Being Polite

‘Police disperse Antifascist Actors, Cable Street’ – via

Hey, do you know what being polite actually is?

I understand that, for some folk, particularly those raised by controlling, authoritarian assholes or who are themselves, controlling authoritarian assholes, that it’s a strict set of rules. Like, not swearing, holding doors for women whether they want them or not, that kind of stuff.

Politeness is a word that derives from the word polis. Literally, it is the behaviour of a city. It is how you interact with people when you know you have to, and how you deal with the people when you know there’s a large population of them around you, more or less, acting and interacting. Politeness is, in the simplest way, a general toolset of interacting with other people who you don’t really know.

Now, what people seem to think Politeness means is maintaining the rules that worked in the 1950s. Note that these rules include a lot of stuff we don’t want to talk about, like how black people knew it was impolite to talk to white people –

like at all –

And there’s the truth of politeness. Politeness is a moving social construction. It is a matter of being aware of your community, and being aware of the people in it. It’s knowing things like touching your hand to your own chest when you interact with a Muslim person, rather than offering to shake theirs. It’s being willing to apologise, it’s double-checking if you’re getting someone’s name right because you don’t want to be an asshole. It’s about leaving someone alone when they’re listening on headphones and have their eyes on their phone because that’s polite.

Politeness is part of the circulatory system of people moving around one another, and like every circulatory system, it has an immune system.

The thing is, when there are people who are fundamentally against the idea of society as it exists, when there are people whose view of how they want to live involves the eradication of parts of your society, when they literally want to kill people for no reason beyond imagined ideals of purity, then those people are inimical to the society you live in. And that’s when you should feel absolutely, 100% comfortable telling those people to get lost, because they are trying to not be part of your society, they are not part of the community. In that case, the proper behaviour of a civilised person is to reject fascists. Yes, even with swears, with rudeness, with dismissive derision. Because they are the ones who want to strip your social rules and wear the skin long enough to stab your neighbours.

So, tell a fascist to go fuck themselves.

After all, it’s only polite.

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