Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

    600 word essay on the positive merits of politeness

    • The tomb of Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery

      Image via Wikipedia

    I wrote this as a trade to get pictures of boobs, just so you know.

    "One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner." ~Oscar Wilde

    This entire essay could be composed solely out of Oscar Wilde quotes, but that would be missing the point and I probably would not get my just reward for this 2AM rumination on the merits of politeness.

    But I shall sprinkle my words with Oscar Wilde as generously as I can get away with.

    That. Is my politeness.

    My dedication to this essay.

    And to getting those pics.

    Perhaps the best way to start an essay about politeness from the perspective of someone who has been neglecting the artistic and the beautiful side of life for much too long and has lost much of his way with words ... is to define what "polite" even means in the first place.

    "Politeness is best expressed as the practical application of good manners or etiquette", as dear old Wikipedia has to say.

    Rubbish, that tells us nothing, just gives us two more wishy-washy terms to define. Ones that even within a single society are impossible to pinpoint. Just in my long lifetime of 21 years the rules of etiquette have changed significantly.

    When I started life the only well mannered thing to do was to take care you did not somehow manage to miss the diaper and I'm told, while utterly disgusting, pising all over your parents when they are changing you does not even begin to be ill mannered - it is even full of wit.

    Nowadays if I but imply that I am a gentleman, women laugh and call me lewd.

    So that definition is useless.

    Perhaps if we try with a little Wilde again: "The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion -- these are the two things that govern us."


    That becomes slightly more useful then does it not? We can now figure that politeness is some kind of selective function in the evolutionary algorithm of our behaviour. An uneducated person first tries to do or say a thing, if the outcome is favourable said behaviour is then reinforced, if the outcome is less than favourable the behaviour is lessened and eventually it goes away.

    This then makes politeness an immesuarable discrete function of actions. We can observe it by measuring the median of the correlating discrete function of responses, which should in theory turn out to be a roughly sinusoidal function limiting to some sort of commonly defined moving average of positive responses.

    Sort of.

    Now that we know what we are talking about it becomes quite easy to discern what the positive merits of being polite are - positive responses!

    In general this should mean that when a person is polite it should be easier for them to achieve the attended goal of specific interactions with another.

    But: "To be good, according to the vulgar standard of goodness, is obviously quite easy. It merely requires a certain amount of sordid terror, a certain lack of imaginative thought, and a certain low passion for middle-class respectability." ~ Oscar Wilde

    And experience does often teach us that the exact opposite of being polite creates more success than being polite does. People do not like boring. People do not NOTICE boring. Boring is lame. Politely boring is horrible.

    When striving to achieve something one should be as far from polite as possible. Carefully frollicking on the line of appropriateness lies the key to success. And that is an order of magnitude worse than touching the politeness line. Oh yes!

    Please stop being polite. Only Americans want to be polite.

    Enhanced by Zemanta

    Did you enjoy this article?

    Published on November 2nd, 2010 in Essay, Oscar Wilde, Uncategorized

    Learned something new?
    Want to become an expert?

    Here's how it works 👇

    Leave your email and I'll send you thoughtfully written emails every week about React, JavaScript, and your career. Lessons learned over 20 years in the industry working with companies ranging from tiny startups to Fortune5 behemoths.

    Join Swizec's Newsletter

    And get thoughtful letters 💌 on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career. Real lessons from building production software. No bullshit.

    "Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only newsletter I open and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. 👌"

    ~ Ashish Kumar

    Join over 14,000 engineers just like you already improving their careers with my letters, workshops, courses, and talks. ✌️

    Have a burning question that you think I can answer? I don't have all of the answers, but I have some! Hit me up on twitter or book a 30min ama for in-depth help.

    Ready to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own?  Learn how to build scalable dataviz components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization

    Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, modern backend for the frontend engineer.

    Ready to learn how it all fits together and build a modern webapp from scratch? Learn how to launch a webapp and make your first 💰 on the side with ServerlessReact.Dev

    Want to brush up on your modern JavaScript syntax? Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

    By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️

    Created by Swizec with ❤️