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Friday, November 19, 2010

On being "rude"

Rudeness is one of those things you're taught about as an early child. Don't interrupt others when they're talking. Try to be polite. Ask nicely. Say things like, "please" and "thank you". These are habits ingrained in us from early childhood. It's not hard to extend courtesy to anyone.

But somewhere along the way "rudeness" and "disagreement" got jumbled up together. Even worse, now the idea of calling someone out for their behavior or statements is considered "rude".

Take my trip off to lunch today, for example. Since my break is relatively short (I prefer to eat at my desk and do a bit more writing) I usually scarper off to a local takeaway joint and get some food. To do this, you have to find a parking spot. Enter Clueless "Disabled" Guy in a BMW. For some inexplicable reason, as cars are stacking up behind us as he pulls halfway out of his handicapped spot, he decides to look down at his phone and do some jotting or texting. This would not have been a problem had six cars NOT been waiting for him to move. So I honked.

I do love my new car's horn - it's loud, and goes into harmonics if you keep it pressed. Two tones, then three. but this was a short one, just a "hey, dude. Wake up" toot that was meant to say, "People are waiting, let's get rollin' here." He rolls down his window and yells out, "You rude son of a bitch!"

My look of bafflement must have made his day, but the two cars that honked right back at him from behind me probably didn't. As I got out, shrugging and walking off, I heard him screaming at the other people who were telling him he was blocking traffic. Words like, "Veteran" and "disabled" were getting bandied about, and the argument that I heard went something along the lines of the salient, yet earthy points of: Just because you have a vet sticker and license plate, happen to be gray-haired and sporting a blue hanging placard, you are not entitled to drive and act like a douchemonkey.

This is also true for people with "Baby on Board" placards. I don't care if you have a baby on board. I have a puppy on board most days, and I still drive carefully. Somehow the idea that a sign notifying people of the cargo you're carrying will earn you special privileges while weaving back and forth in your lane got implanted into the parental collective mind, like the idea that Dilbert cartoons stuck to your cubicle wall indicates in any way that you have a sense of humor about your workplace. You must, because you have Dilbert cartoons on your wall. Right? RIGHT? RIIIIIGHT????

But this is the trend. One cannot state the obvious without being considered "rude". If I tell someone their political beliefs are complete crap and their entire foundation is based on utter lies and bullshit, I'm not cited for being accurate, I'm told I'm rude, or overbearing, or just not understanding of the situation.

Look, in some circumstances, telling someone they're wrong is not rude. For instance, when the younger Palin daughters begin attacking people by calling them "faggots" on Facebook, and saying that behavior is wrong, I'm definitely not being rude. I'm being accurate. When Boehner broadly says that he's getting rid of Obamacare because it doesn't do X, Y, and Z, and someone points out that he's being a moron and will be forcing expensive changes upon the industry and the people of America, that person is not being -rude-, they are being factual.

Somehow telling people they are wrong has become a social no-no.

That's going to suck for me, because I have no qualms about telling someone they're full of it.

This is a behavior that's coming due on a lot of levels. Having been a member of multiple online forums and arenas, I've found that discord and disagreement are no longer considered acceptable; even if someone's stated behavior happens to indicate a criminal activity, you can't out and out say, "Look, I'm sure you know your children and everything, but have you considered the fact that when you allowed your son's friend to sit with your daughter for a full hour in a bedroom put her in danger, and quite potentially a dangerous social situation where she had no escape, recourse, or ability to say "no"?" Nope, I'm being rude if I say that, and censured.

If I note that a particular individual has shown abberrant, destructive behavior, the new tendency of the social strata is not to discourage the destructive behavior, but rather to punish those who'd dare point out that the person happens to be manipulating and controlling, and is getting away with extraordinarily bad behavior in a community.

The most egregious examples? Billy Ray Cyrus throwing a hissy fit when asked about his extremely public divorce on a country western radio station interview and calling the interviewer "rude". And yet the rudest people - those who thrust themselves into prominence by being the loudest, most obnoxious, heaviest in-your-face individuals of celebrity and popularity have the thinnest skins. Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh never permit themselves an audience that can talk back at them; the Dittoheads are their favorite constituency.

Berkeley Breathed once said that Steve Dallas, the philandering, no-morals, no-ethics, chain-smoking personal defense attorney/band manager/creepy sunglassed character started out as a buffoon in the college paper, a parody of every entitled preppy out there, and suddenly men began emulating the behavior. Breathed's most memorable quote regarding Steve Dallas: "This was not my intent."

We're living in a culture where rudeness is cultivated, and if you disagree with anyone's personal or political point of view, offer a different perspective, or want to note that frankly, you could care less about Lindsey Lohan's latest yeast infection / alcoholism detox commitment as opposed to the discovery of a new element, you're considered to be standoffish or rude.

I'm neither, I simply don't give a rat's patootey what Barack Obama had for dinner last night, or what the Real Housewives of DC thought of each other. I have my own personal fantasies and a rich, happy inner world without dealing with the enforced personal issues of people who aren't even terribly good actors. I do not enjoy celebrity for celebrity's sake; I think Jimmy Kimmel to be a moron and Jimmy Fallon a genius precisely for those reasons. I find Keith Olbermann to be an overbearing blowhard, but a necessary one in a day and age when politicos place pressure upon the media to keep mum about the mistakes, the lies, the coverups, and the intentionally misleading statements.

The whistleblower is truly becoming the villain of any scenario.

And I can't talk about my discomfiture with some family members, either, because rather than keeping the respectful notification that two sides have different perspectives that are approached differently, I see a trending towards the "you disagree with me, therefore you are rude / totally lame". It's in the "that's so gay" phrasing of homophobic teenagers, it's in the inability of any political pundit to engage in something remotely approaching discourse. The craziest people with the loudest voices are being paid attention to, and the intelligent, quiet, rational people are getting left behind.

I've always said that the secret of my success is crap humor and a loud voice. T is almost the mirror opposite - she's far funnier than I am, but she never booms it out loud. And that's gaining traction in the media. It's not about who has the right message, it's about who has the reality show, who has the TLC channel following them around, who has the best sound bites, who has the most drama.

I don't -like- drama. I don't like dramatic personae. I don't like having to get emotionally involved with someone else's life whom I have no contact with, at all. What I want from my politicians is intelligent, straightforward discourse and people who are willing to put personal ambition aside for the purpose of the public good.

But that's not who we're getting. We are getting the Donald Trumps, the Sarah Palins, the Billy Ray Cyruses, the Paris Hiltons, the Wrestling Federation Superstars, the cult of Celebrity fed and puppeteered. Our political figures are no longer the Russ Feingolds, Ted Kennedys, Robert Byrds or the Ronald Reagans, Bush Senior or the deeply thoughtful men of a generation ago. Now it's who tweets fastest and who has the most followers.

To wit, if Bristol Palin had not had her mother's deeply rabid fanbase, she would have been cut from "Dancing With the Stars" long before anyone else. How else could we explain how the teenaged single mother of a former Alaska township mayor not only managed to stay on the show, but also wound up becoming a media celebrity? There is no reason we should know anything about these people. There is no CAUSE for me to know or care a bit about who these people are outside of the ability of the woman who is active in politics.

And yet Palin is simply the most egregious example of celebrity as qualification for a position she's woefully inadequate. There's a hint: Jesse The Body Ventura did not transition well into politics. His entire political career was based around being different, but ultimately, he had no idea how to govern or lead. Now he hosts a show about how the government hates you - and he's "back" - albeit on a poorly-rated cable TV channel.

But back to the chap who, absorbed in his own little world of the telephone, refused to see how his actions impacted those around him today. He aggravated half a dozen people simply because he was intentionally unaware of how he impacted others. It mattered little what other people were doing or needing. It's the lack of a turn signal to let someone know you're going left, instead of right. It's honking because someone can't move over to let you through. It's demanding that you be served even though you have eighty items in the express lane because you're "in a very important hurry, young man." It's yelling at a cop or fireman, "I pay your salary, you will pay attention to me!"

A digression: I adore people who scream this out at someone, because due to my ability with mathmatics, statistics, and the tracking software of my brilliantly awesome job, I can in fact figure out exactly how much someone has paid as a percentage of someone's salary. Categorizing a salary means that you can take the percentile of most people who pay taxes, find the percentage of taxes they pay to the state, federal, or city government, then estimate by 10% (generous, but quibbling isn't the issue here) what that amount of money is, divide that by the average number of taxpaying citizens in the state, and pro-rate it per year. Usually, for a single police officer, clerk, or other individual, the rate comes down to something like $0.27 US, so that argument is ALWAYS fun to see in action because if I don't have $0.27 on me, I will give the person a dollar and say, "There you go. Now you have what you paid for his salary this year back, and you can kindly shut the fuck up. You're not entitled to jack or shit just because you happened to pay taxes, you stupid lobotomized llamafucker."

The reason we obey traffic laws and don't stop in the middle of the freeway is because we are expected to behave in a similar manner. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of people who choosing reactionaryism over rationalism means that entitled asshats in BMWs shall continue to pull halfway out of a parking spot; that people with more personality than talent shall get the lions' share of the attention and validation, and that for the foreseeable future, bad behavior shall be rewarded, while people who blow the whistle, or choose to walk away, will be villified for their actions.

I don't want to be "rude". But I'm going to be rude if that's what it takes to let someone know what they're doing is not okay. I'll point out that John Boehner is an opportunistic, power-hungry jackhole interested more in scoring points than actual leadership, that the Tea Party seems to be comprised of people who only want to chant along with Glenn Beck, and that the "movements" of this part of the early century are almost entirely comprised of people who have no real idea of what they're doing.

I pick on the WingNut NeoCons purposefully as well. It is as easy and intelligent to point at PETA protesters, at any left-wing elements of society, at the people who smoke Gauloise cigarettes in university college towns and rant and rave about how we must change the dominant paradigm without knowing A) what the dominant paradigm actually IS, B) what a paradigm might be, or C) whether it's actually capable of donning a corset, fishnets, and a mask of former Senator Larry Craig. That doesn't mean that they are in any way, shape or form more correct or less right than I am; it merely means that the FoxNews and Glenn Beckians have taken the art form of playing aggressively wounded victim to a whole new artistic level. One cannot attack without opening themselves up for dire criticism - and frankly, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Olbermann, and many, many of our loud, obnoxious voices in the media need to be backhanded with rationalism and veracity more than a few times.

We need a return to truth, not true enough or truthiness. We need media who don't shape the message, but simply present facts and information as they happen, to provide pure and undiluted information in its best and clearest form. We need truth; we do not need the circus that has become what our media has decided it should be.

Edward R. Murrow is quite possibly the best example of someone who, under intense, violent scrutiny, was what could be best described as "rude". However, we have no Edward R. Murrow. We only have Joel McHale, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert - none of whom do more than mock those who choose to attack with a hammer and defend with a thin skin.

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