12/10/2005

who's rude?

I was doing some writing on rudeness this morning, and searching the web for articles and so on on the topic. There's a whole blog devoted to it, not surprisingly, by a certain Harvard-educated lawyer named Laurie Puhn. It's called Rudeness, Interrupted. It's fairly humorless, but then polite people often are, unfortunately.

I followed a link from her website to The Associated Press-Ipsos poll on public attitudes about rudeness. The thing that struck me, and that I found funny, was how according to the poll, it was everyone else in society who's rude. For a number of categories, in answer to the question "Is this something you yourself have done in the last few months, or not," if it was something rude, the answer was always overwhelmingly "not me!" For example: "Used a swear word in public?" Yes: 37%, No: 63%. "Used your cell phone in a loud or annoying manner in public?" Yes: 8%, No: 91%. "Gotten impatient with someone in public and spoken rudely to them?" Yes: 23%, No: 77%. "Made an obscene gesture at another person while driving a car?" Yes: 13%, No: 87%. You know what I'm saying? It's like it's twelve people doing all the rude behavior and the rest of us are poor, innocent victims. Hogwash. Especially that 8% on the cell phone. But would you expect people who engage in irritating behavior like that to tell the truth about it afterwards? The other patently absurd figure is that 87% that's never made a rude gesture while driving a car!

So when we're talking about the perception of a general upsurge in rude behavior there seems to be this sort of "exemption clause." But hardly anyone, in reality, is innocent. We're all guilty of participating in a culture of mutual loathing, disdain, and victimization. No use playing just the victim. I mean, we all know that victims often become victimizers, and rudeness works like a meme: when someone rages-out on you, chances are, later on, at some point in the day, you'll pass it on to someone else.

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