Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The unbearable decency of being

A couple of weeks ago, a girl sent me an email with an attachment of an article she wrote. She said the following in her mail: "take a look at it and let me know what you think." "Please" is not so small a word that could have been missed out, but I let it pass. The article was about education and I let my love for the subject rule over any other sense.
The article was fair but had enormous scope for improvement. So, I replied the very same day asking her about the target audience and mentioned a few places where the article had grammatical errors. I then proceeded to invite her to a discussion (over email) regarding a different structure which would engage a reader in the subject from the outset. I am still to receive a reply from her (even a "I'll get back to you soon").
A friend of mine needed some papers I had in order to complete a sale. He was in a hurry to get the sale done as soon as possible and urged me to get the papers in spite of knowing that the papers were in Madras and I, in Bangalore. He called me every hour to know whether I had booked my tickets to Madras or whether someone was going to send those papers to him. I rushed to Madras, got the papers, and couriered them to him well before the date which he wanted to make. I am yet to receive (it has been well over a month) a call/mail/SMS from him saying he received the papers (let alone informing me about the sale, etc.).
A team member tells me that he didn't test his work against the stipulated test suite. I ask him to run that test suite in order to be sure of his deliverable and before informing management. He tells me, "I have run what I feel is enough. If you want to run it, you can do it yourself." I had to assure him that his work cannot be completed by someone else (duh!) and he would need to revisit his level of commitment to his work.

I have many such examples when I have come to realise that being decent (not nice, not courteous, not anything glamourous, just decent) is quite an enormous feat. While the world over people seem to be concerned with euphemism (mistaking that for decency) and sweet-talk, I fail to see any move towards basic decency.
I think it is unfair to expect a human being to be decent and hence, I think, the lack of any slipping in that direction. Why should someone be decent? Since I expect the world to work for me and they are obliged to do what I say, I have no need to be decent. I might employ sweetness and "decency" while specifying the job and ensuring its completion, but that is business-as-usual. Decency is an unbearable burden in our everyday affairs. Being decent requires me to care about the other person and I seriously don't. Why should I care about everyone on earth? Even the few tens of people I interact with, don't deserve my care. Aren't they adults? Why should I be nice to them? I asked them to do a job, and they have done the job. The matter rests. Should I have the onus of making them feel good for having done the job? For Christ's sake! It was their job! And this whole rigmarole of being nice takes so much of my time. Are they paying me for it? Is anyone paying me for it? Of course not.

Of course.


  1. Hi Eroteme,
    Well written.
    These days such blatant ignore of the basic etiquettes has become so common that people actually think twice before saying anything nice.. I mean, how much effort does a little compliment or a casual breezy good morning take to slip out of one's mouth?

  2. How I'd love to add to this post!! Sooooo many instances! To think there are some people who don't even return a genuine SMILE!

  3. E?, shouldn't there be a distinction between the reason and the person(& hence past) when the mind decides over the so called decency level, although both invariably would collapse in any given context?
    Sometimes back I was called by a friend asking me to do a favor for him to build his website on an urgent basis for one of his prospective contract. Sensing the imp. of the cause, I geared up resources and got it done over the weekend doing considerable alternation in mine and others' priorities. And he simply showed no interest thereafter, neither did he care to inform 'coz the deal had got postponed. Now, day before yesterday he was back with the same request(same reason) this time asking for changes from where we left. Not sounding like asking what should I do.... but I am interested to know yours & others views on the matter (& ofcourse keeping morality apart).

  4. Dear M,
    True. It less about the time than about the genuine interest one has.

    Dear S,
    True again. Welcome to this blog. :-)

    Dear msk,
    Ideally, there would be a distinction, but it is not very tangible and at times not very relevant to the issue at hand. I can only give you what I would do in your case. Depending on the relationship I have with this person, I would either politely turn them down or suggest other places where he could find help. If I were in love with this person I would (after getting my head examined) probably just listen to them and say nothing, hoping that they have something to say about their previous lapse (in an attempt to mend things)

  5. >>And this whole rigmarole of being nice takes so much of my time. Are they paying me for it? Is anyone paying me for it? Of course not.

    Would you be able to live with yourself without meeting your standards of nice/decent? Of course not. Heavy is the yoke of conscientiousness, isn't it?

  6. Dear L,
    Heavy indeed!! Which ties in with the latest post regarding the eroding natural instinct for being decent towards most other persons... It is so heavy and time-energy consuming that most people find it easier and more convenient to not have anything to do with it...