Can being polite ever be a bad thing? In the Victorian age, we were encumbered with a plethora of topics deemed “impolite” and to be avoided, especially in mixed company, at all costs. Money, sex, health, politics, and religion all made the taboo list. And, in many Asian cultures, the interaction between a woman and her physician was greatly restricted, providing an ivory doll to which the stricken female was to demurely point to the general region of discomfort so that the attending doctor could plot a course of medical treatment. It would seem that death by embarrassment was a real possibility.
How much more enlightened and insightful have we become? Our society will openly discuss all manner of Kardashian proclivity in prime time. The Family Guy, thanks to a thousand channels and hours of reruns, reminds our youth from the time they jump off the bus until the wee hours of the morning that there is no taboo that should not be transgressed. One could certainly debate the merits of this kind of open discourse; but, it is pointless to imagine that we’d ever return to an era where important, even life-endangering, matters are not openly discussed.
Yet as our malls have become little more than stadiums for the Ultimate Gang Fighting Championships and innocent police officers are executed in some imagined noble quest of retaliation, why do we still blush if someone acknowledges that the culture of a community might be a consideration in the conversation about how to improve our social ailments? Anyone with an internet connection and the inclination can review scores of videos of shopping center hoodlums terrorizing shopkeepers and customers alike. Shouldn’t we be talking about what we see? If there is an elephant in the room, does our shamed silence really help?