Back in the day, it wasn’t possible for kids to grow up without their parents warning: “Be careful of the company you keep!” Cautions abounded that even if we were very good (B+ good), hanging out with The Wrong Crowd — the Lazy, the Losers and/or the Criminally Inclined — could cause us serious trouble in life.
Kids still think it’s unfair for parents to believe that just because they have a few Loser friends, they will automatically pick up Loser habits: e.g., doing drugs, stealing, robbing . . . typical middle-school stuff.
That’s because many grown-ups fail to explain to their children that even if they themselves don’t do bad stuff and are The Very Best Person, the effect of hanging out with Losers is the same: Other people might assume that they share the values and attitudes of The Losers whose company they keep, and will treat them accordingly.
Guilt-by-association has caused countless kids (and adults) to lose life-altering opportunities or catch inexplicable grief without ever knowing why. That’s because, for better or worse, humans in our rush-rush world often don’t have or take the time to perform detailed psycho-social analyses of their fellow humans when making friendships, spotting enemies or doling out favors or jobs.
And so far, there’s no app to help with that.
In a fast-paced world, primitive survival instincts can trigger snap judgments about people because ‘snap’ is often all there’s time for. Thus, it’s not uncommon for others to assume that if You’re With Stupid, you’re stupid, too. This can cause an amorous interest to suddenly lose interest upon learning your best friend is finally being released from Pelican Bay.
Is it fair to make snap judgments about people? Alas, when busy people are deciding which of the 7.5 billion other people on the planet they want to spend time or money with, ‘fair’ doesn’t count.
Those who’ve spent more time in Human Resources than the CDC deems healthy for the soul can confirm (off-the-record) that employers have snappy ways of screening job applicants without leaving any legal DNA that might result in a nasty lawsuit. For example:
HR Interviewer: “Congratulations on that very challenging course load you took in college. I hope you also took time to enjoy your summers.”
Good response: “I did. I volunteered at a summer camp for disabled orphaned homeless children. I taught them to read and write, which was very gratifying.”
Bad response: “I did. I spent every summer drilling with my militia group. We’ll be ready when the time comes.”
Another patch of quicksand is the innocuous “What are your favorite hobbies?” Tip: If applying for work at the local zoo or animal shelter, do not mention “hunting.”
Political allegiances have become the latest make-or-break relationship test. While stories about hyper-Christian bakers who refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples and jihadist county clerks who refuse to marry them is old news, the New York Times recently reported that some fans of president Trump are now having trouble getting la — ah, dates — because large segments of the nation’s population want nothing to do with them.
Some have come to believe that Politics is supplanting Religion as a snap-judgment mate-selection criterion, a development that could lead to increased cultural inbreeding. If that is true, by the end of the century countless children born to Americans in certain regions of the country could bear an unfortunate resemblance to Trey Gowdy.