Monday, May 28, 2007

Aimed At No One

A few weeks ago, there were these posters on lampposts in Brooklyn advertising a lecture entitled, "Menschlichkeit 101." I never looked at it long enough to figure out if I spelled it correctly.

My father aptly pointed out that it certainly isn't "Menschlich" to put your poster up illegally on a lamppost. The whole lamp post thing, by the way, is a terrible Chillul Hashem, but I don't want to get off topic.

Anyway, my question is, who is that aimed at?? Do you think someone would pass by, and think to him/herself, "Hey, ya know, I've been an a--hole all my life, and I'm gonna go to this speech to become a nice person."

It would probably be the person who is already a mensch, and is worried s/he isn't enough of a mensch. But the speech is wasted on the people who are already doing the right thing. It's like preaching to the choir.

I think we're all created with an inherent sense of right and wrong. Obviously that gets muddled throughout life, but people usually KNOW what they're doing isn't menschlich. They just don't care.

Like the people who double-park when they can easily pull over a few feet ahead. Or people who show up late and don't call. Or people who cut off others on the road for no apparent reason. The list goes on and on.

Also, "becoming" a mensch isn't something that's taught in a speech. It needs to be shown by example. And it takes a lifetime to instill in a person. Not just a few hours in a crowded room. (Ay, they can take those lessons and remember them....)

Similarly, I remember we had these Tznius posters in high school. Some cheesy puns about being "tight"...I don't remember, but they had them for shirts, skirts, collar bone...the whole deal. I looked at those posters, and laughed.

I've seen kids who were exposed to those posters breaking every rule and then some. They look like, well, I'll leave that to your imagination. Proof that this well-intended project was a dismal failure.

If a girl is already dressing B'Tznius, why does she need those posters? She knows what she can/can't wear. She doesn't need reminders about how assur slits are, since she'd never dream of wearing one.

Now, you might say, (which would probably only apply to the Tznius-poster issue)- What about the people on the edge, who can go either way? As the cliche goes, "If that poster changes one girl's mind, it was worth the whole thing." I don't think a poster'll do it for them. They're more likely to laugh at it than to say, "Oh, hey, this poster says slits are assur, so when I get home, I'll take all my skirts to the tailor." Certain things just have to come from within.

When a woman is ready to take the next step in Tznius, she'll know it. And it probably won't be from some cheesy poster.


At 5/29/2007 10:00 PM, Anonymous Xvi said...

No one is expecting tremendous epiphanies when they attend or organize such a speech. But if there was no effort, than there would be no exposure. This one speech may not dramatically change any lives, but the very effort of it is within the bigger picture. Same goes for any chastising or encouragement in any area. Rome may not have been built in a day, but if the first day if work hadnt happened there couldnt have been a second one, etc...

At 5/30/2007 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle-although you may be right that a single speech will not turn a person into a mensch, what i believe is lacking very much is awareness altogether. People just don't consider other people. For example, look at the double parkers-they are not trying to be mean (for the most part)-they just saw a friend-say hello and forget about everyone else. All some of them need is for someone to open their eyes to other people's concerns. michelle-i'm sure that sometimes you also do things that you don't even realize importune other people. We all do. It takes a great mensch to constantly be on the lookout for others-as opposed to the rest of us who are just out for ourselves. Thus, maybe the speech will just serve to help us shift a little bit to such an attitude.

At 5/31/2007 9:14 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Michelle, you know that today is just about feel-good tactics with lil substance behind it..

I was outraged a few weeks back, when a Tznius Symposium was held in a big hall in Lakewood for over a thousand women simultaneously with numerous events around the world. And basicly all they did was parrot the same old R Falk drivel. I thought for the possibly millions of $ that went into planning these events, you could of had all these women learning serious Mussar seforim or being instilled with morality. Because without that all the preachy "dont let this happen to you, a snood can slide back" sppeches in the world are meaningless..

I called the number on the flier and spoke to one of the women organizing it in Lakewood and told her my thoughts, but she just scoffed at it..

At 6/01/2007 8:23 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Anon- I know people generally don't MEAN to be rude. I saw my mother's friend on the street- I knew she looked familiar, but didn't realize she was my mom's friend till after I passed her. I felt bad for not saying hello. It was not intentional. I'm sure that happens to many people all the time.
And, yes, sometimes people are just so preoccupied with what they're doing, like you mentioned, but I'm not certain that a speech would turn that around.

At 6/03/2007 5:00 PM, Blogger Moshe Y. Gluck said...


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