world of mathematics, the social world is highly dynamic and fluid. This makes the study of the social sciences, as well as the political implications of its findings, a basis of great debate by those both in and outside these fields of study—and rightfully so. When it comes to morality, ethics, behavioral norms, and cultural practices, it seems rather bold to state that conformity of opinion should be a goal set by those within the social sciences; yet many within these fields propose that their data is proof enough to establish legitimacy, and that contradictory opinions to such findings are the result of either willful ignorance or wily indoctrination.

Despite the positive advancements in the social sciences, they have missed (or ignored) some important issues. The most concerning of these is that many practitioners, professors, and students in these fields adopt a “hard science mentality” toward their studies, often citing theories, findings, and methodologies as indisputable scientific facts, or “truths”, when they should, in fact, be taken with a grain of salt. Specifically, I will address this issue within the field of sociology.


Tattle Advocators Create Weak Adults

Throughout the course of our lives, we each encounter an innumerable amount of obstacles, or conflicts, we must overcome. Conflict enters our lives at the earliest stages and may last until the latest, whether we’re fighting a cold, fighting for our lives, or dealing with contention and day-to-day stress. Although we cannot anticipate the extent of the conflict we each will encounter during our life path, we can prepare for it. Both elements of nature and nurture are relevant when it comes to this; but where the instinctive aspects of conflict management end, skill-building is prominently learned within our cultural environment. We can indeed be taught how to effectively manage and build resilience to various forms of conflict.

Through many experiences that expose us to discord we strengthen our mental responses to stress, reinforce confidence in our self-worth, and confirm that our identity is both stable and worth defending against the forces that threaten it. This is a process of psychological conditioning, which is perhaps most pivotal during childhood and early adolescence. Considering this, it’s practical to assume major institutions of our culture, such as media, education, and politics, advocate for the conditioning and personal management of interpersonal conflicts amongst our nation’s youth.

Unfortunately, this is not the case when the average citizen turns on a television, checks the news on their smartphone, or attends a parent-teacher conference.

Surprisingly, many popularized messages regarding conflicts advocate the opposite of conditioning and management. Although at the surface the intentions seem in the best interest of all parties involved, these practices are inadvertently robbing rising generations of their personal power. Consequently, we are beginning to see the detrimental effects this is having on vital characteristics of resilience, independence, and positive self-worth in rising generations.


Creating Personal Power

One of the most important aspects of individual independence is personal power. When I say personal power, I am not referring to power that one may have over others, but power of the individual in and of himself. In dealing with the many conflicts we encounter throughout our lives, one of the greatest tools we have as individuals is our personal power. This is embodied in many different forms, be they intelligence, knowledge, physical strength, skills, talents, or otherwise. Yet, as much as we are unique in the qualities we each possess, there are universal characteristics in each of us that make up this sense of personal power.