What do Kanye West, Serena Williams and Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC, have in common? All three are prominent examples of a nationwide decline in societal etiquette with their recent rude, shocking behavior.
West further cemented his reputation as an egomaniac at the MTV Video Music Awards by swiping the microphone from a stunned Taylor Swift. The image of him ranting that Beyonce Knowles, not the gracious 19-year old on stage, deserved the award for Best Female video is one that won’t soon be forgotten.
Tennis superstar Williams drew a hefty fine and media scrutiny for her reaction to a controversial foot-fault call by a line judge. Williams, normally the consummate professional, lost her cool and obscenely threatened to shove the ball down the line judge’s throat.
Those who read my column last week know all about Rep. Wilson’s interrupting of President Obama’s address to Congress on health care. “You lie!” may go down as one of the most famous quotes of Obama’s presidency. Wilson will forever be defined by it, along with his refusal to formally apologize to Congress.
Even on an everyday level, rudeness is taking a stronger hold. Opening a door for someone, giving up a seat to an elderly person or even the formerly reliable “thank you” are becoming less common occurrences.
Retail employees that actually acknowledge your presence are a dying breed, it seems. Letting another vehicle cut ahead of you on a busy street rarely invokes an appreciative wave anymore.
We even see this negative trend here at CSU. The stairwells in the Clark building breed an unnecessarily tense environment, stemming from everyone’s mad dash to make it to or from the stairs before a stream of people going the other way.
Cyclists both on and off campus will ignore stop signs and cut in front of a car politely waiting for his or her turn to go with no warning, and have the nerve to flip the driver off if he or she honked the horn. On the flipside, drivers are as impatient as ever on our roads, laying down on the horn toward anyone ignoring the “go, go, go” mentality by obeying signs or yielding to others.
Why is this phenomenon gaining momentum? What caused it in the first place? Pamela Eyring, director of the Protocol School of Washington, holds technology accountable. “(Thanks to) blogging, texting, twittering, etc., we’re finding that people aren’t focused on their people skills any longer, and so they’re doing outbursts. They’re just saying what they feel and what they want to say, when they want to say it,” she told CNN.
So what can we do to reverse this trend? The answer is to make a conscious effort to be friendly and civil, no matter the situation. Make a point to hold open a door. Smile at the kid selling you coffee, even if it’s not returned. Don’t pick a fight with the first drunkard to look at you wrong at a kegger. Treat any conversation, no matter what medium it occurs in, as if it’s in person.
The ability to keep things in perspective also pays off in reestablishing civility. It’s rather unbecoming to get bent out of shape when you have to wait 10 seconds to enter the Clark stairwell, or when you get visibly annoyed when the waiter forgets to bring ranch dressing with your fries.
Those who are quickly tiring of all the recent incivility both on TV and in their neighborhood should take a look at their own conduct before expecting anyone else to do so. The universe has a knack for distributing a person’s energy around, so it’s just a matter of drowning out rude behavior with kind words and nice gestures.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.