In our obsession with self-esteem and enthusiasm for anti-bullying campaigns, have we forgotten that peer pressure isn’t always bad? In fact, they’re often central features of the civilization process.
Journalist: “What do you think of Western civilization?”
Mahatma Gandhi: “I think it would be a good idea.”
The bathrooms of households containing young boys are often disgusting. Seriously, they smell like the public urinals at a rock concert. Of course if you say something about this, as I often do, you’re invariably told, with a sigh and a smile: “Well, you know, boys will boys.” What the parents mean by this, I gather, is that it’s normal for little boys to hose down a bathroom the way dogs hose down a fire hydrant. Bullshit! Many things are normal for boys, but this isn’t one of them. My wife and I have two boys, and our bathroom never smells like the human equivalent of a kitty litter box. Why?
Because the dudes in our house sit down to pee. Really, it’s that simple.
Our sons have friends over quite often, and, as such, from time to time, they are forced to socialize another boy into the ways of civilized men. It’s quite comical to watch actually. A typical scenario looks something like this: young boy rushes into bathroom, slams toilet seat cover up loudly, pisses all over the place (getting some in the toilet, but most on the toilet seat and surrounding bathroom floor), fails to flush, fails to wash his hands, and returns hurriedly to play video game with other boys. A moment or two later, one of our boys goes to the bathroom, finds the pungent nastiness left by the previous kid, and returns to the bedroom to make a big deal about it. The kid who hosed down our bathroom is convinced by his siblings to return to the bathroom, clean up his mess, flush the toilet, and wash his hands thoroughly.
Trust me, that kid never does it again! Ever.
In the midst of our obsession with self-esteem and enthusiasm for anti-bullying campaigns, we seem to have forgotten that peer pressure isn’t always bad. In fact, they’re often central features of the civilization process. For instance, I know a kid who used to pick his nose and eat it compulsively. Often in public. Drove his mom crazy. She was so embarrassed. Thoroughly humiliated by his behavior. Told him to stop countless times, but to no avail. The kid would sit there in the middle of a family gathering and meticulously eat his own yellow-green snot. But he eventually stopped, rather abruptly, a week or two into kindergarten. Why? Because the other kids in the schoolyard teased him about it. They laughed at him when he picked his nose. Mocked him for his repulsive habit. And he stopped. Right away. Just like that. What my sons do to little boys who think it’s their God-given right to hose down my bathroom like tomcats is of a similar stamp. And I’m proud of them for it. When they perform this useful service, they are, quite literally, agents of the civilization process and forces for good in the world. After all, sitting down is often the best way to stand up for Western civilization.
—John Faithful Hamer, Butterflies not Crocodiles (2016)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo courtesy of author.