A friend of mine is a contractor. He reports to a common sense-challenged project manager. The project manager has read lots of books. Has degrees. He knows forms and templates and budgets and Excel and PowerPoint. He is the boss.
He hasn’t a clue about building. He’s got paper but that’s it. Maybe if the construction method was Origami………? My contractor friend will work with it. Politely.
Another friend (female) asked me the other day, “I’ve noticed that there really is a grumpy old man syndrome. Why is that? Why do guys get grumpy as they get older and why don’t they do something about it?”
She wants the old guys to be nice.
I almost snapped at her. I was tempted to say that grumpiness is a sign of wisdom. Things really are annoying! Most things, actually.
But, I didn’t. Why? Because I had gained knowledge on that subject – knowledge born of experience: Politeness is deemed more important than truth.
The world doesn’t recognize the validity of anger or it’s limp-wristed cousin, grumpiness. Those two are not nice. We’re supposed to be nice first.
And we are supposed to be institutionally educated, too. And socialized. And civilized. And tolerant. Especially, we are supposed to be tolerant! In a nutshell (exactly!) we are SUPPOSED to tolerate fools gladly and always be nice.
Truth, honesty, common sense? Maybe listed low on page two…………
And, in this way, the idiot project manager will be kept safe from the homicidal thoughts of the knowledgeable contractor. Costs will rise. Delays will happen. Etc. Etc.
Can you see where this going? Put bluntly: many societies have placed politeness and manners ahead of plain-talking truth. As a consequence the members of those societies are, in effect, liars. They are, at the very least, unreliable. You can’t trust what they say. Politeness – in itself – is NOT true. The best it can be is PART of truth. It is not a replacement for it.
In some societies it is systemic. And they are ‘backward’ as a result. In ours, it is mostly a recent phenomena (I think). And we are going backwards as a result.
We no longer tell it like it is.
We should. I am saying that there is a legitimate place for anger and that, for some reason (I think it has economic roots, actually), we are more and more obliged to pretend things are OK when they are not, people are NOT wrong when they are and that procedure and paper will take the place of real knowledge and common sense.
That is wrong. Yes, you can quote me.
In other words, we may have gone too far in this weird, modern form of civility if it continues to make us unreal, superficial, insincere and ultimately untruthful. We have to stop reading from the book only. We have to stop lying about what is. We have to speak up because not doing so is crazy-making and, ultimately contrary to our goals.
In the end, truth will out (Shakespeare) so why not employ veracity earlier?
And to do that we have to get past nice as the dominant message. Sorry. Truth has to be the primary and dominant message. Nice is how we wrap it up but first it has to be true.
We all know that truth is not always welcome. Normal talk: “Oh, your little boy is soooooo cute. Never mind the mess!” “No, really. I want to hear about your day!” “He’s so much fun!” She’s just going through a hard time.” “I’ll just be a minute!” “Your call is important to us.”
Real talk: “Here’s a cloth to clean up his mess.” “No, thanks, I do not want to hear about your day at the gym or Starbucks.” “He’s nuttier than a fruitcake!” “She’s just nasty!” “I will be a long time, why not go get a do-nut?” “Hang up and try again. We’re busy!”
We all know the house will eventually get built. Despite the project manager’s obstructionism. Despite my friends misplaced ‘niceness’. People will still do good work despite political correctness, bureaucratic meddling and catering to the perpetually ignorant or ‘challenged’ (‘stupid’ in the old vernacular). We will muddle along. But it would be so much easier if common sense was more common and policy, procedures and political correctness was not.
AND what about the BIG scale? We all know the media doesn’t tell the truth, politicians care about themselves before the people, democracy is a sham, free markets are controlled by 1% of the people and that our so-called leaders follow the polls and their funding sources like sheep. We know that climate change is real, the planet is becoming less habitable for life as we know it, we are not addressing our problems and, in a state of unconsciousness, we are actually making them worse. We all know that – it is not news.
So why do we pretend otherwise?
The truth is that we have problems on all sorts of levels but we have collectively chosen to lie about them or remain ignorant. Or, in modern speech, we just say gibberish like ‘going forward’ and ‘at the end of the day’, ‘allocating resources’ ‘sit down together’ and ‘plan, study, review and then strike a Royal Commission.’
Why? What good can come of that?
Long answer made short: anyone who understands that is likely to feel a little grouchy now and then. Grumpy guys just want the truth.