Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On politeness

Susan of Texas has once again overcome her inherent wimmin-ness to produce a good shorter of Megan's post on being nice n shit, and most of you read it yesterday, so let's get right to my own sorta long winded response.
It's true, Megan is nice to the actual people she encounters, except Susan, to Susan's credit. Almost all of the FMM crew have exchanged quite civil emails with her, she even contacted me, of her own volition, at the fire her gmail addy to show she hadn't altered a comment. It'd be unfair not to credit her a little, I guess, even if she, to paraphrase Obama on McCain, won't credit us with not being prejudiced against her vagina.
But (I know, don't start a paragraph with a but, but this is a big ole but), being polite can be, and often is, the same thing as being completely full of shit. Megan's politeness is frequently equivalent to wearing a suit to work when it's expected. She's nice to people at least in part because it helps her career, and you never know who you'll end up working for someday. Kathy G could be her boss in 10 years, and don't think Megan doesn't realize it. Being polite doesn't mean you actually give a shit about the people around you, it only proves you want them to think you do. I'm not calling Megan fake, I have no special insight into her character, nor do I want any, but there's no denying that being polite is kinda a basic necessity in networking, unless you're in a really testosterone laden field, or truly gifted.
More importantly, being polite is bullshit because a lot, if not most, of the time it ultimately betrays a fundamental lack of respect. I don't mean basic human courtesy, but the kind of making a point of being nice to everyone that Megan is championing. Most of the people I've known who take pains to be polite use it to try to keep people malleable to their wishes and/or as a way of dominating the social setting and forcing everyone there to confine themselves to the behaviors considered acceptable by this person. I don't mean to project onto Megan, I don't know if she does this. But her patting herself on the back for being nice to people is crap. She does not respect people. She doesn't respect her critics enough to credit them with not basing their disagreement on hatred of her gender. And, much more importantly, she doesn't consider the millions, if not billions, of people on the planet living in situations the villains of Dickens novels would have considered intolerably cruel to be worth the basic respect of being thought of as people, instead of exploitable units in an economic equation. Megan is wonderful to Erza, but not to sweatshop workers whose suffering she considers a sign of progress.
I'm getting long and ranty, and verging into getting more personal than is right, so let's just sum it up; politeness is often simply shallow and empty, as most everyone reading this probably knows. Making an effort to pretend to care about everyone at your dinner party does not make you a good person. I'm not saying I'm a good person, but I've seen some on tv, so I know what they act like. They tend to do good things for people regardless of whether it might benefit them.

Update:

Also, it occurs to me to mention that being passive aggressive is not polite. If anything, it's far worse than being direct and rude, as you're being dishonest in addition to being a dick. Passive aggression is a move designed to provide cover. Megan wasn't talking about Kathy G with her grad student post, but isn't it revealing that you think she was. Lying to people isn't being respectful to them, which is much more important than being polite.

2 comments:

Susan of Texas said...

Isn't this called High Broderism? Let's all be nice and get alone in a bipartisan way so that I can insult you but you can't insult me.

you heartless fiend! my liberal readers cry, we knew all along that you loved torture!

The liberals who think it can have spent far too much time in the Bat Cave telling each other that justice will soon be restored to the universe.

I know that at this point you are itching to argue that in the long run we'd all be better off if we submitted to international justice

I know that I have a lot of seething war opponents reading this, their souls screaming that the practical considerations are secondary to the moral ones


Yeah, her problem is excess civility.

Clever Pseudonym said...

Very well put, both of you, Brad and Susan.

"She doesn't respect her critics enough to credit them with not basing their disagreement on hatred of her gender."

Or respect them enough to believe that their disagreement could be anything more than their feeble little pea-brains "misunderstanding her point."