Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rude behaviour

Over coffee this morning, my wife asked if people interrupt their consultations with me when their mobile phone rings. She had been reading an article in the paper about the general level of rudeness in society. She was quite aghast when I replied that it happens all of the time. Most people excuse themselves before answering the phone, however a significant bulk don’t, expecting me to stop the consultation so that they can carry on with their personal life: In a nutshell they are rude.

The point of the newspaper article was that there is a growing problem of rudeness in society, a point which I totally agree with. Rudeness if considered is really a lack of consideration to others. Whereas tolerance aims to put up with disagreeable behaviors, courtesy aims to make one tolerable. In other words, courtesy is an effort to please society.

However pleasing society otherwise known as social conformity has been under cultural attack in the West for most of the last century. Amongst our “creative types” the escape from social conformity has been the hallmark of personal maturity and growth in authenticity of the person. Hollywood and most contemporary literature idolises the rebel and scorns the conformist.

So is it any surprise then that people who have been conditioned to do their own thing without regard to others, do. Also as we keep being reminded standards are arbitrary and who are we to impose standards on others? Good modern multicultural man is tolerant.

In our current society we have reached a situation where we have a synergy between broad tolerance and self assertion which I believe is contributing to the expansion of boorish and rude behaviour. Whereas previously this behaviour was confined to the lower classes--with the better behaved affluent, insulating themselves by postcode and employment type-- now, through the rising level of affluence, these people are increasingly coming in contact with each other.

What this means for the genteel is that their interaction with society is less pleasant. While I do not think that there will be a “war” between the classes on this matter life will become rather less pleasant. The rude and the obnoxious abound.