As human beings, our biggest strength is adaptability. When faced with hardship, survival instincts kick in and we rise to the challenge. Within a relatively short time, we start seeing this new situation as being livable, leading to acceptance of a new normal. Eventually, we forget our past life and adapt so well that the new environment is nothing special.
We see this in wartime, where people have demonstrated over and over again resilience and ability to survive under any circumstances, as when kids play in dangerously destroyed streets just like in playgrounds months earlier. As a more common example, after just one year of minimal snow, I adapted and totally forgot that it is normal to have to shovel every few weeks during winter.
The same adaptability has led us to accept the rude way that people treat each other in public. We see it as normal. We even act rude ourselves, often without even knowing it, because of this adaptability.
Over the past 100 years, face to face interaction has slowly decreased. At first, cars kept us off the streets, leading to hostility towards one another in traffic. The phone line removed the need to travel in order to speak with friends or family, resulting in even less interaction with the public. Many more modern advances have lead to a life where the public is seen as something to avoid. For example, mobile devices allowing us to watch videos and listen to music (among other things) in public. This sets up, whether consciously or not, a wall between ourselves and those in our immediate surroundings. We have become, and often desire to be, socially isolated while in public.
As a result, social skills have eroded, generation after generation. Small talk and social niceties are gradually being seen as unnecessary. We interrupt each other. We speak over top of each other. We allow ourselves to be raw with others. As others act this way towards us, we feel justified in acting this way towards them. We act rude and accept others’ rudeness as normal. Most of us are complicit in this.
Adaptation has lead us to accept poor social behaviour as normal. Comedians used to make fun of it. Now, comedians use rudeness in the presentation of their material. Regular people follow by telling jokes using rudeness. Rudeness is now totally normal and even expected.
So, when we see a politician acting rudely, and totally unacceptable for the ‘normal’ of decades past, we are not shocked. We may be surprised about the supporters of rude politicians, but in the end, we don’t vote these rude candidates out of elections. We actually listen and consider them for office. This would not have happened decades ago. Remember, I am not talking about what these politicians stand for. I am only talking about their behaviour towards other human beings.
Is this a problem?
Sure, politician rudeness is a reflection of rudeness going on in our society. It may even be a strategy some candidates use to get votes, thinking it helps people relate to them because “they speak just like I do.” But elected officials are role models for all of us, and most especially the youth. Kids grow up with rude behaviour all around them, online and in person. But when they see figureheads acting indecently, they model that behaviour.
Elected rudeness is a symptom of, as well as a catalyst for, the decay in public decency that has been occurring over the past 100 years. But it all comes from us. Act decently and turn back the tide.