Friday, October 09, 2009

"Impoliteness requires tailoring one's responses to each person in his own way"

--- Gabriela Pessin, in a Home Forum column "Brusquely kind" in the the weekly print edition of the Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2009 (not available on-line at time of posting).

Pessin tells of the tribulations with Israili civil servants as she struggled against a deadline to get her passport renewed. Here are the closing paragraphs:
   During the long hours of the return flight I couln't help but reflect on what an odd place Israel is, located on that fuzzy border between the first and third worlds. In the United States, people typically aren't so rude to you, but then they also don't steer you to their friends in the bowels of the Central Post Office [to retrieve a mailed new passport hours before a flight departs].
   But maybe the indifference to civility is part of a more genral indiference to bureaucracy, to the nameless, faceless rules of a system; after all, politeness means treating people all the same, while impoliteness requires tailoring one's responses to each person in his own way. And so maybe incivility is what it actually takes to respect you as an individual. And so maybe, just maybe, that's what it realy means to be polite.