Archive for February 2011

The Put-Down as Art Form   Leave a comment

I wonder what ever happened to good, old-fashioned manners and civility.  With the advent of global communication and “social networks”, it seems both those qualities have gone the way of the dinosaur.  Perhaps because those who are normally nasty to others, anyway, can now “hide” behind a computer identity, real or false.   Safety in distance.  Easier to “tweet”, comment,  or post a first response.  Letters take time to both write and mail.  Emotions cool.  Eye contact is uncomfortable, so just don’t make it a person to person thing until one gets the hang of nastiness.  Or, as these people so like to put it, “honesty”.

Perhaps we have applauded for too long the insipid, catty, and trite put-downs brought to us by the media, both news and entertainment, and the ability to broadcast to the masses the nastiness people spew at others who do not think as they do.  Maybe insipidity, cattiness, and triteness are now “smart” and “edgy”. Real 21st century.  The “put-down” as art form.   Perhaps it has just become the norm with “instant” messaging and open comments, and carries over into physical reality.

Whatever is going on, snide commentators have huge followings.  People get a lot of entertainment out of the “witty “and nasty repartee between characters.  Disrespect and nastiness prevails whether in the workplace, the town-hall meeting, the family, the educational institution, the church, or the social gathering.  Even in Congress.  And , among those of all ages.  Practice of the art form of the put-down and name calling is especially available on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or any of the social networks and comment sections that connect people without them having to make eye contact with another human.   Instant retaliation to something with which they disagree.   Instant gratification in the lowest form of communication.  Perhaps the inclination has always been there—indeed, history shows that it has—but,  it is more difficult to look another person in the face and call him/her a hodgepodge of names from a to z.  Or write a letter.  Not an e-mail, but a letter.  So , when global communication came about, perhaps it became just OK to be nasty.  Practice, after all, does make perfect.  Sharpens the barbs.  Becomes a habit.  Dehumanizes the target.  Whether that person is a friend, acquaintance, or stranger.  So, it became easier to do it in person.  Perhaps those who deliver such diatribes really ARE, as they put it, just being “honest”.  With everyone but themselves, that is.  Honest?  Maybe.  Hurtful and inflammatory?  Certainly.

Of course, nasty people have always existed.  In politics.  In entertainment.  In life.  In “friendships”.  In families.  But, should I applaud their “coming out” and saying what comes to mind, regardless of whether it is hurtful to another, while they hide behind a telephone line or a computer screen?   Or thank them to their face because the habit of “honesty” has developed and grown into the ability to be nasty person-to-person in a physical reality?  Should I applaud their sense of “honesty”?

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned.  Perhaps I’m out of touch.  But, to me, kindness overrides.  A “white lie” is one that saves feelings.  “Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far” carries more weight with me than some misplaced idea of “honesty”.  Even as a non-Christian, Proverbs 15:1 makes perfect sense.  Behind every computer screen is a human being.  Behind every cynical face is a human being.   Behind every thought, right or wrong (and that is certainly relative), there is a human being.  I just don’t think hurting someone’s feelings in the quest for honesty is the right thing to do.  I believe politeness and civility go further to help a confrontational situation than a nasty put-down or snide remark.   But, perhaps I just don’t get it.