Monday, 17 October 2011


A friend of mine, I'm not going to say who - they may or may not read this post anyway - is not exactly the politest person in the world. They are usually more concerned with their own affairs than that of my own; rarely after me saying what I am doing do they ask any further questions or pretend to have any interest. Sometimes this annoys me, and then at other times, it occurs to me - why am I annoyed? Why does it irritate me that someone isn't lying/pretending?

The issue of being polite is a tricky one, because essentially when it comes down to it, politeness requires that you feign interest or pretend like you give a shit what's going on. Politeness isn't interrupting someone's discussion of their physics project to tell them about their latest kill streak on Call of Duty (or vice versa.) But the thing is, sometimes we just plain don't give a shit about Call of Duty, or physics. And so we don't humour the other person in the conversation, we just talk about something else. When you change the perspective, it's not impoliteness, it's honesty.

But honesty or no, nobody can deny that it does feel irritating when someone is being rude to you. We all want a fair chance to share the things that enthuse us, so what right has someone else to butt in? At a slightly more petty level, wouldn't it be nice if they at least pretended to show interest in what we're talking about?

Yes, it would be nice. But would it make sense? Maybe, I don't know, that's a question for you guys to answer.

On a deeper level, it comes down to the popular dispute that "all lying is bad": "What if somebody asks you how they look?" You don't tell them "Like you came out of a hippo's ass" even if that's what you really think, that would hurt their feelings. Could we stretch this model of politeness to the same thing? If we don't show some interest in other people's interests, they may feel as if they aren't cared for/about, and that their opinions are worthless? True, they might be worthless, but that doesn't help anyone.

So when it comes down it, the question is: what's more important: respect or honesty?

~Love Leonidas

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