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The Lost Art of Polite Conversation

July 29, 2013

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So on the weekend me and my partner were invited to attend a house-warming party at the neighbour’s place next door.

I’m not really one for socialising to be honest, but went along for the sake of being, well,  “sociable.”

We have only known our new neighbours for a little while, and they seem quite nice, so it might’ve seemed a bit weird if we declined.

Anyhoo, they have just moved into a nice “sub-penthouse” apartment (the real estate agent terminology for the floor beneath the actual penthouse level) with nice views of the city.

They’re a  gay couple who have been together for thirty years, and despite their comfortable wealth, are nice and down to earth.

It was only a small group of about twelve, and as you do, we were all mingling and getting to know each other.

I’m not really comfortable with these sorts of things, but that’s just me.

Soon enough another couple arrived who I found to be refreshingly down-to earth, easy going and hilarious, as opposed to another couple of stuck-up elderly homosexuals who had lofty pretensions – one in tweed jacket, shirt and tie and his younger submissive Asian partner who both looked like they had walked off the set of Lord of The Manor.

You’re probably wondering what the point of this story is.  So here it is…

After an hour or so of this so-called “conviviality” one of the tweed twins piped up with something about “all these illegals arriving here” and how they are all “queue jumpers etc etc.”

TO BE A DRAMA QUEEN OR NOT TO BE A DRAMA QUEEN?

Everyone was reasonably quiet at this point, and I couldn’t tell whether this was an indication of acquiescence or politeness to not make a fuss in front of the hosts.

Given my impression of the people around me, I concluded that it was probably the former, and at this point I was fighting an inner turmoil as to whether I should say something, at the risk of appearing rude to the hosts, and potentially expressing  a view that was at odds with the prevailing mindset, or just remaining silent.

I was also concerned that there may be others in the room who may also disagree with him, but felt too intimidated to speak out.

This internal deliberation seemed to last several minutes but in reality it was probably just a few seconds.

AND THEN I LOST IT

“Howard managed to stop the boats,” he added as if to somehow suggest that only a conservative government has the solution to all of Australia’s so-called “problems”.

“I’m sorry but I’m not going to sit here and listen to this rubbish” I said.

“Firstly, there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum in Australia, it’s part of our obligations under the UNHCR convention.”

“To call them ‘illegals’ and ‘queue jumpers’’ is straight out of the Coalition handbook.’’

“Secondly, there is no queue. Australia isn’t Coles you know… When people are fleeing persecution and life threatening circumstances, it’s simply unrealistic to expect them to form an orderly queue as you put it..”

“But there’s projections that there could be one hundred thousand of them in a few years if we don’t do something now, and many of them have plenty of money when they can afford to pay  people smugglers $15000 to get to Australia” he interjected..

“So what,” I replied.  “You can fit 100,000 people into the MCG without any fuss whatsoever.”

“Australia is a vast country. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world…Do you honestly  think that the population of the MCG spread across the breadth of Australia is anything to get worked up about?”

“Have you actually ever met any asylum seekers?” I asked.

“….” he replied.

“Well I have,” I said, “and they’re not “illegals” as you like to call them.”

“They’re real people who have nothing, and have risked everything they have to come here, including the very real chance that they could lose their own lives at sea, or the lives of their children.”

“Maybe if you actually met some, you might gain a better understanding of the real issues and their real suffering rather than just getting your comfortable middle-class opinions spoon fed from the Liberal Party.”

It was at this point I realised that I had probably gone a little too far.

I don’t think it was wrong to provide an opposing view to his perspective. Besides he brought it up in the first place.

However I didn’t really need to insult his so-called “intelligence.”

Maybe he does genuinely believe that there is a queue, and anyone who doesn’t get in line is illegal, but the language he used was remarkably consistent with the language employed by Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.

Anyhow, by the time I had finished my tirade, I suspected that I had perhaps outstayed my welcome, and despite a couple of other people expressing an interest in my views, I could tell that the discussion had run its course.

And so we left shortly thereafter.

The tweed twins didn’t bother saying goodbye and neither did we.  I can’t imagine we’ll see them again and that will be a blessing.

Walking back to our place,  I apologised to my partner for my outburst saying that I couldn’t just sit there and say nothing in response to his bullshit.

“Because if no one says anything, that’s how these people go on to think that they’re opinions are right, when in fact they’re actually complete bullshit.”

Surprisingly he replied “I thought it was great!”

 What would you have done?  

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54 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2013 11:23 am

    good for you reb,
    tho l don`t think the `art` of polite conversation is lost, it seems to me we are drenched in polite, weasel-words, mis/dis-information, political correctness, and corporate/management/advertising gobbeldy-speak.

    *
    the art of `plain-speaking` is whats in danger, good to see you practice some 🙂

  2. egg permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:32 am

    If I was in a sober mood I might have practiced my people whispering powers… reminding him that its a divisive issue in an election year.

    Then start a conversation on the weather…

    Excellent story Reb.

  3. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:01 pm

    It’s a difficult issue in the social context, but it’s best to err on the side of correcting dickheads.

  4. TB Queensland permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:12 pm

    Funny, but that story reflects a lot of my now reduced party going … 😯 is it only tories who can afford a BBQ now? Probably more that I too have expressed myself (not always as noicely as you seem to have done) …

    What fascinates me is that the tory twerps seem to “get away” with it … perhaps their “I’m right and no-one will challenge me” attitude is more genteel than my angry response … usually as they look down their nose at me …

    Ah, well … as for support … I think The Minister and V have a lot in common! 😉

    A big well done, from me … and its a, good on him, from ‘er …

  5. armchair opinionator permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:23 pm

    What would you have done?

    I would have applauded you and then joined in, we would have had educated them on what it is to have nothing and be nothing in this world when none of it is your own fault. Would have pointed out their own historic persecution as gays and their apparent acceptance of injustice and inhumanity in ‘others,’ how fkn dare they.

    And then, while we were in the mood, we would’ve started on religion 😆

    You and I would have got shitfaced, got very loud, probably offensive to some, and had a great time reb!

  6. July 29, 2013 12:30 pm

    “Would have pointed out their own historic persecution as gays”

    I did KL!

    Another thing he said was that many of “them” are from Iran, “and I can’t imagine why they’d be fleeing from there, there isn’t any war in Iran..”

    “Is that a fact” I said, “so as a gay couple you’d be quite happy to go and live there would you..?”

    He just sat there silently with his little pursed lips and knitted tie with an expression that said “Oh, we’ve got a leftie on our hands…”

    Fkn dickhead…

  7. armchair opinionator permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:35 pm

    gitfaced, snotnosed tossers!

  8. July 29, 2013 12:38 pm

    ‘ ‘ historic persecution ‘ ‘
    that`s a really good point !

  9. July 29, 2013 12:48 pm

    ‘ ‘ Oh, we’ve got a leftie on our hands ‘ ‘
    reb, are lefty`s rare among the gay community.?

  10. armchair opinionator permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:56 pm

    surely there’s a few david marrs to be found? don’t tell me they are mostly david flints!

  11. July 29, 2013 1:06 pm

    “are lefty`s rare among the gay community.?”

    Oh, I think the split is probably much the same as it is in the straight “community”…

    But it’s usually the older “‘royal doulton” type of poof that will be a Liberal/ conservative supporter…

    I’ve come to realise that a number of people seem to think that if they attempt to convey some sort of superiority and condescension towards others then they think this makes them part of “the elite.” It doesn’t. It just makes them look like pretentious wankers.

  12. July 29, 2013 1:27 pm

    ‘ ‘ probably much the same as it is in the straight “community” ‘
    oh good, that`s what l suspected, reb
    (the royal doulton tag is brilliant btw) 🙂

  13. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 1:32 pm

    Dorothy Dix would probably have told you to change the subject and move on. But sometimes people are so annoying that you want to plunge their heads in the punch bowl. It is beyond control. Never mind you won’t be invited back for a second bout.

  14. July 29, 2013 1:37 pm

    “You and I would have got shitfaced, got very loud, probably offensive to some, and had a great time reb!”

    Indeed KL…!!

    And had this been a few years ago I would’ve done precisely that…

    I didn’t even make fun of his tweed jacket…

    Which would’ve been next on the agenda, as well as religion of course…. 😉

  15. July 29, 2013 1:43 pm

    ‘ ‘ won’t be invited back for a second bout.’ ‘
    You might be counting chickens Dianne.
    The rest of the guests may have enjoyed reb setting straight Royal-Doulton and his hypocrisy of having an Asian partner, these things sometimes take a while to sink in. Assuming, of course, the rest of the guests aren`t rusted-ons.

  16. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 1:48 pm

    Could be so 7.30

  17. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 1:54 pm

    Speaking personally of course, not being invited back would be the reward for speaking one’s mind. I become quite agitated when anyone asks me to their ‘ome for an evening’s entertainment. A soirée. An endurance.

  18. July 29, 2013 2:05 pm

    “Speaking personally of course, not being invited back would be the reward for speaking one’s mind.”

    I agree 100%.

    If someone invites me to one of their do’s then they do so at their own risk…

    If you invite me, then what you’ll get is me.

    I’m not going to sit quietly while some toffee-nosed git sits there in his beige moccasins making flippant remarks about the “less-privileged.”

    “Why don’t you fuck off home to your McMansion and velvet slippers you condescending wanker!!”

    (You can see how the conversation would’ve progressed had we not left)…

    .

  19. July 29, 2013 2:08 pm

    “hypocrisy of having an Asian partner

    Indeed. The hypocrisy was astounding. And his Asian partner was leaping to his defence “but they are illegals!” he protested…

    I felt like saying “just a few years ago that could’ve been you” but thought that might’ve been getting a bit too personal…

  20. IPA permalink
    July 29, 2013 2:19 pm

    You’ve probably never heard of Dale Carnegie then? 😉

  21. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 2:20 pm

    What I find really astounding though Reb is that people in diametrical opposition to self on asylum seekers will use all the propaganda labels: illegals, queue-jumpers, terrorists (although not as often these days) economic refugees or else they reach for the more acceptable protestation that ‘these people’ must be stopped from drowning at sea. The subtext is that the speaker is a compassionate person. Propaganda is more powerful than I would have believed. I thought one needed economic collapse for it to work. Is some Stepfordisation taking place? Be careful Reb. They know what is in your head. I have a copy of the original 1970s film. I am going to dig it out.

  22. July 29, 2013 2:36 pm

    the next bout of `boat-people` hysteria may be coming sooner rather than later, l can`t remember where l heard it, but Vietnam is being fled again, (by boat), l didn`t catch all the story so don`t know the reason/s

  23. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 2:40 pm

    Yep the Vietnamese are fleeing again. Apparently there is a big crackdown on journalists, bloggers and Catholics by the communist government.

  24. Splatterbottom permalink
    July 29, 2013 5:18 pm

    “Apparently there is a big crackdown on journalists, bloggers and Catholics by the communist government.”

    Indeed. Do you think the anti-war protesters have enough self-reflection to ever wonder whether the great feeling of moral righteousness they apparently derived from their campaign was worth the 30 years of poverty, misery and death inflicted on the South Vietnamese as a result of its success?

  25. egg permalink
    July 29, 2013 5:23 pm

    Yes…

  26. Splatterbottom permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:04 pm

    Good that some do, Egg.

  27. egg permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:09 pm

    In defence of the Moratorium Movement, Vietnam was our first television war and it had a huge impact on the public imagination.

    We were naive.

  28. July 29, 2013 6:20 pm

    Reb, just goes to show, the bloke with his subordinate is used to holding court with his ignorance. Facts are a dreadfully confronting thing to people of ignorance as they remind them of their own stupidity when pegged against a thinker. Usually people like sugar daddy have an answer based on prejudice to everything… Just another telegraph trogladite.

  29. TB Queensland permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:25 pm

    Do you think the anti-war protesters have enough self-reflection to ever wonder whether the great feeling of moral righteousness they apparently derived from their campaign was worth the 30 years of poverty, misery and death inflicted on the South Vietnamese as a result of its success?

    Well, this National Serviceman does … fight your own fkn wars!

  30. ozfenric permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:29 pm

    The statement that “Howard stopped the boats” is probably one of the most egregious mistruths of the whole topic. In 2002 no boat people arrived in Australian waters, but this was because a) many boats that tried to get to Australia were intercepted and turned back – or foundered and sank – SIEVs 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12 all either arrived or were turned around in that year; and b) most Australian territories where boat people continued to arrive were redefined and excluded from the official stats.

  31. TB Queensland permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:39 pm

    oz, while I wouldn’t have a clue whether you’re right or wrong … most folk here provide proof tho’ … g’day BTW … 😉

    Oh! Except a lad called, Kneel, he just regurgitates Young Liberal shite!

  32. July 29, 2013 6:39 pm

    “just goes to show, the bloke with his subordinate is used to holding court with his ignorance.”

    Perhaps, but at the very least it demonstrated to me that he’s accustomed to broadcasting his hate-filled views without fear of being confronted..

    Perhaps it’s because most “polite” people don’t want to make a fuss by challenging his opinions.

    I think that’s more likely to be the case…

    And so the self-opinionated, ignorant prick has his opinions validated and reinforced because no one challenges his views.

    “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.”

  33. TB Queensland permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:41 pm

    Perhaps, but at the very least it demonstrated to me that’s accustomed to broadcasting his hate-filled views without fear of being confronted..

    Yep, that’s the impression I often (used to?) get … either people don’t know, don’t care or don’t want to open their mouths in case something nasty is slipped in!

  34. July 29, 2013 6:42 pm

    “The statement that “Howard stopped the boats” is probably one of the most egregious mistruths of the whole topic.”

    AGREED!

    (And welcome BTW)… 🙂

  35. Splatterbottom permalink
    July 29, 2013 6:57 pm

    “fight your own fkn wars!”

    Whose war were you fighting?

  36. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 7:02 pm

    SB and Egg
    My lai, Agent Orange, conscripts without legs, napalm, napalm burning children

  37. TB Queensland permalink
    July 29, 2013 7:12 pm

    Whose war were you fighting?

    Obviously someone else’s (or I had to go to jail) … Vietnam was never Australia’s problem …

  38. egg permalink
    July 29, 2013 7:14 pm

    As I said, it was a television war and a lot of us didn’t believe in the Domino Theory.

  39. July 29, 2013 7:23 pm

    Coming back to the topic at hand….

    I think that one of the main challenges I encounter when meeting new people is that; everyone seems normal, until you get to know them… 😯

  40. Dianne permalink
    July 29, 2013 7:24 pm

    Herald Sun online are featuring a government guide and video entitled : How to survive a mass shooting. It’s behind the pay wall.

  41. July 29, 2013 7:36 pm

    Onya, reb!

  42. July 29, 2013 7:52 pm

    Reb being polite does not mean you need to take other peoples shit..It happened to me recently….People raving on about Abbott I politely asked do you know who Bob Santamaria or the IPA is? They said no, to which I exclaimed “so you are completely ignorant about the values and agenda of the person you are voting for then” I totally agree that the fiberals have taken political discourse, debate and behavior to new lows and in doing so have enabled disgraceful views from people who should know better. Ozfenric well done I agree, we are seeing that lie unravel along that idiot thug Scott Morrison.

  43. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    July 29, 2013 9:08 pm

    I’m with AO on this. Get shitfaced and then obnoxious to mindless dills, they’re my specialties.

  44. That Arsehole Walrus permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:03 pm

    “I think that one of the main challenges I encounter when meeting new people is that; everyone seems normal, until you get to know them… ”

    It used to be until they dropped their knickers !

    When and why was that intellectualised….. ?

    How fucking boring

  45. TB Queensland permalink
    July 30, 2013 9:35 am

    Coming back to the topic at hand….

    Who was off topic … 🙂

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Reb being polite does not mean you need to take other peoples shit..

    I absolutely agree, Ricky … 😉

  46. July 31, 2013 7:35 am

    heads-up Dianne
    *
    ” How to survive a mass shooting ” no paywall ”
    http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/australian-government-guide-to-survive-a-mass-shooting/story-fnhnv0wb-1226687532854

  47. August 4, 2013 8:46 pm

    Update:

    We received in an invitation to have dinner at their place last night…

    We enquired whether any of the “conservatives” were going to be there and when they said yes, I told them I’m not interested.

  48. August 4, 2013 8:53 pm

    Conservatives everywhere will be pumping the room extra hard for their boy Tone tonight, now that the election has been called.

    They’ll be slithering out from underneath all kinds of rock.

  49. Splatterbottom permalink
    August 5, 2013 8:54 am

    “I think that one of the main challenges I encounter when meeting new people is that; everyone seems normal, until you get to know them… “

    Normal people are boring. I say vive la différence!

    Getting to know the quirks, eccentricities and utterly bizarre ratbag grotesqueries of other people is one of the joys of life. Baiting them with calm subtlety beats losing it with them every time.

  50. egg permalink
    August 5, 2013 9:02 am

    Wot splatter said, although, as a throughly modern man I prefer dwelling on the blogosphere.

  51. Splatterbottom permalink
    August 11, 2013 2:39 pm

    “everyone seems normal, until you get to know them…”

    There is a reason for this, deeply embedded in human nature, as observed by David Stove:

    From an Enlightenment or Positivist point of view, which is Hume’s point of view, and mine, there is simply no avoiding the conclusion that the human race is mad. There are scarcely any human beings who do not have some lunatic beliefs or other to which they attach great importance. People are mostly sane enough, of course, in the affairs of common life: the getting of food, shelter, and so on. But the moment they attempt any depth or generality of thought, they go mad almost infallibly. The vast majority, of course, adopt the local religious madness, as naturally as they adopt the local dress. But the more powerful minds will, equally infallibly, fall into the worship of some intelligent and dangerous lunatic, such as Plato, or Augustine, or Comte, or Hegel, or Marx.

  52. TB Queensland permalink
    August 11, 2013 3:36 pm

    Seems I must be one of the sane humans, sb, as I always suspected … 🙂

    A saying from my birthplace (Yorkshire) goes somethng like this …

    “Iv’ribody’s daft but me and thee, an’ am not sa sheer ab’t thee”.

  53. Splatterbottom permalink
    August 11, 2013 5:00 pm

    I’m pretty sure it is the ones who think they are sane that are actually the most deluded, TB. 🙂

  54. TB Queensland permalink
    August 11, 2013 5:04 pm

    Chuckle ….

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