Most of us have seen the poster.
The first time I caught a glimpse of it was in a Spencer's Gifts, back in the early 80s. It was displayed inside one of those aluminum-framed plastic poster flippers, sandwiched among a cluster of 80s detritus: Muppet Babies (flip), Scott Baio with feathered mullet and cut off half shirt (flip), Olivia Newton John clad in active "Let's Get Physical" headband and skin-tight Sassons (ful......ip), Sebastian Bach licking his double-necked guitar (flip), a florescent velvet-on-black rendering of Ace Frehley (flip).
But The Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (henceforth to be referenced as EINKILK) poster wasn't as easy to dismiss. Sure, it was maudlin and perhaps a bit trite - even to my naive 13-year-old eyes. (Although back then, in my sub-articulate disapproval, I likely filed EINKILK under "gay" in my mental rolodex. Gay: the seemingly boundless category assigned by adolescents across the nation for all things effete or uncool - ironic since at the time I was probably wearing irregular Bugle Boy khakis - "pegged" at the ankles - from Marshalls and a white, cropped, acid-wash jean jacket.)
In retrospect, maybe it was the tone of the poster that startled me more than anything else.
As a non-religious Jewish kid, it jolted me away from my own "Don't fuck with me; I won't fuck with you" moral comfort zone and into the Precious Moments-bedazzled realm of Born Again Christian candy-coated preachy-ness. Still, I couldn't repudiate the poster's overarching theme: Be nice; be considerate; take it easy on yourself and others. In other words, don't be a dick.
Today, the EINKILK poster is little more than a quaint relic from a less cynical era. Though America in the 80s will be forever identified with the scourges of the Cold War, cocaine consumption, material vices, greed, Reaganomics, and Z-Cavariccis, it was also a simpler time. While repression was still in bloom, cooler-than-thou hipster irony had yet to gain enough momentum to steamroll every last fragile vestige of sincerity in the public domain.
Now, sentiments such as EINKILK get re-packaged into kitsch - Urban Outfitters T-shirts, SNL sketches, or perhaps a Zach Galiafanakis bit. In the 80s, it was occasionally okay to be unabashedly corny; now, if you're caught wearing a powder blue My Little Pony T-shirt, it's with a wink-wink and a nod-nod to your cronies - an assurance that it's all just a cute, ironic ruse.
Get it? I'm cool, so why would I ever really wear a My Little Pony shirt - because My Little Pony's corny and saccharine and for little girls who dream about having little ponies as pets. Unlike me, who dreams about slaughtering them and cooking their parts in vats of broth. Though a T-shirt depicting such would be too obvious, thus tarnishing my image as a clever modern master of dripping irony.
Those of us old enough to recall that far back know that, in the early-80s, the face value of things held more currency. Back then, hope was more than a mere campaign slogan and there was only one glossary definition of Abraham Lincoln.
Okay, that last thing was uncalled for. I apologize.
In contrast, EINKILK was conceived, I presume, without a hint of pretense, irony, or self-mockery. It's a poster that softly admonishes: These are the fundamental tenets of humanism, ones you probably should've picked up when your life still revolved around snack time, nap time, and surviving the rapacious child-eating monster holed up in your closest. And if you don't know them by now, learn. Or fuck off.
EINKILK is the manifesto for the dogma of touchy-feely righteousness. And like any dogma - be it the Old or New Testaments, The Koran, Dianetics, or How to Win Friends and Influence People- there are kernels of truth to be found amidst the heaping piles of bullshit.
So ridicule EINKILK if you choose. But if the players responsible for this nation's health care mess - fat cat insurance and pharmaceutical executives; an out-of-touch media; conniving Capitol Hill lobbyists; morally corrupt insurance underwriters, the GOP propaganda power-puke machine; the food industry; timorous Democrats; and an overfed, over-treated, out-of-shape, and under-informed populace had just followed its 12 simple tenets, most of us wouldn't have to freak out about keeping our already tenuous coverage every time we switch jobs, get laid off, or discover an oblong mole on our asses.
In subsequent posts, I will make a direction connection between the not-so-lofty standards of EINKILK and how we, as a society, have done everything possible to violate them (though I'm still struggling conjure a remotely relevant metaphor for Warm Cookies and Cold Milk are Good For You. My suggestion box is wide-open for that one.