No Country for Nice Guys

When we were camping at a state park two weeks ago, we had a pretty miserable time.  Unbeknownst to us, the site we’d reserved was adjacent to the cramped park’s little playground.  As in, our motorhome’s door was 30 feet from the slides and jungle gym.  Now, we go camping to get peace and quiet, to escape from what has become the ’hood in which we live.  Therefore, the incessant screaming and shrieking coming from the playground almost had us jumping out of our skins.  But….our bad for booking that spot.  However, the site on the other side of us housed a group of people, probably more than are allowed on one site, and they were with another group of people across the road.  To their credit, they were mostly quiet when they all gathered.  However, all the adults and children saw fit to traipse through our site throughout the day and evening to get to the playground.  What’s more, they spread out their tables and lawn chairs well beyond their invisible boundaries, so that some of them were parked literally under our windows.  They also intruded on the site to their left.  The row of sites borders a lake shore, and by mid-morning on the Saturday, the teenaged boys had put up a tent that was technically at the back of our site, blocking part of our view of the lake.  They proceeded to cart coolers and chairs back there, and tied a hammock between two of “our” trees.  When we went to carry our kayaks around their tent and onto the small dock to launch them, lo and behold, they had a row of their own boats completely obstructing access to the dock.  As we were contemplating how to navigate a path through their boats, one of the women hurried over to move the offending craft, mumbling a brief, worthless apology.  That afternoon, when we stopped by the camp office, we mentioned in passing that our neighbors had pretty much commandeered much more than their paid-for spaces.  The young woman at the office sympathized and suggested alternate sites, should we choose to make a return visit.  Throughout our stay, Rick and I just seethed silently, not saying anything for the sake of keeping the peace.  On the Sunday, the horde packed up all their mountains of paraphernalia and left about an hour before we did.  That last hour of our stay was the best part of the weekend. 

Rick and I had quietly discussed on the Friday evening whether we should say anything to the neighbors, but as someone had advised me years ago, “If they’re rude and ignorant enough to do such inconsiderate, stupid stuff in the first place, they aren’t gonna care if you say something to them.  It’ll either go right over their heads, or they’ll be offended and give you even more grief.”

Fast forward to this morning.  I got a call from the woman who heads up the office of the private campground where we’re booked for this weekend.  We happened upon it years ago when we needed a base of operations for a nearby art show where we were exhibiting.  It’s the only private place we stay, because we love the pond and our perennial spot beside the creek, under the willows, away from the crowded front part of the establishment.  The woman from the office wanted to make us aware of the fact that there is a family booked in the site next to ours, with friends in the site behind ours.  The group has been there for several days and has proved to be loud, obnoxious, and intrusive, with children running everywhere and so on.  There must have been complaints from other campers.  It seems they’ve been using our reserved site as well as theirs, and their pack of dogs has left piles of effluvia.  The woman wanted to let us know the situation, and ask if we’d like to be moved to another site.  My immediate reaction was gratitude at her thoughtfulness.  I mean, they could have just let us get there and walk into a very unpleasant situation, as happened two weekends ago.  This woman noted that we’ve stayed there for years, always in that spot, and they wouldn’t want us to have a bad experience.  I told her I appreciated the call, and emphasized that that IS our favorite site.  We discussed options for a few minutes, and she stated flat-out that she wouldn’t hesitate to ask the group to vacate the campground if they get too far out of line.  Whether or not the boss (her father, I think) would agree to that, I have no idea.  She said that one of the male staff members would go back and make sure our site is tidied up, and let the rowdy group know that there will be campers on it as of tomorrow evening.  I suggested that the person in charge might want to firmly advise these people that they need to behave, or else.  We left it at that, with our having an out to move elsewhere if we get fed up. 

As today wore on, and I talked to Rick about the possible situation tomorrow, I got more indignant over the whole thing.  After all, we reserved our site very early in the year, and paid the full fee, as required.  We stay at this place every August and October, and have done so for probably the last seven years.  We’re scrupulous about policing the site, we never move the picnic table or the fire ring, and we keep to ourselves, the combination of which is fairly rare among campers.  Given that history, why in the world should we have to be anxious about what we might encounter when we get there?  Why should there even be a question of our having to move because the people in the next site are loud and obnoxious?  Because the campground is family-owned, the rules can be even stricter than they are in state parks; that is, the owners have more leeway to evict offenders.  I understand that the owners might not want to refund possibly two nights’ camping fees to the group (to avoid an even uglier outcome), but if we’re obeying the rules, why should we be penalized?  It could be that if the staff imparts a pointed word to the wise, the neighbors will clean up their act and the anticipated misery will never materialize, but it goes without saying that we’re now not exactly thrilled at the thought of going down there.  That definitely should NOT be the case.

I was raised to toe the line and never cause trouble.  I’d guess that most of my contemporaries had the same upbringing, and even now, it’s probably the norm, although it’s been my observation that children are allowed to get away with a LOT more these days than they were when I was a kid, back before the dinosaurs were oil.  They seem to be singularly lacking in manners and any sort of restraint.  But the wider picture is what alarms me.  Has it become endemic in our country that nice is for suckers?  Is it now a question of having to force people to abide by the rules, and in so doing, have consideration for others?  The general code of conduct we were taught to follow seems to have completely disappeared, along with women’s hats and giving up one’s seat on the bus to an elderly person.  We’ve seen in the last 18 months that in uncountable cases, individual preferences supersede the good [and the rights] of the whole, and militantly so.  It has become normalized to not only indulge in public rudeness and hatred, but to be proud of it.  This is the new freedom, or as I’m now seen it written, “freedumb.”  When it gets to the point that restaurant patrons are so vicious to waitstaff that the servers are in tears, there’s something seriously wrong.

And ya know what?  I’m angry about this epidemic of nastiness and total lack of consideration.  In fact, I’m MAD AS HELL about it, and rightfully so!  We who’ve lived our lives showing concern for the rights and feelings of others are increasingly being not only disregarded, but actively kicked to the curb.  If it comes to a choice between knuckling under to someone who’s going to kick up a fuss or making the nice person shut up and deal, the nice person is going to lose every time.  We who are nice — and I still believe we’re in the majority — find it almost impossible to violate the mores of considerate behavior that were instilled in us.  Confronting a mean person is just not how we’re wired.  

We know the country is suffering, not only because of the explosion of incivility and selfishness, but also because of the passivity of those of us who are repulsed by the thought of actually protesting hurtful, brutish, or even supremely self-centered conduct.  We see a government deadlocked by a deluded devotion to “bipartisanship;” apparently, elected representatives should all agree before anything moves forward.  This, despite the GOP’s continual demonstration of utter lack of concern for anyone other than themselves.  The Dems are certainly no angels, but they quail at the thought of marching into the sacred halls of Congress, holding a line, and kicking ass.  This aversion to standing up for themselves is ensuring that we the people lose out every day, across the board.  It’s looking as if the days of everyone’s acting like a civilized adult are over.  I sigh as I say this, but I think we’ve reached the stage when steely resolve and unemotional implacability must become the armor of the “nice” segment of the population, because the, “why can’t we all just get along,” meme only seems to work at Girl Scout jamborees these days. 

In short, the selfish, freedumb-loving bullies are winning, and shame on us if we go down without a fight.  

24 thoughts on “No Country for Nice Guys

    1. That was a truly ugly dinner experience! Not uncommon, though, I’m afraid. It seems as if such incidents grow more frequent all the time. And yes, the U.S. unequivocally leads the pack, by far, when it comes to being uncivilized. Boorish, indeed.

      No wonder our “diplomacy” is equally imperious and entitled. “Ugly American” is a cliché for a reason, and it extends to our government in spades. I almost have to wonder whether the utter lack of any restraint or decorum comes from the top down or the bottom up, over the last 70 years or so. In any case, if we’re ever taught a lesson, it won’t be pretty.

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      1. Your last piece on entitlement meshes with this one, Denise. These people believe they’re entitled to do whatever they want. No limits — no fear. And if you don’t like it, leave the campsite. Leave the restaurant. Leave America.

        They’ll never admit they’re in the wrong; they’ll never say they’re sorry. And one clear sign of the whole FU mindset was the election of Trump in 2016 and his continued popularity. He is boorish, in your face, a bully and a con man — and they love him all the more for it.

        So maybe that’s a lesson here. They don’t love Trump in spite of his boorishness, his bullying, his bragging, his bombast, his bellyaching. They love him because of it.

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  1. I suggest studying the ancient Vedic teachings about the timeframe we have been born into. There are 4 periods and we are living in the last of the four. It’s called the Kali Yuga. Just grasping the simple descriptions about what this period looks like in terms of the behavior, temperament, desires, constructs that color it’s nature; should give you a better understanding of why these dense conditions exist. It doesn’t get any better knowing what’s up; but in all of the Kali Yuga madness, try hard never to sell your true nature short and never cease being a quality individual point of light within these dark days. Your time is most precious and it should be put to the efforts of creating the highest good your talents can create. Do everything to honor THAT which brought your form to fruition. Create a playful loving relationship with the brilliance of it’s BEING. It can become a blissful tonic for yourself and those around you, as you navigate the falseness of these less than enlightening times we are living through.

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    1. I shall definitely look up descriptions of those four periods. Dare I ask what their conclusion holds? It appears we’re descending into the ninth circle of hell. However, many traditions teach that it’s darkest before enlightenment—the Age of Aquarius, and so on. I’ve been told we all choose to be born into our given times, and thereby choose our purposes. I must say that I don’t find “verbal and emotional punching bag” to be a particularly scintillating purpose, but I get your meaning. Some of us have to keep to the high ground, lest the whole devolve into bestiality. With apologies to beasts, as they are not wantonly cruel.

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      1. https://grahamhancock.com/dmisrab6/

        Graham Hancock has a new book out that tugs at my curiosity. I’m reading a few other books currently, but may get his latest in early December as a gift to me for the holidays. But he has a good lecture on the archeological aspects of these changing time frames; and this
        “Long” read on the enclosed link should give you a primer on the Yugas. Each transition period into the next Yuga is filled with much cataclysm and uncertainty. I’ve known about the Yugas for a while but have been giving them some serious study over the last year and I have found the ideas compelling explanations for the strange feel of the last 5 decades.

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      2. Let me know what you think of Graham Hancock…. I watched this a couple months ago and it’s what captured my imagination and makes me want to read his book.

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  2. If nothing else, WJA, the last 5 years have shown us the inarguable truth of your final sentence. Our society has regressed to Wild West mode, at best. At worst, we’re back there with Neanderthals, who even at that, had their own intricate system of manners, per Jean Auel in her Earth’s Children books.

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  3. I’ll delve in more detail, Utejack, but just a quick Wikipedia check about the Kali Yuga tells me why you believe we’re in that period. The darkness and chaos of these times certainly fits the description. Likewise, commentary I’ve read about her Age of Aquarius. At this point, we’re only at the beginning of a many-thousand-year cycle, wherein all must be torn down for enlightenment to arise.

    I appreciate the links to Graham Hancock’s work, and will investigate the material! Even at first glance, it looks fascinating.

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  4. not to be captious, contumacious or contumelious, denise, but, i beg to disagree. perhaps it is b/c we erect a tent when we camp; we do not haul “half our worldly goods in an RV and take them on vacation” [the neoteric definition of ‘camping’ i read in an OUTDOOR mag article several years ago]. perhaps it is a different zeitgeist in canada compared to the US, but we have never been treated w/ such peremptory disrespect or expropriative behaviour that you have described… never by other campers throughout our years of tenting in canada’s banff, kananaskis, yoho, kootenay, lake louise, western arctic, yukon, nunavut, algonquin, la verandrye, or any of the other campgrounds across québec, ontario, manitoba, and saskatchewan over these past 60~70 years. in fact, the only time we have been harassed was by a menagerie of drunk teenagers in kananaskis 50 years ago whose ghetto-blasters drove us brain-benumbing whackers in the early 1970’s. perhaps US campgrounds, particularly those accessible to urban areas for weekend trysts, are an altogether selcouth environment for wilderness escapes by hypaethral aficionados.

    the incivility in the US about which you write was not instaurated by the tangerine turd [T3]; he is a mere reflection of the 74 million americans who voted for him and would likely do so in a repetend of the 2016 electoral rolls when 2024 ‘rolls’ around.

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    1. The experiences I’m describing related to camping are, admittedly, rare. Even those with exceedingly elaborate rigs generally abide by the unspoken “rules of the road,” so to speak. I put these two anomalous recent situations down to the facts that the earlier one took place in a place that is much more like a family lake resort than a state park (it was unique among the state parks we’ve visited); and this latter incident occurs at a private campground, with the relevant sites situated far away from the main body of visitors, likely almost in isolation. That being said, the asshat quotient is so high these days, one encounters them in any and all locales.

      As for T3, he’s merely the apotheosis of uncivilized behavior, standing on the shoulders of 74M other Philistines. The “rugged individualism” of 200 years ago has degenerated into a breeding ground for modern-day savages. As my mother would say, one can be born with stupidity, but there’s no excuse for ignorance.

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      1. ignorance yes, as your mother expostulated. but compassion and consideration for others must also be taught, no less than any other lesson… from a bairn’s first ‘inspiration’ of air into her/his lungs. if not, the parents, teachers, and other cynosures have failed that wee life who is tendentiously, preternaturally eager to absorb the wonders surrounding him/her from the outset. sadly, too many bairns are being brought into a parental ambit of already damaged, me-oriented adults.

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  5. how curious you should mention graham hancock, utejack. he was a friend of ours in kathmandu, nepal, as was his wife santha, during our regnancy there from early february 1992~june 1997. his son and daughter, both brilliant, were best friends w/ our children while attending kathmandu’s lincoln school. both were exquisitely sensitive, almost surreal children. they did not have 6 children, as reported in wikipedia, during our years in the hindu kingdom of nepal. i had no idea graham and santha had 4 more children. i do know they were keen to adopt abandoned nepali bairns. perhaps they succeeded in doing so.

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  6. I sympathize with you DD, since I’m more noise-averse than most people and that would’ve pissed me-off ‘majorly’! I don’t know IF our society has gotten MORE boisterous and rude —I suspect it has but I can’t be sure it’s not just myself being in my 70’s and less tolerant of those yahoos (although I remember even back in the college dorms having problems with noisy neighbors). I’ve gotten to the point where I just try hard to avoid those shitheads — it only aggravates & stresses ME but has little or no visible effect on them even if I confront them, much less any permanent change for the better. I don’t know much about campgrounds and prefer staying at hotels, where at least you can complain to the front-desk about noise and they’ll do something about it (eventually). Life’s too short (especially at my age of 71!) to be bothered by boorish people, especially since there are significant numbers of them.

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  7. Admittedly, I’m not a people person. When we camp, it’s my getaway, and I don’t want to be bothered. And almost always, people are considerate.

    As for the boisterous quotient, I remember that, as a small child, I was playing with the neighbor kids, and they were yelling and screaming every couple minutes. I tried that out, just to see what it would be like. I was instantly called into our house and told that if I ever behaved that way again, I couldn’t play with the neighbors. My parents said that we’ll behaved kids didn’t do that kind of thing, because what if somebody heard me, thought something was wrong, and came rushing out, only to discover that I was perfectly fine.

    That lesson was brought home to me a few years ago, when we had constantly screaming kids next door. I rushed out half a dozen times, thinking they’d been hurt. When I found they were always just running around, screaming merely to scream, I said to hell with them, and never bothered to check on them again. Yep, cranky old woman syndrome, but I’m fine with that.

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      1. it’s precisely why, denise, that i summarily deleted the spell-check app my well-intentioned husband applied to our new computer; it was less deleterious to my already suspect sanity than putting a bullet thru the old reptilian complex.

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      2. Funniest spellcheck ‘correction’ I’ve personally come across was in an email from a supplier to the company I work-for, where the vendor was perfunctorily apologizing for being late on a shipment. While they meant to write something like “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you”, the word ‘inconvenience’ had apparently been misspelled and had been ‘corrected’ to the word ‘incontinence’… which, while conceivably apropos, definitely wasn’t the case on this particular low-priority shipment!

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    1. Yes DD, unsurprisingly I too was raised in a household where boisterous behavior was strongly admonished— my mother was stressed raising 5 children and was annoyed/alarmed by unnecessary noise, and my father was working a full-time job and a part-time job 3-4 nights a week, commuting ~20 miles one-way to both of them, so he was perpetually trying to ‘catch-up’ on his sleep and wanted it relatively quiet. Also, by nature neither of them were given to loud, braggadocio behavior. I suspect that the majority of the US population is relatively reserved, though not as much as many other countries because there’s been a competing, emerging ethos of ‘loud-and-proud’ that’s unintentionally caricatured in rap music. Another place I noticed this was in theaters nowadays, where many movies seem to feel obligated to destroy 5% of your hearing to demonstrate something or other…

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  8. Similar scenario in our house, growing up.

    Yes, “loud and proud” is exactly it. Seems that so many people, these days, feel the need to be noisily demonstrative about something or other. What happened to modest, circumspect behavior?

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