Sunday, 23 December 2012

Letting rip

Criticising other people is all the rage nowadays, isn't it? Pick someone who looks a bit vulnerable, or someone who looks a bit smug, and then tear them to pieces. Why not? It's all good clean fun.

The media gave the green light years ago by laying into every celeb they could find. Women in particular. She's too thin/ too fat/ badly dressed/ needs a hairdo/ looks a mess/ neglects her kids. Nothing's too petty to complain about.

Then the internet trolls joined in, waging hate campaigns against anyone they fancied, celebs and nonentities alike. Even when they've turned their victims into nervous wrecks, still they persist.

Even everyday bullying seems to be on the increase, be it of school pupils, employees, immigrants, the elderly, hospital patients or claimants.

I don't know if it's the thumbs-up given by so many carping journalists or just the idea that treating other people decently no longer matters, but gratuitous criticism now looks to be routine. If you don't like someone's behaviour, don't maintain a tactful silence, don't try to understand why they're behaving like that, just say exactly what you think and fuck the consequences.

Shop assistants aren't polite enough. Waiters aren't speedy enough. The young aren't respectful enough. Nurses aren't compassionate enough. The jobless aren't enterprising enough. Tradespeople aren't punctual enough. The slightest faux pas and someone somewhere will have a go at you. Absolutely nothing makes the grade.

What the hell's going on? We seem to be losing the ability to appreciate what we've got, to recognise that other people may be doing their best in very trying circumstances, to accept that it's an imperfect world, and to let other people live their own lives in their own way.

A little more tolerance and empathy and common courtesy wouldn't come amiss.

NB: I'm not referring to criticism of the rich and powerful. They deserve all the criticism they get.


  1. Phew! Glad I am not rich and powerful!

    Happy Christmas Nick, to you and Jenny.

  2. big yuletide hugs to you and yours this year!!!!

  3. you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned empathy. people dont consider how the waiter is run off his feet or the nurse is finishing a 12 hour shift or the young person has never been respected and so they complain.

    i mentioned jokingly to somebody yesterday that i am poor (not that i really am but it was in a specific context) you know what he said to me? it's my choice.
    i remember making all kinds of choices but being "poor" was not one of them. nobody chooses to be poor and lots of the rich are as lucky as they are hard working or talented.

    when people are critical i always find it helpful to consider that when one points the finger there are always three pointing back at you. it serves to remind how unhappy those people actually are and it is also a reminder to consider my own state of being.

    happy Christmas, Nick!

  4. Oh I do agree with you!

    Yes, at times I do criticise people, but I try to maintain a balance. And I don't make it personal, for instance, I don't name-call, or swear at people, however valid the complaint. I try to address the issue that's there, not make assumptions about the person.

    I also like to hand out 'bouquets' as well as 'brickbats'. It seems to me important to do this, because you're right; there is so much shouting and swearing and complaining going on, that people can feel everyone is against them and they can never do anything right. If you get good service, say so!

    Write to the manager and name the employee and tell them how well they did! Write the person a note. If the service they give is above and beyond the call of duty, send flowers or - if it's someone like the vet that you see often throughout the year, take them a nice Christmas gift. It is so much appreciated, especially in these times of 'I know my rights'.

  5. Grannymar: If you were rich and powerful, I'd be touching you for a few grand....

    John: And a Merry Christmas to you and Chris and all your other non-human residents!

    Kylie: Unfortunately that dig about poverty being a personal choice is common in Britain too. I don't think there are many people who voluntarily opt for poverty. And yes, hard work and talent is a very small part of being rich. Most of the money comes from ripping people off in one way or another.

    I think you're right, people who're ultra-critical are usually acting out some sort of personal unhappiness.

  6. Jay: Absolutely, bouquets as well as brickbats. We should praise people whenever possible. A bit of encouragement is always more productive than a surly gripe.

  7. The Internet is definitely the worst place, due to the anonymous nature of it. Even on sites where you know the person, like Facebook, people say things that they wouldn't say in person (especially about politics, religion, etc.).

    What's your definition of rich and powerful? I find those terms to be very relative. I think most of us are rich and powerful compared to this living in third world countries.

  8. Should be 'compared to those' not 'this'

  9. I agree. And it troubles me. I really try to make an effort to stay pleasant - I'm friendly to wait staff, bank tellers, and so on. And although I will criticize a phenomenon (say, misogynistic song lyrics), I try to keep ugliness about individuals to a minimum. I think the anonymity of the internet, as Bijoux mentioned, is definitely a factor. But just because someone doesn't know you're real name or where you live doesn't mean you should feel free to be lobbing mean-spirited comments. What's wrong with civility?

  10. Bijoux: But public places can be equally anonymous. As a nameless customer I can be as rude as I like to a shop assistant and they've got no comeback because I have no identity. Unless I plan to shop there regularly of course.

    Well, I mean rich and powerful in terms of our particular society. The millionaires and billionaires who're living off the backs of all the rest of us. But you're right, compared to poorer countries most of us are rich and powerful in a sense.

  11. Agent: Indeed, what's wrong with civility? Why this fashionable compulsion to be as insulting as possible? Like you, I'm always polite and friendly to people giving me some kind of service. They're human beings like myself, and if they're off-hand they're probably just having a bad day like anyone else.

  12. Politeness is underrated. I can be grumpy and horrible, undoubedtly, but nobody really needs to have to deal with that! I try to talk myself round as much as possible and learn empathy. Sometimes it's easier than others!
    Have a wonderful Christmas Nick and Jenny- all best wishes

  13. Speccy: I know, it's possible to feel grumpy and horrible without taking it out on other people. All it takes is a tiny bit of self-restraint. A Happy Christmas to you and yours as well.

  14. I am in general agreement with your take with a major exception. I reserve the right to criticise our politicians and our bureaucrats without any mercy. Not individually mind you, but generically speaking, they deserve nothing else from me.

  15. I find that people who carp and criticise endlessly are not the kind of people I want to hang with, the miasma of their negativity is too much to bear.

    Happy holidays to you and Jenny, Nick.


  16. Ramana: I think I'd include politicians and bureaucrats under the heading of "rich and powerful". They also deserve all the criticism they get.

    www: Absolutely. They can carp and criticise to their own little circle of carpers and criticisers. I shall keep well away.

  17. Merry Christmas, Scarlet!

    And a Merry Christmas to all my blogmates in Los Angeles, Newfoundland, Pune, Sydney and all points in between.

  18. I've spoken to some lovely helplful people in the shops these last few weeks, sometimes I feel so sorry that not everyone is polite to 'captive' shop assistants during the festive season.


    Merry Christmas to you and yours Nick

  19. Suburbia: I once worked in Waterstones during the run-up to Christmas. Some of the customers were lovely, others were a total pain in the arse.

    Merry Christmas to you too, Ms Suburbia. And to your Lovely Man.

  20. Merry Christmas Nick!

    You know, I think the offensive commentators are really in the minority - the trouble is that the effect they have is out of all proportion to their number.
    May your trolls be few in the coming year.

  21. Macy: You might be right there. The polite and courteous comments tend to be overlooked, while the insults get all the attention.

    Merry Christmas to you too!

  22. I tend to say good things about people rather than complain about things they do wrong. Except for politicians and an occasional chuckle about our architect who ignored our requests for written plans. The place turned out amazingly well in spite of that, but towards the end of October he looked at the chimney and said it needed to be torn down and redone. He hadn't charged us nearly the maximum we had allotted so we could afford to redo it. We decided we didn't want a big hole in the roof with winter coming on, so we will probably live with the outhouse-on-the-roof effect.

  23. Jean: There's plenty of scope for complaints about tradespeople, but probably tradespeople have plenty of complaints about their customers as well - they keep changing their minds, they don't know what they want, they're impatient, they get in the way. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in the other person's shoes.