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Friday, September 30, 2005

The Paradox of Good Manners 

Thanks, Mark, for this awesome picture from the DC rally last weekend! (Actually, Jenny took the picture, but she doesn't have a blog -- that I know of, not yet, anyway -- and it was on my bro's killer new design blog. Check out his other fine work.)

Speaking of killer photos, check out Durham Township, a impressive collection of farm-area shots. She must be doing some Photoshopping -- there's no way that's all unretouched. Either way, this one is on my desktop at home.

Also, peep Naomi Klein on DemocracyNow! As always, she's got really good points to say about economics (which few others are covering).
The buzzwords to listen for in terms of the reconstruction of New Orleans are “smaller”, “safer”. And the idea is that in the city, wealth really buys altitude, and so the effect of the flood was not at all democratic. The people who were able to buy land on high ground, their neighborhoods are relatively unscathed, and many of them never left or have been able to return. The people who were hit hardest were the people who we saw on television, you know, in the Superdome. These are the people who lived in the low-lying areas. So, the idea now is, okay, maybe we won't rebuild those areas at all, and when -- on September 15, when the mayor said that certain areas are able to be re-inhabited, this is before Rita presented itself as the threat that it, it was clear that the people re-populating New Orleans didn't look very much like the people who lived there before. It was overwhelmingly white, whereas the people still in shelters were overwhelmingly black.
And finally -- my buddy Jesse is guest-hosting an electronic music show on WSUM 91.7 FM in Madison tonight, and he is featuring my electronic project The Indefatigable Neural System in the Hot Seat. So tune in from 6-8 PM and check it out! (Thanks so much, J. You rock!)

The Paradox of Good Manners

As a classroom teacher, I must constantly find ways to bend people to my will. Okay, so it's more of a game, trying to figure out whether humor will work best for this person in this situation, or if I should be an evil tyrant, or go with straight logic. Of course, it's best to mix all of these (and other elements, from time to time), but I've begun to notice something interesting when I have to be an evil tyrant.

As we're growing up, we're told that good manners are essential for getting along in the world. And indeed, when we're dealing with strangers, a "please" or "thank you" can be the difference between getting good service and just getting the bare minimum. (People like being treated with respect, yadda yadda. It's all in A Piece of the Action.)

But using these Polite Words adds an element of formality to the situation, as well. And when we're dealing with people we know, being formal can sometimes translate into being aggressive. (Especially in school, where many adults use formality as a firewall between themselves and their students.) So when I'm dealing with a student who is committing some minor transgression, if I say "Please stop doing that," I sound like I'm suddenly angry or excessively severe. (Obviously tone of voice and context play a big role as well.)

I'm fascinated by this. What is intended to be a social lubricant actually becomes a fly in the social ointment.


Well, shucks. I'm at school, so all the cool Flash sites are blocked. I've been showing my students Fred Episode 1 today. Relive the memories.

Today I'm listening to: The sound of my Creative Writing students blogging!