Polite Society

I’ve been being a jerk over the last few days. Not by choice, but because the cheer of the season is forcing everyone into accomadationist mode. This isn’t the worst thing, but by the nature of social media, it means we have to see the same things posted over and over. Here is the one that has been making the circles of atheist communities the most.



I like it. I mean, I disagree with it (it is never okay to be a reindeer), but I get what they are trying to say. When I saw it the first time, I probably gave it a +1 (because I’m on G+ often, screw you, it is still better than facebook). Then the 20th time I saw it reposted, and the same sentiments reposted, I got tired of it. 

So now, I’m going to talk about it (big surprise). 

You know when you have that feeling in the back of your head that says, ‘everyone can think what they want, you shouldn’t make fun of them, that is bullying’? That is the voice of a school teacher. That was someone training you for polite society

What is this ‘polite society’, you may ask, and ‘how can you teach me about it using lots of silly internet words?’ 

Why should I teach you about it, dickcheese? You learned all about it in school. That was the whole reason you were there. They taught you not to make fun of people who were short, ugly, stupid, or even girls (gross). You wouldn’t want someone making fun of you because you were shorter than them, uglier than them, or even more of a girl than them (double gross). It disrupts the work environment, it hampers your productivity. You would get so busy arguing about IQ points and cup-sizes that you would never get anything done.

This ‘polite society’ that was created in school is also used, for the same reason, in most work environments. The reason you don’t go calling someone an idiot at work is because when you go to work the next day, that guy is still going to be there. He is probably going to come right back to work, and sit in that same darn seat, and you are going to have to live with the fact that you called him stupid the day before. What if when he came back, he had proof that in fact, YOU were the stupid one. What if he came back less stupid. You would have to deal with that, this change in stupidity levels would weigh heavily on your brain, and it would make it hard for you to use the Pushomax 5000 to move that paper from right here, to slightly over there. 

So instead, we have created a society to punish you when you go out making fun of someone for being ugly, or stupid, or even a girl. Don’t do it, that makes you a bad person, and you will probably come back to work to find you have no job. Which means you will just be standing outside, which will be awkward for everyone involved.

So what does this have to do with the picture up at the top? Well, you may have noticed, but the internet is NOT polite society. Instead, it is a sort of raw human society. Because when we don’t have to be, humans aren’t always polite. Because one of the most powerful tools we have in our society, used hand in hand with authority, is shame. 

I remember once I was told, and I have no idea how legit this is as it was told as an anecdote, that in some countries the laws for drinking are extremely lenient. Which, you might assume, would lead to a lot of drunk people on the street. Except, it doesn’t, because being drunk in public is a matter of great shame. If someone saw you drunk, they would tell your cousin, who would tell your brother, who would tell your mom, and tell all of your neighbors. Sure you legally can get as drunk as you want, but the shame from being drunk in public isn’t worth the chance to do it. 

When someone says something like, I dunno, gay people are “insolent, arrogant God-haters”, this is considered by a majority of the populace as a shameful thing to say. So while you are free to say it, and most authority will not stop you from saying it, our shaming society will make sure that everyone knows you are 110% a butt. 

Sometimes, we forget that. We hear people say buttworthy thing, say things of great shame, and we go ‘well it is their right to say them.’

I remember a teacher back in High School. I don’t know why we were talking, or what we were talking about, but I must have regurgitated that old line “Well it isn’t my place to judge.” He stopped me, and in my memory he did so with fervor. He told me, “No, you have every right to judge. You should judge everything.”

We should judge everything, even when we do not have the authority to act on our judgments. We have opinions, and even though you may have to hold your tongue at work, or you may choose to hold your tongue at the dinner table, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ‘care what someone says’. 

When we hear ridiculous statements, when we see things that can damage our society because they are so terrible, when we feel strongly, we should judge. Because polite society exists where you want it to, when the consequences of silence do not outweigh what that polite society creates (like a paycheck). Don’t be surprised when others speak up, their scales may weigh the consequences differently.



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