Tuesday, September 15, 2009

hints on etiquette

Andrew and I post quotes on our fridge from movies we like. One of them, from Woody Allen's film Manhattan, is: "Really biting satire is always better than physical force."

I'm not the first to write about the recent high-profile outbursts in the news: Serena Williams, Joe Wilson, and now Kanye West. I won't bother explaining each incident since all three have been Trending Topics on Twitter which means there's enough fodder on the world-wide web to educate yourselves.

The fact that all three happened in the same week has become the catalyst in a slew of delicious satire directed at the current state of decorum: here, here, here, and here (the last of which was written by one of my favourite satirical columnists, Maureen Dowd, at the New York Times). George Will of the Washington Post quotes:
We've decided that it is therapeutic to express oneself no matter how coarse one's thoughts, and that whatever is therapeutic is good. I think we're seeing a kind of emotional exhibitionism whereby people say, 'I said something ghastly, but I said it honestly and sincerely.' And honesty, sincerity, and authenticity are self-legitimizing.
In our own, homegrown Globe & Mail this morning, Judith Timson wrote a great article about what she labels "entitlemenia". Like Timson, I agree that private poetic license the stage has been set for public outbursts. Intelligent, witty, and well-phrased (don't even GET me started on grammatical precision) comments are far outweighed by uncouth comments from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube to blogs. Andrew and I were just hypothesizing about how brave most of the commentators would be in person, without a computer and the internet between themselves and their victims. Bravado builds slowly until it ruptures on tennis courts, in congress, or on stage. In a heated moment on stage, it's difficult to curb a foul mouth that has been fed backstage.

Timson writes:
The Internet and the opportunity it provides for everyone and anyone to boldly disseminate their opinions might promote rudeness but it also nurtures democracy and connectedness in a way that Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of when he coined the phrase “global village.” We need to somehow make civility sexy again in this global village.
As I remind Andrew when he feels a bout of brutal honesty coming on: "Just because it's true doesn't mean it has to be said." And when I use profanity casually, to make a point or for jest, he counters with, "You're more intelligent than that."

I'm bringing civility sexy back.


Dave Carrol said...

"Just because it's true doesn't mean it has to be said."


Andrew G said...


and then there are times when the brutal truth just works.