"I See Rude People"

I SEE RUDE PEOPLE is not an etiquette book. It won’t tell you which fork to use or how to address an invitation to a divorcee. In fact, the author, syndicated columnist Amy Alkon, is not particularly well-mannered. She swears quite a bit, and eats with her fingers. Often, off her boyfriend’s plate. 

Alkon just got sick of all the rampant inconsideration these days -- starting with all the Me! Me! Me! Generation types shouting into their cell phones and dragging us all into their dull lives. She also goes after telemarketing companies, a major bank putting millions of customers at risk for identity theft, anonymous rudesters on the Internet, indulgent parents, and more.

While most of us simply complain about rudeness, Alkon goes a step further. She pulls together research from anthropology, psychology, evolutionary psychology, and economics to figure out why we’re rude, and what we all have to do to change that.

Although people tend to blame new technology for the rudeness in our daily lives, Alkon shows that rudeness is actually the human condition. It seems we live in societies that are too big for our brains. As transient people in vast metropolises, we no longer have the societal checks and balances that would have been in place in the prehistoric tribal communities where we evolved the psychology we still have today. Alkon comes up with a novel way to artificially recreate those checks and balances -- using the Internet and other modern means to shame the bullies of the world into behaving better.

But, even though this book opens with some serious science, Alkon writes for everybody. She breaks down complex research so it’s easy to understand and fun to read about, lacing it with the same absurdist humor she uses to detail her pranks against the rude that make up the rest of the book.

Through these “manners interventions,” Alkon exacts revenge on the guilty that is both funny and just. Readers will be inspired and will relish the vicarious satisfaction they get from seeing poetic justice done to the boors who usually get away with walking all over the rest of us.

As wacky as Alkon’s pranks may sound to some, behind every one is the message that it isn’t crazy to expect people to have manners and consideration; it’s crazy when we’re seen as crazy for expecting it. If we're increasingly finding ourselves residents of Meanland, it's only because we aren't doing anything to change that. We get the society we create; or rather, the society we let happen to us.

Alkon is hoping her book will galvanize at least a few people into performing their own interventions on the rude. But, if we all just make an effort to treat strangers like they matter, maybe they’ll be inspired to treat us like we matter, and maybe, just maybe, life won’t feel quite so much like one long wrestling smackdown.

Amy has a book signing tonight at Powell's Books at 7:00 located at 1005 W Burnside in Portland.


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