kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,
kheru2006
kheru2006

Courtesy and civility, so rare these days

It’s easy to poke fun at people in public, but it may not be so funny if the same is done to us.

IT is quite natural for anyone of us to slip up and say the wrong things occasionally. Public figures, especially politicians and entertainers, are not the only people who put their foot in the mouth.

The problem these days is that a tiny misstep can take on a life of gigantic proportions once it goes viral.

We may think it funny to spread another person’s gaffe but I do wonder how we would feel if we ourselves were to be caught off guard.

For example, you are at the supermarket and bump into someone you have not met for a long time. He is with a woman and before he can formally introduce her, you happily offer your hand and say, “Hello, Auntie, your son and I went to the same primary school together.”

There is an awkward pause, and she replies, “Nice to meet you, I am his wife.”

Well, this is not a joke. I have seen slip-ups like this happen all the time.

On the flip side, if a person were to refer to your wife as your sister or your daughter, she might be flattered though you might not be too happy to be seen as a senior citizen or a cradle snatcher.

There may be no real harm when it comes to saying funny and ridiculous things, and for such remarks to be passed on. But what about offensive and careless words spoken in the heat of the moment, or even in casual conversations?

I have lost track of the number of times when people say some of the most offensive things because they assume that the people in their midst are just like them.

They assume that we are all birds of the same feather and that their stereotype views resonate with ours. There is no point trying to be logical or factual when emotion rules the day.

Some of the things I read online make me wonder if our political atmosphere has become so hot and divisive that we, as a people, no longer believe in courtesy and civility.

I mean, even if we particularly dislike an individual for the hatred that he spews out on a regular basis, surely that is no excuse for us to wish him ill? Or to rejoice when something terrible happens to him or his loved ones?

And on social media, especially, all you need is for one such person to post in this manner, and you will be surprised how many others will “like” and “comment” on the posting. And so the condemnation and the humiliation goes viral.

There is much wisdom to the saying that we should not kick a man when he is down. More so when we may not be aware of the circumstances – the history, the context and even the body language – behind what transpired.

How blessed we are when people view us with a clean slate rather than with a preconceived opinion tarnished by what others might have said about us previously.

Perhaps we should all learn to be guided by the golden rule not to do unto others what we do not want others to do unto us.

Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my) likes this quote by English writer Lady Dorothy Nevill, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing even at the most tempting moment.” The STAR Online Columnist Sunday Starters 19/01/2014
Tags: civic, courtesy
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