Over the past week, we’ve had several instances of bad behavior in a public forum. Senator Joe Wilson screaming “You Lie!” during Obama’s speech. Serena Williams screaming foul language and threats at a tennis official during a game. Kanye West deliberately stealing the spotlight from Taylor Swift during her VMA acceptance speech.
People round the world have commented for days about each one and how unbelievable it is that these things happened. But are we really shocked? Really? I mean, I agree that each instance showed complete disrespect to the person on the receiving end, but their behavior is hardly shocking when you look at how we as a society have leaned towards rewarding this kind of rudeness and narcissistic behavior in the past few years.
The Realistic Impact of Reality Shows
Look at the current wave of popular “reality” TV shows – how many of them show people engaging in acts of what is generally thought of as “bad behavior” in public? Yet, people watch them rabidly and talk about them constantly. People like Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are huge celebrities and earn tons of money. For what? What do they contribute to society? Why are they famous? Because they exhibit bad behavior and they not only get away with it, but are rewarded for it with photographers following their every move and nightclubs paying them literally thousands of dollars to make an appearance for a few hours.
And this is the message we’re sending out by watching and supporting these shows. Be rude and disrespectful and you, too, can become rich and famous. Can’t sing or dance or act? No problem, just go on TV and tell the world it’s all about you, and you, too can earn a lot of money and get on the cover of every tabloid.
But because nobody gets called on this kind of behavior, and in fact gets rewarded for it, the message sent out is a loud one that’s hard to ignore — especially by kids and young adults who are trying to figure out their roles in society and what they want out of life.
Why work hard for what you want when you can just go on TV and be a bitch or a jackass to everyone to get what you want? The world really does revolve around YOU and only YOU, doesn’t it?
Maybe we all need a refresher course in what I like to refer to as the three R’s of human interaction:
How often does bad behavior like the above celebrity examples get excused by saying, “Oh, he/she has the RIGHT to their opinions.” Lots. And it’s true, they do have the RIGHT to have their opinions and to express them, regardless of whether we agree or not.
BUT, with rights comes…
People have the right to spout their opinions but also the responsibility to know when it is and isn’t an appropriate forum to do so. For instance, Senator Wilson has the right to think Pres. Obama is lying about the health care reform he’s touting, BUT he also needs to shoulder that with the responsibility of knowing and observing the fact that screaming out “You lie!” during the President’s speech is maybe not the best way of getting the message across.
Why? Because it’s showing disrespect.
And that leads me to the third, and possibly the most important of the three R’s of human interaction:
Maybe I’m all rose-colored glasses, but I think with most people, it’s possible to disagree with someone but still show them respect.
For instance, there’s a big difference between what Serena did on the tennis court – screaming and threatening the official to get her point across – and say, using another more respectful tactic of simply telling the official, “I don’t agree with your call.” Kanye didn’t need to jump onstage and rob Taylor of her winning moment to tell the world he thought Beyonce should have won. He could have easily blogged or Twittered a message to get his opinion out there.
Am I asking for perfection here? No.
I know a part of human interaction is always going to involve emotions and that it’s easy to let those emotions get the best of you. There are times I’ve been provoked into being a bitch, but I always regret it after because that’s not the person I want to be.
There’s a big difference between a heated emotional moment and deliberate rudeness and disrespect towards another individual.
Just as there’s a big difference between censorship of a person’s thoughts and opinions, and asking that they step back for a moment and ask themselves if this is really the right time and place to get their message across.
We all have the Right to say what we want but I feel we need to temper that with the Responsibility of trying to get the message across while showing Respect to those you interact with.
And therein lies the Golden Rule:
Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You
We’re all going to have our bad days and words come out that or actions are done that we wish we could take back. But, I think it’s important we stop rewarding people for bad behavior with fame and fortune. We need to call people out when they act like an ass. We need to stop excusing rudeness and narcissism when it rears its ugly head.
I’m not saying we all need to be politically correct goody two shoes, but it wouldn’t hurt the world if we all tried to treat our fellow human beings the way we’d like to be treated – with dignity and respect.
Leave the bitches and asshat attitudes to the world of fiction, but in real life, let’s try to remember to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
And if you have kids, please teach them the three R’s. Let them know that what they see on TV isn’t acceptable and shouldn’t be how we treat those around us in real life.
C.C. Chapman over at Digital Dads has some good points to make on this topic, too, especially when it comes to children.
As for me, I think I’ve been on this soapbox long enough today. Feel free to leave your 2 cents in the comments. After all, I support your rights to share your opinions.