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Societal “Norms”

A man recently took his car keys and scratched the side of another person’s new vehicle. His justification was, “that person parked too closely” to him. Apparently, the man felt victimized because the person had boxed him in, and in the frustration of the moment reacted in a vindictive way. Does that truly justify his retaliation? Was that the best way to handle the issue? How could he know if the person who parked too closely was intentionally being selfish? Perhaps they were, or maybe they were just innocently clueless and bad at parking. Whatever the case may be, keeping a cool head in a situation like that is better than getting worked up, angry, and trying to figure out a way to retaliate.

Can you recall the last time you were taken aback by someone's unexpected behavior? Perhaps someone you may have encountered a few times before and overall, for whom you were developing a positive impression? The answer to these questions seems to be more commonly answered as a “Yes” for many. In the past year, the issue of surprising behavior has become a hot topic in different circles. Why is this happening, and why does it seem to occur more and more commonly? Are good manners, civility, and good taste simply vanishing?

Overall, the use of “please” and “thank you” still exist in the mainstream, but as we observe others in public, it seems the display of impatient, entitled, and crass behavior; more-frequent foul language; and “tit-for-tat” retaliation culture is on the rise.

It isn't uncommon to witness the following on any given day:

  • People working in service professions such as food, hospitality, or travel being poorly treated by customers.

  • People showing a lack of manners and consideration for others, clueless that their actions could be offensive to those around them.

  • Overhearing foul language in public, finding it permeating social media, and being constantly subjected to it whether it be through TV shows or movies.

  • When someone is wronged, witnessing them exhibit a quick impulse to “do it back” to them, and worse.

Have you also observed the “dumbing down” of society, which has been written about more commonly—covering several topics—during these past few years? For the purposes here, the dumbing down of society refers to mainstream content that has become more juvenile, violent, or filled with distasteful comedy. We find it rife with “reality” entertainment filled with content that seems to promote bad behavior as something acceptable, ideal, or even something to strive for. (Of course, there can be snippets of content that are small “guilty pleasures” that perhaps become a diversion in order to distract the brain from the demands of “adulting,” or the content may help someone feel that their life is better off than those overdramatic individuals on TV.) Generally speaking, however, how did we as a society get here? Why is such behavior and its ingestion through so many channels the norm or enjoyment for so many? Does it help us numb and rest our minds? Is it cool? Is it funny? Is it escapism? Is it lack of caring? How would you define it?

The reality is that most people don’t demonstrate the aforementioned behaviors, as well as a great many who prefer to absorb content that is enriching and beneficial to one’s interests or plans. Most people do not have time for much else, but it does appear out of character for anyone developing a professional career (or deeply involved in their professional career) to be insensitive toward others, act offensively, or be vindictive.

Maybe some folks have not given these situations much thought, and perhaps we all just go about our lives thinking that we never offend or make mistakes, and that we’re the perfect citizen. Whatever the case may be, we can always improve ourselves and our circles around us. Consider the following:

  • The next time a service professional is helping you, think about how you can help them to feel appreciated and might even make their day by being a pleasant customer. Are you in a hurry and having a bad day? You can still take a moment to be nice, which might even improve the way your day is going.

  • When you are in public, consider if your behavior is making others around you notice you in a negative light. When out with friends, is your group being too loud or making themselves a spectacle somehow? If so, think of ways in which you won’t disturb those around you. Just show the same consideration that you would want from others.

  • Not everyone in your circles uses or is comfortable hearing foul language. Is coarse language really essential to how you communicate? Can you think of ways to verbally express yourself in a more refined way? Frequent usage of foul language can one day backfire on you. The last person you would want to hear you using it will be that exact person who does. There are so many more descriptive words that can be used that do not offend and will get the message across more professionally and effectively.

  • Regarding retaliation culture, how can you eliminate the impulse to “get someone back” with whatever it was that they did wrong and trying to burn them for what you think they did to you? Don’t be like that man who reacted vindictively. Always keep your composure in difficult situations, despite how challenging it may be.

Regarding the dumbing down of society, think of ways you can utilize your time more wisely for self-improvement or by feeding your mind with content that is more intellectual. Take an interest in refining your behavior to act professionally in any setting and situation. Be selective with what you feed your mind, do with your downtime, and how you spend your days. Remember that hobby or skill you always wished you had time to learn? Maybe that can finally take precedence. Can you remember the last time you visited a museum, attended a live music performance, or researched something that you’ve always wanted to learn? Fill your time more often with such cultural endeavors. In time, you will notice how you no longer have the desire or energy to engage with content that doesn’t intellectually stimulate your interests.

As musicians, the opportunity to perform our music for an audience brings with it the reward of raising cultural awareness, of bringing a bit more sophistication to their musical appreciation and their life. Music is, after all, a fine art. It is especially important, therefore, that we also strive to raise our own awareness and conduct ourselves with cultural sophistication lest our behavior work against our efforts to further our musical art. Let us take care and be on guard against giving needless offense, and let us strive to represent our profession as persons of respect, consideration, trust, and refinement. Every community has the potential to become more peaceful and to thrive. We can all become positive examples for one another by being cognizant of our behavior. Every day we can also think of ways we can improve someone’s day, help others to become the best version of themselves (as well as ourselves), and enrich our communities with music, culture, and inspiration.


Please share your ideas in the comments about additional ways we can bring positive change to our communities.

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