Clichés Make the World Go ‘Round
By Ann Green
Recently I read an article in which a mother gushed that a school play made it possible for her child’s class to “be part of something bigger than themselves.” A cynic when it comes to clichés, I turned to my husband and mused, “Maybe I should try to become part of something smaller than myself; but I guess I wouldn’t fit.” This made me think of the comic Steven Wright’s classic, “You can’t have everything; where would you put it?”
I began to reflect on the countless clichés that clog our conversation and fog our thinking. News, entertainment and other media send them into overdrive; yet we still nod in agreement, chuckle as though amused and pretend we‘ve been informed by them.
I would like to focus on a few clichés — oldies and newly minted (not an oxymoron since clichés grow up so fast these days) — with the goal of waking people up to their nefarious effect on our lives. Because, my friends, what passes for intelligent conversation, words of wisdom, or merely the evening news, are in fact as void of meaning as infomercials for skin care products and sharp knives.
For example, in any conversation about something unfortunate that has befallen a child, someone inevitably says, “Kids are resilient.” As if all kids are the same. As if there are no psychologically, emotionally or physically damaged children or adults among us still suffering the effects of a trauma experienced earlier in life. Resilient kids are resilient. Let’s hope the rest get therapy.
Another favorite: “We all (pick one) got drunk every weekend, did drugs, watched too much TV, drove too fast, ate Twinkies till they came out of our ears, etc., and we turned out okay.” All of us? Really?
One picture is worth a thousand words. Just like prose, photos can be misread. Propagandists and advertisers use photos, movies and other visual media to bend the truth by manipulating images. Can you say “Photo Shop?”
How about calling everyone who disagrees with you a “fascist” and blaming all the woes of the world on “big business” or “corporate America,” and now the faceless, evil “1%.” And there’s no way out, because all politicians are alike and they stick to politics as usual.
The worlds of business and education share clichés. Since I operate in both worlds I’m really excited about the current zeal for change agents, because we surely don’t want to engage in the same old same old. It simply wouldn’t be sustainable. And if we can achieve true transparency, then we can begin to think outside the box. I also aspire to be a thought leader, and I’m looking forward to aliens coming to Earth and commanding the first person they see to “Take me to your thought leader.”
I realize that certain clichés help the daily social flow, but seriously, how much can you take? Discussions of the weather make my eyes roll so far up I’m sure I’ll detach a retina. But I think it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Although before you know it, it’ll be fall. I can’t believe we’re already half-way into July, can you? Where does the time go?
Sometimes we are called upon to protect our children from incoming clichés…“Look how tall he got!” (They don’t tend to shrink until they’re my age.) “I remember him when he was in diapers!” “He looks just like his father.” (Someone said this to a friend of mine whose child is adopted.) “Enjoy them while you can. Before you know it, they’ll be…talking back…going to school… off to college…having babies of their own.”
So, please, smile, it can’t be that bad!
Going forward, at the end of the day, I just want to make sure we’re all are on the same page.
Have a nice day!
A version of his article was published the Newton, MA Tab.