Save good for when it’s good

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Being polite will only get you so far. Sometimes it pays to be rude, writes Eva Wiseman.

This is a column against kindness. Bring out the good cup of tea, throw away your biscuits, tell your neighbor exactly what you think of his trip, the project has failed… Listen to me. There were two things that made me reconsider the concept, even as I shouted upstairs telling the kids to share their toys. The first thing was James Corden.

James Corden, whose documented rudeness to a waiter rode the news cycle like a plastic bottle, washing up on our shores again and again. For those of you who managed to avoid scandal, here’s what happened: His wife’s “egg yolk omelet” arrived with egg white. . “You can’t do your job!” Corden told their server. And, “Give us another round of drinks this second.”

The restaurant owner banned him, the internet threw rocks at him, the story caught on and last week on his talk show he apologized. “That was a pointless comment,” he admitted. “It was unsightly.” It was finished. But it wasn’t over.

Because – the issue had never really been that this celebrity was rude to a waiter; the problem was that this celebrity had found fame by looking nice. Cheeky, cheerful, normal, nice. Corden’s crime (aside from the general lack of decency) had been inauthenticity, looking like one thing when the cameras were on, but acting very differently when they were off.

The second thing that made me review the benefits of being nice was the reaction to the Just Stop Oil protests. The attitude of the police (and government) towards protests in the UK became very clear when the Queen died and protesters were arrested for questioning the monarchy. It’s chilling, actually.

Less frightening, perhaps, but equally remarkable has been the general public’s attitude towards recent Just Stop Oil protests, where they threw soup and mashed potatoes at paintings. Videos of the protests show passers-by shouting at them for jobs – these young women are destined for years of hatred and disapproval, not to mention criminal records. But by being quite “boring” (Bob Geldof, admiringly), they voiced Just Stop Oil’s demand for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects. Softer protests, “nicer” protests, polite letters or cheerful banners, had much less impact. By suggesting something as drastic as the destruction of valuable works of art, they shocked people into sitting with the concept, for a minute at least, of the destruction of civilization itself. same. If this was how we felt the mourning of a painting, what would we feel to mourn a population?

And so I say: down with Nice. Sure, compliment a haircut, say hello to a dog. It is not necessary to completely flush our lives. But everyone is a…sometimes. Everyone is boring. Problems arise when we try to suppress these unlovable parts of ourselves or hide them.

Kindness is fragile, a tiny part of the whole. And no one should be expected to do that kindness when they’re horrified and angry and risking their freedom for a crisis so huge it’s almost impossible to conceive. We need to stop expecting kindness in situations where kindness has no place. We should keep it for the best.

— Guardian News and Media


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