Covers: Frankie issue #44 and polite society

Covers: Frankie issue #44 and polite society
Like mixing your florals with your plaids, this edition Frankie (146 pages, up a book size or two from the usual 122) paints a complex picture of the human condition at the generation X/Y/Z end of town, papered over with a pretty cover, which conceals some of the more "edgy" material that is likely to offend more genteel sensibilities.

Being polite and a spendthrift are two issues I hold dear, and Rowena Grant-Frost tackles both these topics in her pertinent essays (how appropriate in the week of Queen Elizabeth's visit). Often fraught with personal and social tension, the fact is, no matter how hard you try to be either, there are obstacles, such as people and capitalism, that keep one from being virtuous.

As those Wall Street marchers demonstrate, the world can be a bit each-man-to-himself, which isn't very nice and can lead to homelessness and poverty and road rage, but I do think we inherently want to do the right thing – even bankers and stockbrokers and corporate types – and sometimes it takes a financial crisis, a cancer scare, a trip to a war-torn part of the world, or a good talking to from someone we respect, to put us on the right track.

Grant-Frost gets under the skin of polite pretenses and pretendy smiles by addressing those ill feelings towards our neighbour that rise up when we're dealt a blow (like having polyps removed only to find no sympathy at work) or done wrong. Being polite, she says, can lead to a "tension between what is real and what is said; what is truthful and what is polite", which can lead to this. While ultimately Grant-Frost resolves to Keep Calm and Carry On, she's none too pleased about it:

 "For many things, being polite is no big deal. In fact, sometimes it can be better – more thoughtful and compassionate – to conceal unpleasant truths. But when it comes to things that matter, things that impact on your happiness, like how someone treats you at work, or how people act when you're at home, then politeness can be poisonous. It can prevent you from speaking your mind – however calmly or rationally – because on some level you might think it's impolite to do so. So you put up with it, whatever it might be, but feel sad or stressed or angry because of it."

This creates a great, big artificial conundrum, because, really, no one benefits in the end: workplaces and home places stay places lacking in humanity (the good bits) because no one is prepared to say, 'Hey, you should take the afternoon off' or 'Maybe we should invest in a creche for the mums', while the person who has been dealt the blow lets the injustice bottle up, hopefully emitting itself in healthy ways rather than with the aid of a bottle of plonk.

What to do? It's tempting to get all righteous, which means courtesy goes out the door, which just leads to a greater lack in civility. No one likes a grumpy pants. But stoicism, too, has its limits, leading to such things as heart attacks and painkiller addiction (sweeping, unsubstantiated, but highly plausible claim!). So, I suggest that you need someone else to go in to bat for you. It probably also wouldn't be a bad idea to have Arbiters of Decency elected along with fire wardens in the office, just to keep a check on things. 

Now to thrift. While her 30-days-without-purchase experiment might seem futile, as Grant-Frost admits to cheating on several occasions and buying up big in the toiletries aisle, on reflection she is left with a valuable lesson: "Maybe what I have learnt, if I have learnt anything at all, is that you need more than food to survive. You need toiletries, too. And petrol. And friends, and family, and housemates who are forever patient."

Ah, so if we are extended the gift of food and patient family and friends, perhaps we should simply resolve – in all matters, big and small – to show others the same kindnesses and courtesies we are afforded, too. In many cases, it's reward enough to humbly accept that the world often sucks, but you're at least trying to make it a better place.

Given Prince Phillip's notorious ability to put his foot in it, and other family members making a royal mockery of the monarchy, that can't be easy even for the Queen. And, believe me, it's often not for followers of Jesus, either...

"Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins." - 1 Peter: 1 5-9

Girl With a Satchel


Adelaide Dupont said...

That's the key, really.

Impact and intent!

Think of all the energy you spend on being polite that could be used or saved on something else which is important to you and to others.

And it might just be true about painkiller addiction (and things like tranquilisers and anti-depressants).

Yes, it takes all sorts to make "Frankie's world".