Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

The End of Manners and Magic Words

October 9, 2017

Did you ever think you would find yourself talking to an inanimate object?  Yelling at the TV is one thing or kicking the car in frustration.  But talking to an inanimate object that talks back and answers questions like “What’s the weather today?” or “What was the score of the Red Sox game?” and expecting it to answer in a sultry, human voice?  You can even ask personal questions like, “What are you wearing?” or “What is the meaning of life?” and get answers.

We strove to get our children to use the ‘magic word‘ when they asked for things like “Please, can I stay up?” or “Please, can I have ice cream?” rather than just demanding.  But children are human after all.  These talking objects are . . . objects?  Even if they don’t sound like objects and who knows what they are really listening to.

And what about the other bit of manners like “thank you” or “you’re welcome”?  When I thank one of these objects the voice inside never says “you’re welcome”.

So are these machines eliminating one more layer of manners like men removing their hats or caps when they come indoors or walking on the street side of their female companion?  Will people just be ordering each other around, never using the magic word?  Or is the line between animate and inanimate intelligence clear enough that it won’t cause a problem?

Words like please and thank you help to make the social world we cohabit friendlier.  They show respect.  We seem to be eliminating many levels of politeness, respect, and privacy while we have created recording devices that don’t forget anything. (You can burn a box of private letters but email is there . . . somewhere . . . forever.)  Is that really okay?  It takes a little effort to say please, or acknowledge a little respect with thank you, but that seems like a small price to pay for a civil society.  As Emily Post said, “Etiquette is the science of living.  It embraces everything.  It is ethics.  It is honor.”



Garden Fresh Salad

June 30, 2017

The problem is adjectives – adjectives and reality TV shows.  Garden fresh salad sounds much better than . . . salad.    Crisp green lettuce.  You can almost feel the crunch.  The same thing is true for people.  When we start calling people lying this and crooked that, itfresh-garden-salad defines the message that is coming next.  Which, of course, is exactly the point. But how can you have a civil and productive conversation with someone or about something if you’ve smeared it with a negative adjective?  The objections to some person or cause should be defined by the facts.  Facts are nouns.

What if the Declaration of Independence was peppered with adjectives?

When in the marvelous Course of wonderful human events it becomes necessary for one outstanding people to dissolve the crooked political bands which have connected them with another who is slimy, no-good, and worthless and to assume among the exceptional powers of the gonna-be-wonderful earth the separate and equal (and in our case, winning) station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent (but unnecessary) respect to the fake opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the brilliant-just-and-truly-wonderful causes which impel them to this radical but excellent separation.

And if some event or participant is the winner then some other event or participant is the loser.  Winner and loser are also adjectives driven into popular vernacular by reality TV shows.  We need to stop thinking in terms of winners and losers when it comes to national policies.  A great school system is great for all.  A great health care system is great for the entire system in so many ways.

A country and the passage of time is NOT a TV show.  This is a country of people, citizens, people living and working and pursuing happiness and liberty together.  Not as Republicans or Democrats or Independents or some other party or affiliation or religion, but as Americans.  A Senator in Massachusetts or Georgia or Montana represents the citizens of that state, but they also represent the citizens of the United States.  And that is THE important adjective: UNITED.