Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Everybody does it

Well I remember lots of things, but I don't recall ever hearing it. I remember the early RCA Victor ad, "His Master's Voice" was taken from a painting where the dog (Nipper) and record player are sitting on the master's coffin. Someone helpfully suggested that might be perceived by some potential record player buyers as a tad morbid. I remember "Bonanza" was on for like fifteen years maybe, and Ben Cartwright wore the same outfit every episode. That show must've spent all the wardrobe budget on hats or something. I remember Force = Mass x how did THAT get in here?

But no, I don't recall ever having heard someone say, "Yeah, I volunteer at the battered womens' shelter, cause everybody does it." For some odd reason, "everybody does it" hardly ever gets attached to a laudable activity.

It's a delightful phrase, highly useful. Honestly false too, cause we know every human being on the planet is so not doing it, whatever "it" is. It's people maybe not thinking how something might be perceived. Another example of that would be record player ads with coffins I suppose.

I've been intensely researching this phrase (there wasn't a darn thing on TV) and it appears to have originated with Israelites dancing around a golden calf. In these modern times, use of "everybody does it" seems to mostly inhabit two broad categories.

It's used to signify "Lots of people do it and don't get caught." This is a throwback to elementary school, and trip to the Principal's office. It stinks to go, but going alone is even worse. There's that waiting room outside the office, with nothing to look at but that one painting of a duck on the wall. If you look at the duck long enough, I swear, it seems he's looking back at you... OK, admittedly I've zero personal experience with such things, but I heard some big kids talking about it. When one goes to the Principal's office with fellow miscreants, at least they have something to look at besides that creepy duck painting. "Everybody does it" is an attempt, even figuratively, to have some company in the Principal's office waiting room.

It's also used to signify "People I wish to emulate are doing it." Those who would tsk-tsk me and say such behavior ends with adolescence? You're going to have to prove to me that adolescence ever ends in our current culture. So right now in Manhattan, a middle aged woman is telling her friend, "At first we didn't want to get a golden retriever, but then we thought, everybody does it, right?" What she really means is the woman down the hall has a St. Bernard, and her life looks like more fun.

Either way, any time it's used, "everybody does it" seems to be an attempt to justify hare brained activities. Well sure, whatever "it" is, there's probably lots of folks also doing it. After all, if you can find an activity where the more precise, "Lots of people do it" doesn't apply? You might be Jeffrey Dahmer or something. You either draw your code of conduct from your common sense or consensus.

And I still say? You keep a big dog cramped in an apartment all day, then he has to ride down in an elevator 18 floors before he sees a fire hydrant? That dog isn't even going to show up at your funeral.

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