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The World Ain't What It Used To Be

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I don't know why, but I'm constantly surprised at how rude and immature people act these days. Maybe it's just the Internet. I've never once been called an asshole, or told to fuck off, or any number of other childish things in person before. But here, it's just second nature. So what gives?

My parents raised me to be respectful of other people, even when I don't think they deserve to be treated that way, and it's stuck with me all my life. I fight the good fight, but people just turn around and make a big deal out of me supposedly making a big deal out of it. It's almost impossible to tell an adult from a teenager anymore because the adults are just as impudent as the teenagers are, and people wonder why kids act they way they do. Has anyone stopped to think that maybe it's because the adults all around them act like like immature kids themselves?

It's a self-deprecating problem. Everyone complains about how everybody else in Hollywood is an asshole, for instance, yet before they turn their very next breath, the gutter-scum attitudes and filth ridden mouths come out from hiding. And I've gotta tell you, that's not exactly helping the situation.

Have you ever heard the saying that swearing and insults are the first resort of the weakest minds? It's becoming pretty clear to me that it's true now more than ever. Most people who resort to quick disparaging insults are simply incapable of forming a solid argument -- backed by reason or evidence of any sort -- have trouble reading and understanding the people that can actually do these things, and generally don't care that they look illiterate at best, and retarded at worst.

It may sound like I'm being an elitist, but that's just more evidence that there is something incredibly wrong with what we now consider a socially acceptable way to act. I'm not being a snob and I'm not making a big deal out of nothing. Speaking with another person without resorting to ad hominem personal attacks isn't a skill of the academic elite; it's supposed to be something you learn to do when you transition from a self-centered egotistical child to a mature adult. In other words, growing up.

The people who don't see this as a problem are suffering for it as well. My chosen profession is writing, so that's the world I live in, and of all the people I consider to occupy the upper echelon of this profession, I can't think of any that I would describe as a foul mouthed jerk that doesn't respect anyone or anything. They just don't exist, and there's a pretty damn good reason for it. You don't move up on the world if you're that kind of person.

Now there is a distinction to be made here. There are jerks that are further up the food chain than they have any right to be; there's little use in denying that. They don't generally tell you to fuck off for simply disagreeing with them, however. They may be jerks, they may have nasty mean streaks in them, they may even stab their own mother in their back while picking their dads pocket. But they don't cross the line into brain-dead juveniles, and that's probably how they got to where they are in the world.

The people who don't understand that aren't going to be getting there anytime soon. Everyone I deal with, I treat as if they were my boss. I say please, and thank you. I compliment them if they've done something that warrants it, and I take any shit tossed my way with grace and tolerance, because that is what adults are supposed to do. And to date, I've not had a single person treat me any differently than I've treated them, within my professional environment. If anything, I've noticed that people respond to me with reciprocal consideration and praise. When you treat someone with respect, it makes them feel good, and they will happily return you the favor.

Unless you piss them off, of course. It takes a special kind of personality to remain calm and polite under *all* circumstances, and thankfully I have that particular personality trait. I leverage it every chance I get, hopefully encouraging other people to do the same, even when they don't feel like it. Being cordial under normal circumstances makes you a pretty good person, but being capable of courtesy when you're pissed and under stress -- that's something that will take you places.

I apply my character ethics both in everyday life and in my work because it makes myself all that more attractive to the people I want to work with in the future, while people who don't care and act like jerks all the time languish on the bottom rung and don't understand why.

Craig Mazin, with whom I have many disagreements on the profession, believes firmly that there are two ways you can go about getting respect in an industry that treats writers like dog shit. You can legislate via collective bargaining, or you can earn it by working very hard, and being extremely nice and accommodating. I'm a big fan of the latter way of doing things, and to my understanding, Craig has used it to great personal and professional success.

Somehow, I don't think the people who choose to walk the other path can say the same.
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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.