The world used to be a more civilized, more respectful, more courteous place. Now, extreme displays of public rudeness are becoming commonplace and an icy aloofness toward your fellow man has become the norm.
The Age of the Asshole
Need examples? You don’t have to look far. Joe Wilson, a Republican Congressman from South Carolina flipped out during President Obama’s Congressional address in September 2009. Wilson got red in the face, pointing his finger and shouting “You lie!” when Obama said that current health care reform measures would not provide government-subsidized benefits to illegal immigrants. Both political parties were quick to condem Wilson’s outburst, and Wilson was quick to apologize. He simply forgot for a moment that it’s rude to heckle the president of the United States.
Rapper, record-producer, fashion-designer, and all-around jerk Kanye West upped the rudeness ante during the MTV Video music awards when he jumped on stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. Kanye questioned the 19-year-old country singer’s victory and extolled the virtues of Beyonce Knowles’ video. Beyonce showed the class Kanye lacked later that night when she won an award and she invited Taylor Swift back to finish her acceptance speech.
Kanye West Goes South
Kanye West has a long history of antisocial behavior. When he failed to win a MTV Europe award in 2006 he jumped on stage, grabbed the mike from the winner and explained how his video should have won because it had Pamela Anderson in it and cost $1 million. The following year he complained that MTV opened the show with Britney Spears instead of him because he was black. He left that night infuriated that he didn’t win any Moonman trophies, vowing never to return. Unfortunately he broke that promise and returned this year, drunk and disorderly.
Oh, and don’t forget another classic Kanye moment: during a post-Katrina charity benefit Kanye departed from scripted topics like disaster relief and rebuilding efforts to go on a rambling political diatribe that concluded with the nonsensical generality, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
Role Models For Rudeness
Are these the role models of modern society? You’re not surprised when a hip-hop thug or a rock star acts outrageous, but we should expect better of elected officials. But, as the old saying goes, you can put a monkey in a dress (or in Joe Wilson’s charcoal suit and power tie) but it’s still a monkey in a dress.
It would be easy to blame this decline in manners on the increased pace of modern life. Everything moves so fast now, there just isn’t time for pleasantries like there used to be. But in truth, modern technology makes it even easier to be well-mannered and courteous – no need to buy, write and mail Thank You notes when a one-line “Thanks!” email or text message will do.
Courtesy Loses To Frustration
I think the decline in manners has to do with a heighten sense of frustration that has fallen over our nation. The economy stinks, times are hard, and, most importantly, people don’t feel like anybody is listening to their complaints and cries for help. And if nobody is listening to you, you start to shout and interrupt. You get rude.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent town hall meetings on health care reform that have taken place around the country. People are worried and frustrated so they start to push and shove. Even meetings that didn’t result in physical altercations got loud and had an air of tension about them. This is rudeness borne of frustration. I suppose Kanye West and Joe Wilson can use the same excuse. But Wilson needs to respect the rules of order that governing bodies run by and the rules of polite society they people live by.
And Kanye West just needs to get a clue…or, better yet, just get lost.
Originally published in Wayne TODAY, September 2009.