It’s the day after the Academy Awards, as I am writing this article, and the world of TV audience seems to be divided. I didn’t even watch the entire program, just maybe the last 15 minutes. To be honest, it has become way too political for my taste. And each and everybody of those who get a chance to speak make their point on their individual topic. It would make for a stronger message if they agreed on a single one, in the first place.
What struck me way more is how divided the discussion on social media is whether a slap in the face as an answer to a disrespectful comment called down from the stage is justified or not. Germany currently has a similar story that has become viral. Same discussion.
The fact that we discuss this, at all, shows that our society seems to have lost what once was simply a given set of rules: in specific situations you behave in specific ways. A festive situation that is to celebrate something for which everybody has agreed to come together ought to be a happy place. With time to laugh together, with each other, not at each other.
Happy places are places where ridicule, roasts, and Schadenfreude against each other are off-limits. Where everybody ought to be able to feel happy and relaxed. There are enough funny things to be joked about, to be laughed at. Hurting people in places that ought to be happy is a classic taboo.
There used to be rules not to talk about politics, economy, religion, and other very personal topics that could cause friction during meals and topical celebrations. Unfortunately, our times of work lunches have macerated this set of rules. As time is limited at dining tables and costs an employer money, such topics have entered this taboo area a long time ago. And with them the loss of other codes of conduct in the realm of interaction. The anonymity of social media has added to lowering the bar to what we once called good manners.
Mind you, there is no excuse for anybody slapping anybody in answer to a joke of very poor taste. Physical violence is also one of those things off-limits in the code of conduct. Even duels have been outlawed for a long time. Icy disdain would have been the correct and superior answer.
What strikes me way worse about all the discussion of grown-ups behaving like schoolboys is that the gentle, kind gestures that also occur everywhere get lost in society’s discussion of the indisputable. Who will ever remember the mutual reverence that some equally famous persons show each other and the public the very next moment? Why is it that scandal gets more attention than the touching, obviously heartfelt mindful?
It goes to show that we could be saved a lot of trouble and hot discussions if we remembered why there used to be codes of conduct everybody once agreed upon. At least when it comes to being in the limelight. We need to select our paragons more carefully again, unless we want to lose our very own happy places. If we choose paragons at all, that is. Sometimes, I feel, a healthy combination of rules, self-restraint, and, even more so, respect and kindness is everything that is needed. No idealization of persons. Just retaining our happy places through our own behavior.