As the traffic backs up outside my apartment window (a daily occurrence at rush hour), complete with drivers honking their horns and yelling at each other (along with no cops in sight to enforce existing traffic laws), it occurs to me once again that rudeness is the new normal.
But it’s not just traffic. Rudeness is now an accepted fact of daily life, whether it’s driving, the subway, going to the gym, social media, political discourse, you name it.
How did things get to be this way? When did we go from being a society that at least paid lip service to civilized behavior and the idea of community, that “we’re all in this together,” to the dog-eat-dog world we live in now?
I blame a lot of things, beginning with the economy.
As I enter my fifth month of unemployment (the second longest stretch I’ve ever been unemployed), I think we need to admit that we’ve been in a recession now since at least 2008, despite protestations to the contrary. The number of jobs has declined, along with salaries and benefits, so that what’s left is being fought over like a piece of meat in a lion cage.
Of course, a big reason for the sorry state of our economy is the sorry state of our government. Where Democrats and Republicans once used to work together in order to pass legislation, the political process has come to a standstill, with Republicans literally bringing government to a halt because they didn’t get their way with Obamacare.
And why are we fighting over Obamacare, or other social programs like food stamps, unemployment, etc.? Because we’ve gotten to the point where certain people would rather see someone literally starve to death than give them anything that could be considered a “handout,” never mind that a lot of these same people are themselves receiving public assistance. Meanwhile, those in top 1% of our society continue to make record profits.
And why are we so polarized as a society? Blame social media.
We can now “block” anyone who doesn’t agree with us (and frequently do), so that we live in an echo chamber where we only hear our own opinions repeated back to us. We’ve taken “preaching to the choir” to a whole new level!
I also blame parents for not doing their job as parents, but what do you expect when it now takes two people working full time just to pay the bills, where a generation ago one person’s income (usually the father’s) could support a middle-class existence, allowing someone else (usually the mother) to devote all her time to child-rearing. Nowadays, we plunk our children in front of a TV set or computer, give them a TV dinner and call it a day (if we even do that much).
Sometimes I think that the only thing that will bring things back to “normal” would be a full-scale revolution. But how are you supposed to have a revolution when people are working 80 hours a week? They’re too tired to revolt!
I hope that when Bill deBlasio is elected mayor of New York City on Tuesday (as seems likely) that he’ll be able to start to turn things around, at least in New York City. I hope that the moneyed business interests that run this city haven’t already sunk their talons into him.
But I said the same thing about Barack Obama and look how that turned out.