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Anything Goes

Overview

Published: 04/04/2014

by Jim Campbell

Anything Goes

 We’ve developed a socially approved way to trick ourselves, to be absolved from guilt, to ignore any responsibility for our own lives.

  

Revivals of Cole Porter’s musical ‘Anything Goes’ have given new life to the theme song.

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking

Was looked on as something shocking.

But now, God knows,

Anything goes.

Good authors too who once knew

better words,

Now only use four-letter words

Writing prose,

Anything goes.

If driving fast cars you like,

If low bars you like,

If old hymns you like,

If bare limbs you like,

If Mae West you like,

Or me undressed you like,

Why, nobody will oppose.

The world has gone mad today

And black’s white today,

And day’s night today

Anything goes.

 

Those same sentiments are summed up in the title of a best selling self-help book from the 1970s, I’m OK – You’re OK, by Thomas Harris. It was about Transactional Analysis (T.A.) – an examination of contacts people have every day. Harris identified four styles of interaction: I’m not OK, you’re OK; I’m not OK, you’re not OK; I’m OK, you’re not OK; and I’m OK, you’re OK.

 

Relax, that’s all I’m going to say about T.A.! With the passage of time, all that’s survived is the book’s title. The title is a slogan for a popular core value these days. Anything goes! Everything is OK, everyone is OK. People think: ‘Who am I to judge? What I do is OK, what you do is OK.’ This is what it is to be modern.

 

The reality is that we all know everything is not OK!

 

We – I hope I’m not the only one – are aware of our faults and failures, of what we did that was stupid, mean and thoughtless, and of the good we should have done. Psychologists brand people who are without feelings of shame or regret as not OK.

Are the people around you OK? Hardly! Mean and stupid things happen all the time in families. Some people seem bent on causing trouble, and those who behave badly do serious harm to others. If you doubt that, visit a family court dealing with marriage breakups and you’ll see the damage inflicted by people bent on humiliating and crushing each other.

 

We also know that a society where ‘anything goes’ is unworkable. From the time of the cave dwellers it has been clear that to live together there needs to be rules, laws and moral codes, and rules of the road to allow us to go about our lives. After all, the first thing anarchists do when they meet is pick a leader and write a set of rules that members need to follow.

Here’s the crucial question. If we know all this, why do we pay lip service to the falsehoods? Is it because we desperately want to fit in? We don’t want to be party poopers? That is probably part of the answer.

 The truth is that ‘anything goes’ and ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ signify a socially approved way to trick ourselves, to be absolved from guilt, to ignore any responsibility for our own lives and for the condition of the places where we live out our lives.

It is doubtful that escaping from reality is a useful way in becoming OK.

 

Jim Campbell is an Oakville author, writer and long-time contributor to HOME digest. He also blogs at glimpsesthroughthemirror.com. 

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