Tuesday, July 31, 2012

...are you as tired of snarkasm as I am?

His tweet read, "Is it just me or are people getting snarkier on Twitter?" So it would seem. In fact, snarkiness is rampant everywhere.
I sound like my grandmother but whatever happened to "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything"? Or "a soft answer turneth away wrath"? 

The synonyms for snarky are legion: critical, cutting, testy, irritable, crotchety, snappish, snide, irascible.  Taken from the verb snark "to snort", we can thank the Germans, North Frisians and the Swedes for this over-used and, even worse, over-exercised word. It is related to snit, as in "I may have a snit if the snarky comments don't cease." I know that I am a word wonk but allow me to present one more interesting derivation. The British verb nark means to annoy or to nose around and the noun nark means, yep, police informer. I now know the source of the word attributed to an a number of people in college. 

The subject of civility -  which seems sadly absent in our culture - keeps surfacing in my thoughts. The word means much more than good manners. Years ago Scott Peck's book, The Return to Civility, addressed the role of civility in personal relationships and society.  He wrote, "Our illness is incivility, the morally destructive patterns of self-absorption, callousness, manipulativeness, and materialism."  He tells the story of a man on an airplane who strikes up a conversation with another passenger and decides that this might be a great business opportunity. He gets up, goes to the loo, checks the man's credit rating in his copy of Dun & Bradstreet, then returns to his seat with a drink for his "new best friend". Peck points out that the captive flyer, who is treated as a friend on the surface, is, in truth, being used for personal gain. The greedy man was polite but insincere. 

Peck says that narcissism - where a person treats others as things to be used - is the basis of incivility.  Conversely civility considers the feelings of other. A civil person isn't a cupcake: one may be both courteous and forceful. If I allow my child, for instance, to treat me with disrespect because I want them to "love" me, I am behaving in a narcissistic manner. My needs/feelings are more important than the proper boundaries that a child needs to learn to be a healthy, functioning member of society. Just so you know, Patrick and Adrienne, I was being extremely civil when I put you in timeout. Love in action.  

Feeling snarky? I think most of us probably do from time to time. But I know how much I've disliked being on the receiving end. Words, like sticks and stones, hurt. Even, perhaps especially, those that destroy trust: sweet phrases disguised as caring thoughts that are less sweet and caring than manipulative. Perhaps it's time to pull out a couple of time-honored adages: the truest test of character is a well-scarred tongue, bitten rather than stirred to action and silence is golden. Thanks to my friend, Nancy, who recently pointed me to a book by Barbara Brown Taylor, Altars in the World. I had read other books by Ms. Brown but had missed this one. I love the following excerpt from a chapter about community:

What we have most in common is not religion but humanity...
The point is to see the person standing right in front of me
who has no substitute
who can never be replaced
whose heart holds things for which there is no language
whose life is an unsolved mystery.
The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.

...the assignment is to get over yourself. The assignment is to love the God you did not make up with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and the second is like unto it: to love the neighbor you also did not make up as if that person were your own strange and particular self. Do this, and the doing will teach you everything you need to know. Do this, and you will live.

Here's to life, my friends, not just survival. 
And to "win-win”. 
We are all neighbors on this good earth. 
There is room at the table for everyone. 


Jeannette said...

+Here and Hear+

RosieJo said...

Maybe what we really need is a Rhetoric class...