BETWEEN GENERATIONS – Marilyn Armstrong

Civility, manners, and communications has, for obvious reasons, become a hot topic. We have a 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 I figure I can discount their opinion.

We talk about manners vanishing and sometimes that feels true. How many people are clueless about what’s appropriate? Do they know when it’s fine to be casual — and when it’s not?

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. There were fairly rigid standards for professional communications. Nobody had to tell us how to talk to superior officers and bosses. We learned this stuff watching others. We learned it at home, in our friends’ homes. We even learned it on television.

Cover of "The Graduate"

We called our teachers “Mr. or Mrs. Whatsyourname.” 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.

Happy New Year and let’s hear it for more of the same!

The thing is, we are unbelievably far from all being equal. It’s not only about race or ethnicity, color or sex, although these issues factor in. Dig a little deeper and it’s about money and power. Which is what it has been about since history began. That’s how society really works.

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 your working for any number of people who are unworthy of your 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 any future career moves you plan. Your boss may be the biggest asshole you’ve ever met, but you don’t say so.

Filling in the forms

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 whoever you said it about. Those chickens always come back to roost, every damned time.

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 your world up 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!”

Looking for work?

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.

But kids who aren’t kids anymore 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.

GRATITUDE HAS A SHORT MEMORY – Marilyn Armstrong

gratitudev2

Throughout my life, since I was old enough to be responsible for my own actions, I have given when I could to people who needed it. I have received — if not in kind, certainly when in real need. Always the gifts came from others, but almost never from the people to whom I had given.

Karma apparently doesn’t work like that.

I assume this is not talking about holding a door or helping someone put groceries in their trunk or letting someone in a hurry go ahead of you on the cashier’s line.

I don’t consider that kind of civility anything but common courtesy which everyone should extend to everyone else without regard for payback or even thanks. I couldn’t remember 99% of them. They are to me — and I assume to most people — almost knee-jerk reactions to moving through life. Being polite is programmed into our social DNA. Or should be. I call them “good manners.”

I’ve loaned money to people who were desperate, bought things I absolutely didn’t need because someone wouldn’t take a gift, but if I bought something, she’d take the money. I’ve let friends and almost-friends live with me when they had nowhere to go, sometimes for years at a time.

And I have been taken in when I had nowhere to go. I’ve fed the hungry and been fed when I was hungry. I’ve delivered groceries to people in need, given clothing, computers, musical instruments, books, bags, furniture,, and the occasional automobile because I had more than I needed and they didn’t have any.

Was it done in secret? No. I usually respond to needs spontaneously when someone makes it known. I hear they need a coat, would love to own that book, need a car. Don’t know how they’re going to feed the family this week. I give what I have to fill a need.

Does it make the gift less worthy? I don’t think so. Do I require a lifetime of gratitude in exchange? You’re kidding, right?

It reminds me of the story told about William Randolph Hearst, who remarked upon seeing an old adversary on the street, “I don’t know why he hates me, I never did him a favor.” And there are many similar quotes.

“Hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one.” — Baltasar Gracian.

“Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.” — Edward Gibbon

Dr. Malherbe of Natal University said to Field Marshal Smuts as he left a political meeting, “Why were those two hecklers at the back so bitterly hostile?”

Smuts replied, “I understand the feelings of one of them very well indeed. He and I were brought up together in the same small town in the Western Cape. I got him his first appointment—and his second. In fact, he owes all his worldly success to me. But I don’t know why the other was so hostile. I never did him a favor in my life.”

“You did him a favor. He’ll never forgive you for that.” — The Boxer 1997

If you do a good deed, do not expect it to come back to you as gratitude or in kind. Such expectations will doom you to disappointment.

Acts of kindness and generosity do not make friendships. More often than not, they stir up resentment. People hate owing debts of gratitude. The most popular people are always those who don’t do anything for anybody. Those are the folks who are admired and adored, followed and emulated. Don’t ask me why. Human nature is a peculiar thing. The longer I live, the less sense it makes.

If you figure it out, be sure to let me know. It’s one of the deepest secrets of life. Very deep. Very secret.

THERE’S A CODE FOR EVERTHING – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a code for everything these days. Every item in the shop, every village in the world.

There’s a code for every telephone. Bar codes float through the air like fireflies. We are all zipped up. Where once we needed our name, today we need a passport, email address, social security number, and zip code.

But, life on earth existed before codes. Before zip codes, cable television, and calling codes. Before bar codes were printed on every product. We used dial telephones which worked pretty well as telephones than the phones we use now.

In small towns, you only needed the last four numbers to place a call.

We mailed letters and remarkably, they got delivered. Television was not as diverse or intense, but it was interesting and often funny. We enjoyed it, or at least some of us did. If we didn’t, we could read a book!

We had conversations with each other. That’s right! Imagine it, for a moment, groups of people getting together and talking about all kinds of stuff. History, books, and the state of the world. No one became enraged and charged from the room with blood in his or her eye.

Oh, did I mention that most of us were polite?

We said things like “excuse me” and “thank you” and “please” … and no one felt diminished or belittled by talking like this. Politeness made many of the small things in life easier to manage.

Not that the world was perfect. Far from it … but manners helps smooth over some of the rough parts.

Much was broken and is still waiting to get fixed, but as a whole, we were nicer to each other. Personally, at least. We weren’t nice because we were whiter or browner or some shade in between. We were nice because we were taught to be like that. By our parents. Because civilized people were taught to be polite to adults and each other. It was the grease on the squeaky wheel of civilization.

As I watch kids today sitting together in groups busily texting each other, I have to wonder how they will develop human relationships with any depth.

If they don’t know how to have a conversation, how are they going to build a life? Maybe the passion for electronics will fade with time. After which, folks will remember how talking and laughing used to take up that space in their world.

You never know. It could happen! Of course, walking around with loaded military-grade rifles and murdering people who you think are the wrong color is both uncivil and extremely rude. We might try doing something about that while we are busy worrying about manners.

Civility is all well and good, but killing people is worse.

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE HAPPY TO GET A PHONE CALL? – Marilyn Armstrong

“Holy shit,” I said to no one at all. “That really HURTS.”

I was referring to my back and left hip (aka “the good one”). It was early. Although morning often is accompanied by stiffness and pain, I don’t normally wake up with quite such a jolt.

Rolling slowly out of bed, I tried to remember what I’d been dreaming about. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. And a shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot.

I took a couple of Tylenol and a muscle relaxant. I rearranged the bed and tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep.

The phone rang. Of course.

I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number. It was not a local call. Scamming technology shows local numbers on my Caller ID including my own number. I’m pretty sure I’m not calling myself.

I answered the phone in what has become my typical surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?” There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key.

It has been a long time since I expected a ringing telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be scams, surveys, or sales pitches.

All the calls I get are recorded messages. I can’t even insult the caller or his company. That used to be the only positive side to these endless calls from anonymous people. Even that small pleasure is gone.

I have utterly abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, it’s annoying and intrusive — another attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack our accounts, steal our identity, or scam us in some other way.

I can’t make them stop calling because they never call from the same number twice and the number that shows on the Caller ID is fake. There’s nothing to report. NOMOROBO dot com has considerably limited the volume of calls, but nothing eliminates them. Somehow, they get your number. When I ask how they got it — assuming there’s someone to ask — they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.”

Except, I never do that. I do not fill in forms online and anything which requires I include a phone number. I tell everyone I don’t have a mobile phone.
I actually do have a smartphone. I just don’t use it.

As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. It’s what people do with it that’s can be life-stealing. Those People have ruined telephones for me, probably forever.

Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor detail in view of the many awful things going on in our world these days, but I can remember waiting with pleasant anticipation for the phone to ring. It wasn’t that long ago.

Or was it?

THE WONT OF WIT, THE BATING PLACE OF WOE – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 6-24-19

Are you more a thinker or a doer?   

Either I just do it and then have a lifetime to think about how I — if I’d thought about it more — could have done it better or preferably, not at all.  As an alternative, I think about it, decide not to do it, then spend years wishing I had done it.

As a third choice, I think, rethink, change my mind, begin the process, stop — write something or take a few pictures — while completely forgetting what I was going to do. When finally I remember my original intention, it doesn’t seem all that important so I read a book.

Why is beauty associated with mortality?

Because dead people putrefy? Because rotting bodies aren’t as attractive as live ones? Even when that individual — when alive — wasn’t beautiful they look worse when dead.

As proof of this statement, I have yet to see a single advertisement for anything using rotting corpses. I mean — seriously — dead people don’t enjoy beer and don’t look good in snug jeans. I’m pretty sure if advertisers aren’t using corpses (who would probably not need to be paid, so it would definitely be to their advantage to work with the dead), it’s probably because corpses are not attractive.

But when I die, hey, if you think this is a good idea, by all means. I’m pretty sure I won’t care.

If everyone spoke their mind (told the literal truth), would this world be a better place?

No. It would be just like it is but worse. Life would be harder, colder, and even more full of blowhards who don’t bother to give a moment’s thought before running their mouths. It’s bad enough now. That would make it oh so much worse.

It would finally and completely eliminate manners (such as they are). It would dispose of any remaining civility, kindness, politeness, delicacy, and good taste.

Your mouth is not supposed to be where random crap just falls out. We are supposed to think. That is why we have brains — which are supposed to be in charge of our mouths. Ponder that.

In the toilet, things just “fall out.” When they stink, you flush them away.

Sadly, once said, you have put it into the world and can never make it go away. There’s no flushing your words. They sear permanently on the minds of whoever is unlucky enough to hear them.

Your mouth isn’t supposed to be the verbal end of your anus. What comes out of it is supposed to have polish. Class. Wit. Elegance. Kindness. Compassion. Love. Maybe even brilliance. Toddlers say whatever flows into their unkempt young minds and that’s okay. They were born to learn and we teach them to not grow up and continue to act like toddlers.

Remove the training in manners and civility and the world would be all adult toddlers. The idea is nauseating. We have one of those in the White House. Isn’t that guy our national huckleberry?

I am sick to death of people who think they are “special” because they don’t know when to shut up.

We went to a party (left early) where one (drunken) woman was blathering endlessly about how proud she was to have started smoking again now that she was done with chemo and cancer. She was proud of this. She has a daughter. What’s her message?

The first amendment protects free speech. It isn’t a license for everyone to say anything, anytime, anywhere, under any and all circumstances.

What happened to class? Grammar? Elegant phrasing? Facts before opinions? Where went wit and cleverness? Concepts based on research? Has intelligence gone completely out of style? If it has, we are doomed.

Can religious beliefs affect scientific thinking?

Amongst the stupid, yes. Brighter people don’t seem to have this problem.

An attitude of gratitude: If you’d like to, share some gratitude in a photo, written, or song. 

The day is bright and sunny and for this small thing, praised be the rain gods for going somewhere else to do their thing.

Now, I’m going to put on a pair of sandals and go take a few pictures before the sky goes gray and the next rain comes.

PROUD TO BE CIVIL – Marilyn Armstrong

Politically correct. What outrage that term produces! How dare anyone tell me how to behave, how to speak? I can say anything I want. I mean … look at our president!

Yeah. Look at our president. Take a good look.

To be politically correct means to tread carefully on other people’s feelings and sensibilities. I’m for that.

Around here, “P.C,” means you can’t go around spewing racist epithets thinly disguised as humor or these days, as pure hatred. PC is designed for all the morons, bigots, racists and the socially challenged. It is a simple rule: “DON’T SAY THAT,” works much better than sensitivity training.

So many amongst us have no sensitivity to train.

Even if the morons who insist they don’t mean it — in which case why are they saying it? — I feel any rule or law that protects me from having to listen to hate is political capital well spent.


I would not call it political correctness.
I would call it civility.
Good manners.
Common decency.

If anyone feels that not calling other people insulting names is cramping their style, these are the exact people for whom these rules were intended. These are precisely the folks who most need them. Normal people have enough intelligence and good manners to know when to shut up without being told. They don’t need those rules. They already “get it.”

For everyone else, we have rules. Call it whatever you want. PC, good manners, civility, sensitivity, or politeness. It’s the same thing.

When we are amongst friends and we know each other well, we relax, let out guards down. Especially when we are a minority among others like us with similar culture and history, it’s all good. We are family, we act silly like family. But if you are not one of us, leave your mouth outside. I don’t need to be insulted. I don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Many people still think racism is sort of cute. I think they should be eliminated from the gene pool.

BRUTAL HONESTY IS ALWAYS MORE BRUTAL THAN HONEST – Marilyn Armstrong

72-Quincy Harbor_036

Rules of criticism:
      1. Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest. It is never well-meant. There are plenty of ways to be honest that are not brutal.
      2. Honesty lacking kindness is merely spite and malice flying under false colors.
      3. When criticism is given without affection or humor, its aim is not to inform, but to wound.
      4. Be wary of anyone who starts the sentence with “Trust me.” To me, that screams “The guy is a liar.”

Anyone can tell the real intentions of someone who is “only telling the truth for your own good.” Mostly, it’s a lie with a wash of “honest” on it.

Usually, it’s an outright lie. I wish people who have a bone to pick would say so and stop pretending it’s for “my own good.” It’s for their good if any “good” is involved. Personally, I doubt it.

brutal honesty

Some people really can’t handle criticism, no matter how gently given — or even a suggestion there might be a better way to do something. For these people, quit trying. Sometimes, they have good reasons for reacting that way, but you’re in a lose-lose position. Move on. You cannot make the unreasonable see reason.

On the whole, people who constantly criticize other people enjoy it. They should shut up and look in a mirror.


So, to sum this up, are you suggesting I don’t take criticism well? Who do you think you are, anyway? I take criticism fine. You are out of line. I am the soul of restraint and patience and if you don’t agree, I’m going to shout at you until you apologize.


There.

Now I feel better.

CRITICISM – Marilyn Armstrong

Mostly brutal


Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest and is never well-meant.

Honesty without kindness is meanness under false colors.

When criticism is given without love or humor, its aim is not to inform, but to hurt.


Anyone can tell — by the tone of voice and facial expression — the true intent of someone who is “only telling the truth for your own good.” Most of the time, it’s a bald-faced lie. I wish people who have a bone to pick would just say so and stop pretending it’s for my own good. It’s for their good if anyone’s good is truly involved.

brutal honesty

Some people really can’t handle criticism, no matter how gently given — or even a suggestion there might be a better way to do something. In which case, give it up. Whatever you feel you need to tell them? Don’t bother They’ll always take it the wrong way and no one will benefit. Sometimes, they have good reasons for reacting that way, but it doesn’t matter. From your point of view, it’s a lost cause. Give it up.

On the whole, people who like to criticize other people get a kick out of it. I would like to kick them back.

So, to sum this up, are you suggesting I don’t take criticism well? Who do you think you are, anyway? I take criticism fine. You are out of line, sir. I am the soul of restraint and patience and if you don’t agree, I’m going to shout at you until you apologize.

There. Now I feel better.

ATAVISTIC DOESN’T MEAN RUDE – Marilyn Armstrong

ATAVISM, ATAVISTIC

I really liked the Cambridge dictionary definition better:


ATAVISTIC – atavistic meaning: happening because of a very old habit from a long time ago in human history, not because of a conscious decision or because it is necessary …


That sort of sums up the world we are seeing these days. A world where behaviors and patterns of behavior from the past are overtaking modern civility. Although I’m pretty sure back in Rome, they were pretty civil even then. Our rough incivility and crudeness aren’t atavistic. They are merely crude.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I maintain that much of what is wrong with the world pertains to the way we treat each other. If we are kind, generous, and civil, the world remains a fairly well-oiled machine and it’s possible for everyone to hold their opinions without turning every disagreement into warfare.


These days, people seem to have forgotten the things we learned in elementary school. Like “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” and most important, “I’m sorry.” Along with “no bother ” and “I forgive you.”


There’s no point in going on about this. Our world is becoming a crude and ugly place inhabited by people who would not be accepted in any civilized society, now or long in the past.

We aren’t being atavistic. We are simply ill-mannered.

TECHNOLOGY AND CIVILITY

“Holy shit,” I said to no one at all. “That really HURTS.”

I was referring to my back and left hip (aka “the good one”). It was early. Although morning often is accompanied by stiffness and pain, I don’t normally wake up with quite such a jolt.

Rolling slowly out of bed, I tried to remember what I’d been dreaming about. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. And a shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot.

I took a couple of Excedrin and a muscle relaxant, rearranged the bed and tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep. The phone rang. Of course.

I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number. This in no way meant it was an actual local call. Scamming technology often shows local numbers on my Caller ID. Yesterday, it showed that Garry was calling me, except he was sitting next to me on the love-seat.

I answered the phone in what has become my typical surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?” There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key.

I get a lot of these “nobody there” calls and I wonder what they are trying to find out. What could they possibly want to know? No hidden treasure in this house. That was my second epiphany of the morning.

I don’t expect a ringing  telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be a scams, survey, sales pitches, or an attempt to collect money from someone who doesn’t live here and probably never lived here.

Almost all of the calls I get are recorded messages. I can’t even insult the caller or his company. That used to be the only positive side to these endless, meaningless calls from semi-anonymous people. Even that small pleasure is gone.

I have utterly abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, it’s annoying and intrusive — another attempt to steal our personal data so someone can hack our accounts, steal our identity, or scam us in some other yet to be defined way.

Too skeptical?

I can’t make them stop calling because they never call from the same number twice and the number that shows on the Caller ID is fake. There’s nothing to report. NOMOROBO dot com has considerably limited the volume of calls, but nothing entirely eliminates them. Somehow, they get your number. When I ask how they got it — assuming there’s someone to ask — inevitably they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.”

Except, I never do that. I rarely fill in forms of any kind — and never ones which require a phone number. I also tell everyone I don’t have a mobile phone.

I actually do have a smart phone. I just don’t use it.

As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. It’s what people do with it that’s can be life-stealing. Those People have ruined telephones for me, probably forever.

Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor detail in view of the many awful things going on in our world these days, but I can remember waiting with pleasant anticipation for the phone to ring. It wasn’t that long ago.

Or was it?

ZIPPED UP

There is a code for everything today. Every item in the shop, every village in the world. There’s a code for every telephone. Bar codes float through the air like fireflies. We are all zipped up. Where once we needed our name, today we need a passport, email address, social security number, and zip code.

But, life on earth existed before codes. Before zip codes, cable television, and calling codes. Before bar codes were printed on every product. We used dial telephones which worked better — at least as telephones — than the phones we use now. In small towns, you only needed the last four numbers to place a call.

We mailed letters and remarkably, they got delivered. Television was not as interesting, but we did read books for entertainment. And we enjoyed it, or at least some of us did.

We had conversations with each other. That’s right! Imagine it, for a moment, groups of people getting together and talking about all kinds of stuff. History, books, and the state of the world. No one became enraged and charged from the room with blood in his or her eye.

Oh, did I mention that most of us were polite? Said things like “excuse me” and “thank you” and “please” … and no one felt diminished by this. It made many of the small things in life a little easier to deal with. Not that the world was perfect.

Much was broken and is still waiting to get fixed, but as a whole, we were nicer to each other. Personally, at least. We weren’t nice because we were whiter or browner or some shade in between. We were nice because we were taught to be like that. By our parents. Because civilized people were taught to be polite to adults and each other. It was the grease on the squeaky wheel of civilization.

As I watch kids today sitting together in groups busily texting each other, I have to wonder how they will develop human relationships with any depth. If they don’t know how to have a conversation, how are they going to build a life? Maybe the passion for tiny electronics will fade with time. Then, folks will remember how talking and laughing used to take up that space in the world.

You never know. It could happen!

NOMOROBO AGAIN AND THE FILTERS OF LIFE

FILTER | THE DAILY POST


In the course of disconnecting, then reconnecting our telephone service, Charter also removed all of the settings and filters I had put on my phone. Everything from voice mail to blocking anonymous calls was wiped out. Including NOMOROBO, the add-on that makes having a telephone bearable in a world full of electronic phone calls from people I don’t know, for things I don’t want, for surveys I would never answer. Pitiful pleas for donations to “charities” that don’t exist. Bill collections for people who used to live here and are forever embedded in some calling service’s memory bank.

Without NOMOROBO, the phone rings several times every morning. Early. Always a robotic auto-dialer — no one who knows us would call before noon or minimally, eleven.

I spent several of today’s early hours trying to figure out how to reset my phone to the way it was. Trying to find the settings to stop the telephone from loudly announcing the ‘THIS CALL IS UNAVAILABLE” and mangling even the most ordinary words you’d think it impossible to mess up. I was not going to get any more sleep anyway because the phone was ringing off the damned hook.

Life is hard without filters. Harder for everyone than it ought to be.

Filters keep us on track. Filters on the phone get rid of junk callers and scammers. Filters on email eliminate spam. Filters on this blog keep the trolls from getting through our virtual gate. Our personal filters — the things we won’t say because it’s “not nice” or which we will deeply regret having said — and for which, apologizing is never enough because you can’t erase the memories or destruction left in the wake of a mouth gone rogue.

People complain about filters. They call it the “PC” police. They resent not being able to just say whatever awful stuff comes into their head, no matter who it insults, hurts, belittles.  If you feel this way, you are probably a bigot and a racist, whether or not you know it.  I applaud filters and refer to them as “good manners” and “civility.” They grease the squeaky wheels of society and make it possible for us to live in relative peace and harmony.

Today, we see how one too-powerful man with an unfiltered mouth can do an almost unlimited amount of damage. One man with neither manners nor civility — no filters — can cause life-threatening harm to millions of people. Did he grow up in a barn? Did no one teach him to say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me”?

He is ugly, cruel, and full of rage. It makes me speculate as to the kind of relationship he had with his parents. Did no one ever give him a hug and tell him he was a good boy? Was his childhood as loveless as the barren, mean-spirited, narcissist who rants daily on our television screens and all over the Internet?

Last night on the Daily Show, Laurence Fishburne, currently playing Mandela – Mandiba, on BET-TV, referred to our current White House occupant simply as “45.” Garry and I immediately realized Mr. Fishburne had given us the answer to a problem with which we have been wrestling. We can’t bear to say his name, but “45” is a tidy, neutral way to identify to whom we are referring without having that name pass our lips. Speaking the name requires excessive oral cleansing to remove that icky taste. Yuk.

I think people who play bridge are going to have a problem. Just saying.

ON BEING DISAGREEABLE

It’s a real thing and it’s a TV thing. It’s a local thing. It’s international, too.

People are rude. Not argumentative and contentious. They are also that, especially in the heat of battle, so to speak. It goes beyond that. They are rude because it seems that politeness, civility, and simple good manners are currently out-of-fashion. Saying please — and sounding like you mean it — and thank you (and really meaning it) are missing-in-action.

You see it on TV shows a lot.

Scenario 1: The reporter is interviewing a subject. Instead of asking questions, he’s acting as if he’s a cop with a guilty perp. He’s interrogating his subject. He won’t let him fully answer the question before he fires off another shot across the bow. Why?

Garry got great interviews by asking questions politely, then waiting for the answer. Listening to what the interviewee said … and then following up with relevant questions. Especially if you’re dealing with people you will have to get interviews from regularly — the mayor, the police chief, judges, politicians — what’s the point of antagonizing them? You get more from people who like you than people who want to throttle you.

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Scenario 2: The cop is asking people if they’ve seen a person and holds up a picture. (Alternate scenario, cop stops driver and asks the ritual question “Sir/Madam, do you know how fast you were going?”) The kid, guy, gal, whoever — and I’ve seen this in as many shows originating in the U.K. as in U.S. versions — snarls something nasty and surly.

Okay. I get that you don’t like police, but why rile up the man with the gun and badge? Now he’s going to take a much harder look at you. You don’t really want that, so if you don’t want to coöperate, why not be civil anyhow? It could save you a ticket. Or a bullet. Rudeness is always counter-productive.

You see it in everyday. You ask the person packing your bags at the supermarket to please not put the bread (or eggs) under the heavy stuff because squashed bread is hard to use for sandwiches. They sneer at you like you’re some kind of senile old bat. Bet they wouldn’t feel that way if it was their bread arriving home flattened and useless.

Half of the world’s problems would disappear overnight if everyone would be nice. Sounds simplistic, I know but there are plenty of horrendous life-and-death issues to grapple with. Saying “please” and “thank you” while omitting the sarcasm might go quite a way towards lowering the temperature of our over-heated world.

Manners are free, you know? Civility doesn’t cost a single penny. They would not increase the national debt or require more taxation. Being nice, kind, thoughtful, and polite to others doesn’t make you a sissy. It makes you a citizen. A good one.

I’m absolutely sure being disagreeable, snarky, nasty, and sarcastic never improved a relationship or a situation. And best of all, being polite, being nice feels good.

DISAGREE | THE DAILY POST

A RARE MOMENT OF CIVILITY IN THE SPAMALOT UNIVERSE

We all get a lot of junk email. I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t still get the pounds of paper I used to get. I felt guilty throwing away all that stuff … but I can delete email with nary a twinge.

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest to win a free Kindle. It turned out the result was that I got subscribed to dozens of indie author websites. I’m all in favor of free books … but this was a deluge of stuff and it was an avalanche, gaining momentum as it hurtled down the mountain.

I’ve been unsubscribing as fast as I could find the right link.

A few days ago, I got this email. It was so polite, so civil, so … well … just nice, I actually resubscribed just because I appreciated there was at least one person who recognized that spamming your potential followers might not be the best approach.

I was so impressed, I re-subscribed. Just to show my appreciation.


Dear Marilyn,

Last Friday you received an e-mail titled “What fantasy books to read for the summer”. This e-mail was sent to almost 5000 people, whose addresses were obtained through a contest run by http://www.freekindlegiveaway.com, a contest for which I was one of the sponsors.

One of the terms for participating in that contest was to agree to be subscribed to a number of authors’ mailing lists, including my own. This contest was run a few months ago, and I received your e-mail addresses early in June.

jeroen steenbeke books page

I hesitated using your e-mail addresses. Before said contest my mailing list only had 83 subscribers, so a sudden growth of 6000% is no small thing. That said, the responses to Friday’s mail have been mixed. I’ve seen a surge in downloads, and I’ve also seen a surge in unsubscribes. I kind of expected that. Had I participated in a contest that required me to subscribe to mailing lists I would probably unsubscribe at the first received e-mail as well. What I had not expected was the number of people who filed complaints with MailChimp, or the response by MailChimp itself. In essence: they strongly urged me to reconsider my strategy for obtaining new subscribers.

I have given this some thought, and have, after some consideration, decided to automatically unsubscribe every single person that received Friday’s e-mail. As such, this e-mail is a confirmation that you are no longer subscribed to my book update mailing list, and will not receive any future mass-mailings from me unless you manually resubscribe through my sign-up page.

In addition, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience my mails have caused. I am not a fan of unsolicited mail myself, and each time I get a newsletter I don’t remember signing up for I have a tendency to complain rather loudly. I am sorry for having caused similar discomfort to others, and I hope you’ll all forgive me.

Sincerely,

Jeroen Steenbeeke

PLAY NICE AND PUT DOWN THE SHOVEL

It’s one of the first things every mother teaches her kid. Or should.

“Play nice. Don’t hit little Jimmy with that shovel. Don’t take Ellen’s doll. Play nice or other children won’t want to play with you.”

Apparently, mom’s lesson went in one ear and out the other. Because no one remembers how to be nice anymore. Civility has vanished. Everyone seems to be on some kind of weird narcissistic power trip where only their needs, their opinion, their feelings matter. Screw everyone else. It’s all about me. Only me.

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Mother — yours and mine — had a point. If you don’t play nice with the other kids, they won’t like you. They won’t invite you to their parties. They may not like you anyway, but if you’re mean and hit them and take their toys? They definitely won’t like you.

We’ve been binge-watching “Scandal.” As we head around the bend into the final few shows of the fourth season, I looked at Garry and said “If they weren’t so horrible to each other … if they weren’t always spying on each other, threatening each other, torturing and killing each other … they wouldn’t have so many enemies. They wouldn’t have to watch their backs all the time. If they were just nicer to each other, a lot of problems would vanish. All it would take is simple civility.” Of course it wouldn’t make a very interesting show, but that’s a completely separate issue.

Which is not, apparently, all that simple.

Love in theory

And not just on the TV series. In the real body politic. On a national and international level. Everyone is so adversarial, nasty, cruel, ugly, dirty, mean-spirited. They’ve forgotten the old “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” thing. Not that I ever understood why you’d particularly want to attract flies, but obviously, that’s not the point.

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What it — and all our mothers — meant is that being nice often works out better, gets you what you want in more situations than being unpleasant and contentious. When I watch television and they show reporters attacking the people they are supposedly trying to interview, I remember that Garry never attacked anyone … and he always got his interview. Because he knew that some chit-chat — friendly conversation — would get him a better interview than an attack.

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We should all get back to basics.

Please. Thank you. Excuse me. Like that.

Not hitting each other with shovels, verbally or otherwise. Our world could be a fine place if we would just play nice. We are in the sandbox together. We might as well make an effort to get along.

You think?

DO YOU REMEMBER?

WHAT TECHNOLOGY DO I MISS? I DON’T MISS TECHNOLOGY. I MISS CIVILIZATION.

Telephones on which both you and the party to whom you were speaking could hear each other.

Sound tracks on movies where dialogue was louder than background music.

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Silence when you were out and not near a phone. Being out of touch was wonderful — the whole point of vacation.

People walking on the street without things stuck in their ears, paying attention to where they were walking. Saying “hi” and smiling when they passed by.

Conversations which were not constantly interrupted by tweets, dings, beeps, and ringing.

Good manners. “Please” and “thank you” being part of normal human intercourse.

The customer always being right. I’d settle for the customer occasionally being treated with respect.

Complete sentences with words spelled correctly and including punctuation.

Full-service gas stations where they cleaned your windshield.