The planet would be better off if every human being was more polite. The extra politeness won’t necessarily help us find a cure for cancer any quicker or discover intelligent life outside of our planet any sooner. Nor would we experience less hurricanes or earthquakes. But what would it hurt?
If there’s no reason for us all to not be polite then isn’t it worth a shot to try? I am amazed when I witness impoliteness in people. Why would you be rude to someone? We’re all descended from a common ancestor. We’re all in the same species. We all share 99% of our DNA. We’re all tethered to this rocky planet in the backwater solar system somewhere inside the much much much larger galaxy we call the Milky Way. And that galaxy is surrounded by indescribably large and far away galaxies that number in the multiple billions. So, knowing all that why the hell would we cop attitude? It doesn’t make any sense.
That said, I’ve done it myself many times. I get in these moods sometimes. Usually they’re preceded by a set of annoying or troubling circumstances. And when I’m in those moods I get short tempered and often forget my manners. I hate it after it happens. I usually hate it when it’s happening. I never choose to be rude, because I think I’ll enjoy the experience. But try as I might I have not yet been able to stay polite 100% of the time. I would like to. I would like to never be rude no matter what the circumstances.
Maybe there are ways that we as a society can think of to aid us in this quest. Because the world might just be a better place if we all did that. Like, a lot better. Like more than 100% better. Okay, I have no idea if ‘more than 100%’ is even mathematically possible, but it would get a lot better.
Let’s say I post this on FB: “People who want to end women’s right to choose are short sighted and wrong.” That’s not a nice status. Even though it’s true, it’s not nice. So, why not be both? Why not reword it to something like, “I believe a women’s right to choose is important and I disagree with/don’t wholly understand the opposing side’s beliefs or reasons for them, but would love to be taught that from someone so I could better understand and potentially even challenge my own beliefs and reassess my stance.” Obviously it’s a bit long for a Facebook status, so I’d have to come up with a more concise way of illustrating my point of view. But I never altered my meaning by making the status more polite. Now my status won’t infuriate as many people. Hopefully, nobody, but definitely less people than the first status would have pissed off.
Now sometimes we are rude when we don’t intend to be or realize we’re being. That happens. My friend recently posted a Facebook status that read, “You know what I find incredibly hypocritical? The President commits an adulterous act and people say it is his private life, leave him alone. A football player knocks out his wife and people are calling for retribution.”
Obviously, that sparked a lot of controversy. But after swapping comments back in forth for a while, he said the following: “We humans are incredibly hypocritical. We do not even know the levels of our hypocrisy. As a Christian, I have had to think long and hard about the hypocrisy in my life.” He wasn’t saying that a football player knocking out his wife was in any way excusable, nor was he saying that hypocrites are bad people. But I thought he was saying that. And part of the reason I thought that was because I took his status as slightly personal. It seemed to me that he was judging my beliefs as wrong and then calling me a name that
But, after I read that comment about us all being critical, I realized that he was not being rude intentionally. He believes that he is a hypocrite just like every other person on the planet. He isn’t using the word to refer to a small percentage of the population as ‘bad people.’ But his original status update did not make that part clear at all. And even though he knew it in his head, his words did not reflect that and wound up sounding quite ‘holier than thou’ and impolite. So, I told him that I believe him to be a great guy and a person who would never intentionally wanna be rude to someone else. And then I explained why I thought his status update was rude and how he could simply reword it mean the very same thing, but not be misinterpreted as inconsiderate and rude.
If you’re curios I said his originally status update could read like this: “People who want a football player to be punished for beating his wife who also said the former president should be left alone and it was no one else’ business when he cheated on his wife are hypocritical. But I also believe that every human being is hypocritical also. And that includes myself. I am just hypocritical about other things.” Obviously that’s a long status and could greatly benefit from a better linguist’s edits, but the point is that we can have our cake and eat it too in this situation. We can make a bold and controversial statement (either in real life or on social media) and not incite feelings hurt and disgust from our fellow human beings. People don’t tend to hate the actual opinions nearly as much as they hate the manner in which those opinions were expressed.
For example, I don’t hate anyone for simply believing that abortions should be illegal. I disagree with thier opinions, but I try not to let that get in the way of my friendship. I see them as seperate. If I love you then I love you for who you are. I have friends that I disagree with on some very big and important issues. But I love them and I respect their right to disagree with me for their own reasons.
Politicians are rarely like this. They never seem to listen to their debate opponents. And they always seem to speak to each other with a sense of belittling each other. And that’s just gross. Why not have a rational, calm, and polite debate? Maybe if you listened to your debater’s words instead of being blinded by his delivery then you could learn something new. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be convinced to change your mind about something. And instead of looking at that last possibility as a sign of weakness – the infamous ‘flip-flopper’ label reserved for making politicians sound like they have no soul – we could look at that as a strength. A willingness to change our mind about an issue when presented with good evidence and/or a new way of thinking about it should be the way we operate. It’s the most logical thing. It will almost certainly yield the greatest chance for agreement and real improvement.
It works in science. When scientists disagree about something and then the evidence comes in they all (the vast majority) come down on the same side. No scientist for example is still arguing that Newtonian physics are more accurate than the Theory of Relativity. When the theory was first proposed it was not believed to be true. It was attempting to bust down ideas that had lived for hundreds of years. But eventually the math was checked and the experiments showed their results. Now, they all use the Theory of Relativity to make their models and calculations and they get more results from the theory than they would if they hung onto Newtonian physics.
So, let’s all try to be nicer to each other. Let’s not hit ‘post’ on FB until we’ve read it over a few times and decided that it’s not a rude statement. Make sure it won’t be misinterpreted by the majority of people to be rooted in a point of view that is selfish, proud or just plain mean. The world will be a better place. I don’t know how much better, but I’d love to make this movement successful and then we can measure how much better the world becomes (poverty level, homicide count, scientific process, etc.). Even if the numbers are small (say as low as 5% better) wouldn’t that still be worth it? We literally have NOTHING to lose.
So, who’s with me? Let’s all start using the hashtag #donewithrudeness in our tweets and FB statuses. Maybe it’ll catch on and maybe the world will be a slightly better place. What’s the downside?