On Rudeness

I give [the saleswoman] the dress, and she goes away. I find that I no longer want to be in the shop. I don’t want to try on the dress. I don’t want to take my clothes off or look at myself in a mirror. I consider quietly leaving while the assistant is gone, but the fact that I have caused the dress to be put in the fitting room is too significant. Perhaps it will be transformative after all.

That paragraph connect with me as I so often experience these little moments of social anxiety myself.

Perhaps surprisingly that paragraph is from a new and wonderful essay in The New York Times Magazine called “The Age of Rudeness” by Rachel Cusk.

I consider the role that good manners might play in the sphere of rat-eating, and it seems to me an important one. As one who has never been tested, who has never endured famine or war or extremism or even discrimination, and who therefore perhaps does not know whether she is true or false, brave or a coward, selfless or self-serving, righteous or misled, it would be good to have something to navigate by.

There are many, many other points of interest.

…I understood rudeness to be essentially a matter of verbal transgression: It could be defined within the morality of language, without needing to prove itself in a concrete act. A concrete act makes language irrelevant. Once words have been superseded by actions, the time for talking has passed. Rudeness, then, needs to serve as a barrier to action. It is what separates thought from deed; it is the moment when wrongdoing can be identified, in time to stop the wrong from having to occur. Does it follow, then, that a bigoted remark — however ugly to hear — is an important public interface between idea and action? Is rudeness a fundamental aspect of civilization’s immunity, a kind of antibody that is mobilized by the contagious presence of evil?

Or how about:

The liberal elite, as far as I am aware, do not make death threats. Is this because they have better manners? Do they in fact wish that their enemies were dead but would just never say so? And if they do wish it — albeit politely, in the manner of a white lie — is the sin somehow less cardinal for being courteous?

Beautiful sentences throughout:

The moral power of individuality and the poetic power of suffering are the two indispensable components of truth.

Highly recommended.

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