Civility, manners, and communications has become a hot topic. We have a racist, narcissistic president who insults people in front of the entire world and a lot of people apparently believe it’s okay. Of course, some of these people also believe the same idiot blowhard is the next messiah, so maybe I can discount their opinion. I don’t have a strong religious predilection, but I’m absolutely sure Orangehead is no one’s messiah.
We talk about manners vanishing and I’m beginning to believe it. Not only can our head of government not conduct a civil conversation, but delivery men lie, our neighbor is mad at the world and won’t deliver packages accidentally delivered to him rather than us. Some years ago, Bonnie had wandered up the driveway. A passing motorist picked her up and would not return her until the police showed up with sirens wailing and then she decided I didn’t really need to pay for her to return my dog.
This is pretty much a no-brainer for my generation. It’s not that we’re so smart, but we were raised differently. We grew up when there were clear rules about social behavior. The standards were pretty rigid for professional communications and I’m pretty sure they still are. Nobody had to tell us how to talk to superior officers or bosses. We learned this stuff watching other people. We learned it at home, in our friends’ homes. We even learned it on television.
We called our teachers “Mr. or Mrs. Whats-your-name.” That’s also how we addressed our friends’ moms and how our friends addressed our parents. That’s how we addressed everyone older than us.
It’s one of the funny parts of watching “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman. He may be sleeping with Mrs. Robinson, but he never calls her by her first name. That would be impolite.
The next generation had its own set of rules. They didn’t believe they needed to respect their elders simply because they were elders. Or bosses or teachers. They heard a different message: everyone is equal. They didn’t get that equal before the law is not the same as equal in the office. Or in the military.
The thing is, we are very far from being equal. It’s not only about race or ethnicity, color or sex, although these issues are a huge factor. Dig a little deeper and it’s just as much about money and power. Which is what it has been about since history began. That’s how society really works. Being a minority is fine as long as you have more money than the other guy. Green is really the only color that matters.
In my generation, we all knew this before we left high school. You don’t treat your boss like your buddy. It has nothing to do with whether or not your boss deserves your respect. It’s nice if he or she does, but In the course of a building a career the odds favor you working for any number of people who are unworthy of anyone’s respect.
As long as they sign your paycheck, you treat them with respect, tact, and care. Not only does your salary depend on it, so does your reputation and future career moves. Your boss may be the biggest asshole you’ve ever met, but keep it to yourself.
If you’re smart, you don’t say it behind his or her back either because another rule of the real world is what you say will get back to roost. You will need all the goodwill and recommendations you can get as you fight your way through the working world. Don’t squander it. Don’t blow up your world by gossiping, backbiting, and behaving like a brat.
To people my age, all this stuff was obvious, that all men may have been created equal, but after being born, some are much more equal than others. No one had to tell us not to start a memo to the boss with “Yo, Bossman!”
We knew that. We knew who had the power and who didn’t. We knew when to fight and when to duck and cover. We knew we needed to earn our way and had to behave professionally. Kids who are long past childhood don’t seem to get it. Unsurprisingly, neither do their kids. I don’t understand what they don’t understand.
Do you? Maybe they’ve been watching too much news and have a bad case of Trumpitis.