Nick Bilton, a venerable writer over at the Times’ “Bits” blog, writes,
But in modern societies, the old can also learn from the young. Here’s hoping that politeness never goes out of fashion, but that time-wasting forms of communication do.
In principle, there exists a tension between time-wasting and politeness. And yet…one wonders why we must view politeness with such disdain; why it often is that “time-wasting” things lose out because we’ve got to be busy and get our lives in order (or do we?). In some ways this mentality also reminds me of the story I read a few years ago, entitled “We Are Just Not Digging The Whole”.
We care more about the parts and less about the entire. We are into snippets and smidgens and clips and tweets. We are not only a fragmented society, but a fragment society.
What happened to taking the time to say the things and have a good conversation? It’s not that these things aren’t happening, of course. But one wonders whether a generation of individuals conditioned to have ever-shorter attention spans, lurking as we do on devices that provide us every answer and connection in the world, may yet forget the humanity that really animates and defines us. Surely, I would contend, there is a lot to the adaptability of the human condition—and yet, the distinctly human part that Cicero, Machiavelli, Hobbes and others identify; namely, our ability to reason, strikes me as increasingly shrouded in the laziness of our 21st-century lifestyles. Why it is that our minds are so long-term driven and yet, in the short-term, find that there isn’t time left for the things we may yet be playing the long game for in the first place?
Anyway, if you’re at all following my line of thought, wondering what it is that makes the kind act a rarity in modern society, you may enjoy On Kindness. While I detest the unfalsifiability of Freudian psychoanalysis, the book has a lot to offer in the way of a historical perspective, from Augustine to Rousseau, charting the basis of kindness and perhaps where society-writ large may yet be going wrong.