Check this out. A nonprofit devoted to business expansion in the Washington D.C. region includes in its guidelines this advice, “need to refrain from disparaging other localities,” as quoted by V. Dion Haynes in a recent Washington Post Business story.
The business leaders in the greater Washington D.C. region need to be told to be polite?
Oh, my, my, my, my, my. Used to be courtesy paid off, it ranked right up there with Cleanliness and Godliness as the upward mobility route.
Not that the loss of courtesy is news, but to such an extent that grownups have to remind grownups that rudeness is acting in their own worst interests? They need to be reminded to be courteous when representing their company? Be polite when portraying themselves?
The Be Polite message always seemed to be: Act right to get your way. Act obnoxiously and you will not. Or, as my mother was fond of saying, “You attract more bees with honey than vinegar.”
Clearly that message has gone astray. Courtesy used to be an expense-neutral commodity whereas discourtesy cost opportunities and advancement. So maybe it is the results that have changed. Maybe disrespect and rudeness don’t backfire anymore. Maybe courtesy no longer reflects back upon itself.
And maybe that’s why I so often feel I’m swimming in poison.
I have wanted to write about swimming in poison for some time now but am usually so immersed, dispassionate commentary eludes me. When I’m in the pool drowning in it, it’s all I spit back out.
We make this poison out of pure meanness, I think. And I can manufacture meanness as fast as anyone. It’s rampant in the world, perhaps sparked by nothing more (or less) than unvoiced insecurities and fears. Maybe by scars left in 7th grade.
We feel like such little things in the overall scheme; cornered in our various pools of meanness and fears and misunderstandings, rarely if ever receiving recognition deserved.
It is tough to be a grownup. As Marshall McLuhan described it, “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
Making that even more frightening, according to Buckminster Fuller’s seminal “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, “… there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it..
“Lack of instruction,” Fuller continued, “has forced us to find that there are two kinds of berries-red berries that will kill us and red berries that will nourish us.”
I’m thinking we’ve been chewing on a lot of bad berries lately.
For a variety of reasons I’ve not been picking any berries lately – to extend the metaphor – although the respite will end soon and I will be back swimming in both the Pool of the Political Spouses and the Pool of the Nonprofit Beggaries– and there is plenty of poison flowing in both those places.
I write now because the brief respite lets me ponder ways to swim across without swallowing and make resolves to add no more poison of my own. As I mourn the lack of an instruction manual to tell me how, exactly, to do those things, it strikes me that that Greater Business Leader’s Guide is exactly what we do need. Maybe that is where Spaceship Earth is right now, at a place where the best instructions we can offer is to be polite.