Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Thought on Respect: The Devolution of Social Interaction

"Seriously, Charlie, the President is 'sir'. Everyone else is 'Hey you, when do I get that thing I asked for?'."
-Josh Lyman interviewing Charlie Young for the position of Personal Aide to POTUS (West Wing)

I have noticed another change in our society, since I've started to work more directly with the public. While it's true that my work has pretty much always been in the service industry, I've rarely worked directly with the general public. As a general rule, I actually tend to avoid interpersonal relationships, if only because I am only good at being outgoing under altered mental states brought on by caffeine, ethanol, or whichever of the various brain hormones is responsible for manic upswing in people with Rapid Cycle Bipolar Disorder. I'm trying to work on that, and so far it's going well - but this is all a little bit of a disconnect from what I meant to talk about.

My previous post On Misogyny essentially reduces to a post on respect, which is an aspect of social interaction I've talked about our culture generally lacking in North America, and that particular interpersonal sin I'm as guilty of as anyone. With that in mind, I'd like to expand upon the idea and bring to the front the idea that we all might be wrong.

Now, my NS readers might be happy to digest their arguments in logical equation form, but I'm going to spare you the difficulty of the translation and move on to basic fundamentals. And to help me illustrate my point by tying back into the issue of how men and women perceive and interact with each other, I'm going to provide a link to what I feel could be considered the alternative angle of my previous post - Cam's recent post on modesty.

Perhaps not surprisingly between the modern climate and natural forcings, the conversation of interaction between men and women often becomes a conversation about sex, or at least the hunt. Like it or not, humans are sexual creatures just as much as any other mammal, and we have some 200,000 (anatomical) years of history and 50,000 (behavioural) years of practice at scratching that particular itch. That doesn't mean that's the only thing we're good at, or the only reason we need both genders.

I say genders for a reason, too, as opposed to saying both sexes (the terms are not the same despite their conflation in the English language), because, apart from the mechanics of sex, the different genders have, generally, different attributes. This is not universally true but it is a truism - something that can be leaned on, as long as you keep an eye on it and watch that it's not about to fall out from under you and make you look like an idiot. For example, it is a truism to say that men generally care more about beer than women, which is why you rarely see the beer commercial being pushed using men in bathing suits a size too small.

Life is society. Humans are social creatures. We rather quickly become more than a little maddened by a lack of social interaction. And as anyone who makes friends can tell you, friendship doesn't care about gender. There's a lot of other factors it doesn't care about either, and it shouldn't come as a real shock that two of the people I'm most friendly with at work (which isn't to say I'm not friendly with everyone) are the two least like me, and often in more ways than just personality.

People need each other. Good people know these needs are more than just social. In times past, perhaps moreso than now, courting was more than looking for some scantily-clad woman to lay, or the guy with the best jawline (can you tell I haven't figured out yet what makes men attractive to women? As I used to say in the kitchen - not my table!). It was about looking for the person who could provide the other's whole person, as opposed to their one aspect.

I closed off with a rule the other day, which I called Gentleman's Rule #1, but which was, in actuality, a retelling of the Golden Rule. Of the command to love thy neighbour as thyself. It applies equally to everyone.

To reduce people, whether in general or specific people, to their simple sexual characteristics, is a grave mistake. For one thing, those of us who function on multiple hierarchies of needs are going to be a little insulted by it. Looking back to the example of Cam's article, I have to admit I'm always a little offended when I'm shown more of a person's figure than I'd want to be. There's a tendency, perhaps now as ever, to lean on sexual characteristics as a stand in for people skills, personality, or taste. It's insulting to me, it's degrading to you, and on the whole, it contributes to the devolution of social interaction in this country and others.

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