OPINION: There needs to be a frank conversation about etiquette and race in America

manners

Hey Americans: If you didn’t know, a decent-sized portion of America is racist (white or otherwise), and it’s an issue. Another fun fact is that there are racist people all over the world. Another fact is that those overtly obscene individuals can be mobilized fairly easily, and I think Trump proves that.

** And yet another fun fact is that Trump has zero policy positions, and they fluctuate every hour, yet, somehow, he has the attention of the American political right. … but that’s neither here nor there. **

But why do conservatives flock to Trump? It defies all logic, and that’s probably because these supporters really don’t want logic, because they want “attitude.”

My real aim here is to highlight how, and why, Americans (and people in general, really) lack common understandings of etiquette, and what those implications are.


Why there’s no etiquette …

Guess what? Manners are a thing. You know, those actions and gestures (verbal and non-verbal) that signal respect for other people.

I’m aware that Americans don’t have to be considerate, and we’re extremely individualized. But, we are all aware that we need to rely on others to not only survive, but also be successful, correct? At minimum, surface respect is necessary.

The last Republican debate was pretty much a new low for the Party. Between “Little Rubio,” “Big Donald,” and Trump referring to his wang, I’m not sure what the debate was even suppose to achieve, if anything. Yup. Trump took reality TV to American politics.

And he can afford to lack grace and manners because he’s disgustingly wealthy, which apparently gives you the license to be blatantly illogical and bigoted.

… Also contributing to the problem is that people conflate the word ‘rude’ with the term “politically correct” all the time.

For those who don’t know: Being “politically correct” is simply being considerate of other people, and somehow the term has been politicized and weaponized.

It’s true, being “politically correct” means that you can’t indict entire ethnicities, races, or genders. True, you can’t target and overgeneralize huge amounts of people and define how they behave, because all individuals behave differently.

** Thus saying most Mexicans are rapists is simply illogical, and entirely wrong … and it doesn’t make any sense. **

What you can do, however, is describe phenomena that occur across groups of people.

For example, there is a phenomena of poverty across the black demographic in America. This is a fact, backed up by data, and is a phenomena that occurs. The real challenge is to find out why, and not point to the victims of poverty and blame them. There are a MULTITUDE of problems with black poverty … and here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:

  1. There’s still segregation. Go to that “part of town” and I bet you’ll find a vast majority is black. Coincidence? 2. Education in poverty-stricken areas doesn’t get funding, and if it does, it’s not enough to substantially change anything. 3. Private companies don’t want to do business in “those areas,” because the people there have no money! 4. Getting a job with a black-influenced name is more difficult than with a name like Doug White. 5. People in poverty face psychological difficulties with feeling like they’re worthless, and that requires mental attention. 6. Many elder blacks faced not only segregation, but also Jim Crow (both of the slavery lineage). And I bet they taught their kids to not trust white people, and can you blame them? 7. A lot of these poverty-stricken areas only have fast food, and some don’t even have grocery stores around! So there’s a nutritional problem. Then, you have to take a bus across to wherever to get groceries, which takes most of your day. When should you look for a job (especially given that these people probably don’t have the internet or a car?

Etiquette dictates that we should feel some level of sympathy, and respect, people in this situation. But, in true human fashion, people ignore all of this, and get angry at “entitlements.”

Are there people who abuse the system? Of course. Does the system work? I don’t know, but we should probably be asking someone who responsibly uses it, and perhaps we could ask them what warning signs of abuse are.

Here’s a problem: De-coupling a stereotype from a group only comes through personal interaction. And these days, you can effectively live your life without ever being challenged by other people or ideas.

Here’s the real reason why people don’t respect each other:

— You can go to work or school, and only talk to those people who you identify with (racially, culturally, or otherwise).

— You can go home and read whatever brand of “news” you want, because there are all shades of news outlets, and a lot of them are simply propaganda.

— You run blogs and organize group meetups with like-minded people.

— You don’t have to travel or experience other cultures, at all, especially since travel is expensive.

— You can effectively not be challenged intellectually in any capacity. This reinforces the exact same ideas that you’ve always had, and most of those without college educations most likely have never been pushed on their ideas (by no fault of their own, there just aren’t that many instances in one’s life when their ideas are looked at critically other than during college years).

This ensures that the problem with both racism and lack of empathy persists — because overgeneralized, incorrect, and assuming stereotypes are alive and well.

Pretty interesting things happen when people get together over dinner and talk to one another, BUT if all those people are carbon copies of yourself, you will effectively remain the same person until there is another form of intervention.

But, thankfully, there are people who understand this, are friendly, are curious, understand that the world is complex, and are willing to listen to ideas. Ideas. Not policy positions. Ideas. … For the love of God, know what an Idea is! … Here’s the definition!

When people understand ideas, and are open to discussion with other people (and don’t harbor deeply prejudiced beliefs), then we can expect courteous people and discussions, and actually have some level of identification and respect for people in general. And FYI: This is the mindset of most successful people (excluding those trust-fund bigots and narcissists).

But this problem won’t go away, because it’s far easier to give in to laziness than to be challenged. There’s no incentive to have your ideas challenged, and ideas both scare and anger people. Thus people are very content in not being challenged. People are also afraid of being “wrong,” even though being wrong is a chance to be right … but I don’t think very many people see it that way.

Trump knows exactly who he’s targeting, and what to target.

All of us have racism within us, and that’s inescapable. However small the impulse is. It’s a way of organizing the world, and you cannot discount that there are different phenomena across races, and that, in turn, temps people to use race as a scapegoat for virtually anything.

But just because the impulse exists doesn’t mean it can’t be civilized with etiquette. It’s like sexuality. The impulse for sex is always present, but we don’t go out into the world and attack people to have sex with (most of us, anyway). Because we have social norms and manners, which is something Trump ignores.

Trump targets this manners-ignoring impulse and uses it to appeal to the people who harbor the most anger, which is way more people than I assumed were in the US. He plays to people’s most-basic, instinctual impulses … really we should be blaming ourselves for Trump’s rise to power, not the elites in Washington, or wherever … because people, in general, eat this stuff up. It’s like driving past a car wreck … you can’t look away …

** And for the record, his views aren’t actual beliefs, because he’s a salesman. He’ll pitch whatever is popular that day, claim it as an “idea,” insult someone, and say he’s making things “great again.” **

 


Americans lack critical thinking skills …

I get it: Politics is boring … and so is school, learning anything other than celebrity news, and being inquisitive. It’s boring to figure out problems or find patterns. It takes the fun out of a movie when it’s slow-moving, and you’re critical of it. It sucks finding meaning in stories, or searching for meaning in a book. It’s not “fun” to discuss tax policies, and how to best structure them to benefit the collective good …

… but, in America, people don’t have to be involved in such intellectual affairs. But there is in fact a pool of individuals who are interested in fixing problems.

So, if you have no interest in progressing collective good, then I suggest you stay away from politics, and let real thinkers try to guide society to better places, because obviously that’s not an interest of yours.

Politics doesn’t exist to make people wealthy, or give them power … those are just incentives to play the game, similar to having a job in general. The purpose of politics is to figure out the best way to organize societies, give people quality lives while they’re on this planet, and elevate people en masse.

** And By The Way: To those who are all angry about how much politicians make and have, I suggest you look critically at movie stars and musicians. … Singing and dancing rakes in WAY more money than politics ever could. **

I’m watching this current presidential race, and am starting to see all sorts of rhetoric. For the most part, the Washington elite and media are rallying against Trump, which is good, and is the right thing to do. However, I do see others (*cough* Chris Christie) who are blatant opportunists.

If anything good comes from this Trump debacle, it’s that it shows how easily people can be manipulated, and how important it is to counteract bad ideas with good ones. … It also is exposing some of those politicians who are obviously shitbags.

 

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