January 10, 2006

You can safely bet on it...

Peter Burnett, writing about an academic study on "rudeness in the workplace:"

...The decline in public civility is a wonderful example of how hopeless modern rationalism can be as a tool for analyzing and regulating human behaviour. Everyone knows viscerally and experientially that public life is becoming increasingly mean and selfish, even threatening, but you can probably safely bet the mortgage a study like this will conclude:

A) there were a lot of rude people in the past and no one can really say for sure it’s getting worse;
B) those people who are rude are being mistreated in some way and are largely unconscious of their offensive behaviours. They will become paragons of politeness when they get their due or are counseled and educated;
C) punishment and sanctions are “inappropriate” because there are no objective standards of what is or isn’t rude, and, besides, there are really no victims, and;
D) Those promoting civility must take great care not to trample on important political freedoms like the right to be menacing and vulgar or socially desirable goals like having every employee express himself with total, unhypocritical honesty.

But not even Las Vegas would offer long odds it will conclude civilized behaviour rests on the sublimation of natural instincts for the good of others and that a society guided by a libertarian, secular ethos will gradually work its way back to inchoate resentments, tribal suspicion and hair-trigger defensiveness....
Posted by John Weidner at January 10, 2006 7:12 AM
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