24 March 2007

On Decorum

There's a story in today's Post that brought to mind (again) something that Anna Lou and I were talking about last night: the lack of civility and common respect people have for one another. It's an "interesting" phenomenon to behold people behaving without any regard for the other people in their immediate vicinities, and knowing that it is a microcosm of the general level of disrespect and almost contempt that some in society have for their fellow humans. On a completely unrelated note, there's a classic picture of Stu Hart in the paper too.

What sparked our conversation last night was a particularly rude fellow sitting on the bus cranking out some rap music on his headphones that contained the usual level of profanity and n-bombs. Now, it was late in the day so there weren't any children present to hear such filth, but myself, Anna Lou, and the two other women on the bus didn't really appreciate the young man's choice in music and his desire to listen to it so loudly that everybody else could hear it. I realize that taste is in the eye of the beholder; certainly not everybody would want to hear my cranking of Metallica or Nine Inch Nails or I don't know what all else. But they don't need to worry about overhearing it because I keep the volume at a reasonable level. The person standing beside me probably doesn't want to hear my music, and I take that into consideration, even when the i-Habs-Pod is playing something that everybody loves, like George W. Bush's Weekly Radio Address.

The Internet is, of course, much much worse when it comes to civility and decorum. People are allowed to hide behind the anonymity that their computer screen provides. There is no window into that person's chair, so they feel as though they can say anything they want with impunity, whether discussing Britney Spears or proclaiming that they wouldn't even raise a stink when the Jews start getting rounded up, as a prominent (now former) Blogging Dipper recently did. When someone has the audacity to ask for a little decorum (as I've made the apparent mistake of doing a couple of times), they are immediately accused of seeking to impose censorship and restrict a person's free speech, or that maybe they'd like to live in a country such as China or Iran where they don't need to live in fear of such freedom of expression. I once took a guy to task for his misogyny and his close friendship with a strip club owner as a contributing factor to his dislike of women, and he went off on the most bizarre rant I've ever heard, citing that if he's friends with a doctor he must hate all cancer patients in the world and other such gobbledygook. So not only is decorum out the window, but apparently so is common sense.

I'll admit that I'm far from being the model citizen of public and personal decorum. I swear too much and too casually (which means I'd get in trouble from the Charlottetown high school principal cited in the news story), and often I'd rather listen to my iPod than talk to other people in the office. However, I do make an effort to keep my vices in moderation and I definitely don't celebrate them. Last weekend I had the unfortunate experience of sharing an elevator ride with a group of drunken party animals who were going out to celebrate because one of their number was apparently "accused of being a child molester." Why you would broadcast that to a complete stranger is beyond me. After reaching the bottom, another of the group started urinating on the wall outside the building. Again, no class, no dignity, no decorum. That it was St. Patty's Day was no excuse. A day on the calendar doesn't legitimize inexcusable behaviour, but what if the behaviour is so widely-spread (as we will recall, even urinating on the War Memorial on Canada Day is possible) that it has become de facto legitimized already?


Kim said...

This is all around the best essay I've read all month.
Clap clap calp.

Kim said...

That last one should have been "clap," not "calp." (Kelp?)

RGM said...

I made a cry for kelp once.

Many thanks, Kim.