Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Learning Curve

I know, I know, I too often despair (and one of the things about which I despair most is the mounting evidence that I'm turning into a grumpy old man), but let's face it…there's a lot to despair about.

Remember courtesy? Good, old-fashioned common courtesy? "Thank you" and "You're welcome" and "After you," and "Can I help you with that?" You still run into it occasionally, but it does seem in distressingly short supply. Rudeness and insensitivity and ME seem to be the norm in today's society.

We learn from what we see, and take our cues as to how to react to others from that.

 The commercials we're exposed to 18 minutes out of every hour we watch TV foster these norms. What lessons are we...or more importantly our children...supposed to learn from the pain reliever commercial where a woman is putting six boxes of one brand into her shopping basket while a voiceover tells her she can get the same effect from one box of the sponsor's brand. And what does she do? She picks up the sponsor's product, puts her basket with the obviously inferior product down on the floor in the middle of the aisle, and walks away! (Don't bother putting the other stuff back, lady. Just leave it for somebody else to do.)

 Or the oft-referred-to-here commercial with the frizzy-haired blonde who, checking her sales receipt as she leaves the checkout stand, assumes the store has made a mistake. Does she ask the clerk if there was indeed an error as basic common courtesy would dictate? Hell no! She races out of the store, yelling to her husband to "Start the car! Start the car!", absolutely giddy in the belief that she has gotten away with screwing the store out of something. What a message that sends!

The prevailing attitude seems to be, if you're stupid enough to fall for whatever con I'm trying to put over on you, tough cooky. You deserve whatever you get. (And, frankly, I must admit there is merit in that belief.) The ubiquitous spam messages that flood cyberspace are not only aimed at those too naive or trusting to know they’re being preyed upon, but at those who know damned well that “the $10,000,000 award we talked about” was never talked about, or the “I need your help in getting $30,000,000 out of Iran” proposals are obviously illegal, but the spammers count upon the recipient’s greed.

Those few of us who were born in a time before mass media infiltrated every cell of our being can recall a time when we learned from our parents and relatives and friends, and those to whom we related on a person-to-person, face-to-face level. Now we live in an often sickening world of Ted Cruz, Fox News, and a legion of hate mongers and mean-spirited, rude, sub-humans interested only in furthering their own warped agendas. Being exposed to this uncivil, uncivilized donkey diarrhea every time we turn on the TV or read a newspaper or a magazine eventually affects even those of us who know better. And for those who are not old enough to remember a time when people were respectful of others, I shudder to think of what they will become.

 Why do we expect from others things we are ourselves not willing to give? 

Where, along the way, did the concept of making someone else feel good, or appreciated, without there being something in it for me disappear? I don't recall ever having received a bill for smiling or saying "hello" to a stranger. How did we become so selfishly insular? Rudeness breeds rudeness; incivility breeds incivility. Where did we ever get the idea that we should be treated with the courtesy and respect we are not, ourselves, willing to show others?

But you see, here I go again, despairing. I can do nothing at all about the lack of courtesy, respect, and common sense in others, but that does not mean I have to be like them or follow their lead. I don't, and won't, and fervently hope you might feel the same way. There is truth in the old saying "It's you and me against the world.” Maybe we should actively recruit others to join us? Oh, and thank you for reading this.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

This is screwy things have gotten. I spent over an hour on the phone last year with Best Buy trying to explain that someone else's order (a much larger order) was shipped to me instead. The mail labels were apparently switched on the boxes and I wanted to return this woman's order so that she could still receive her order, plus I'd like my own. They. Couldn't. Fathom. This.

My mother just bought a new vehicle, their first in over a decade. She's turning their old one in for a certain amount off, had the dealership look it over, then they came back to her with a price. Well, she called them yesterday, apologetic that she forgot to tell them the weatherstripping from the passenger side door was no longer there and a little rust had started to form. She told them she understood if they needed to re-evaluate the vehicle.

Blew. Their. Mind.

There are few people out there these days who would do what she did. It didn't even occur to her NOT to do it.

Finally, after reading your bits about commercials these days, it makes me all the more glad that I haven't watched regular TV or commercials in several years now.