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It doesn’t cost anything to be civil

I have written several times both in English and Arabic about the lack of civility in our approach to daily life.

The list of complaints can go on and on. What makes me return to this subject is an incident that I observed yesterday in which a driver parked his car right in the middle of the road. Workmen from a company repairing the road requested him to park it 10 meters away. Their request was met with a series of unnecessary expletives. The workmen could only shake their heads in disbelief.

This reminded me of many similar incidents that I have witnessed over the years. I also used to receive letters at the newspaper complaining about the treatment meted out to workers by the companies that employed them. “Is it because we are expatriates?” enquired one writer.

My answer to him was no. Rudeness and insulting behavior are rarely selective. It’s a question of how you were brought up and the environment you live in. It does not have anything to do with position or power nor with religiosity. It stems from within.

It comes from ingrained empathy and caring for others and the desire to treat them in the same way that you would want to be treated.

I am not so naïve as to believe that we can erase this negative behavior from our society. Modern day pressures have caused many people stress that translates into a bad attitude and a cynical view of others. And, of course, it is easy to target those who are lesser privileged than us be they Saudis or expatriates.

However, we should not confront these people by shouting or arguing, but through reason and logic and a smile. In some cases, it may not work, but it might prevent a fallout which could lead to a fist fight and a broken nose!
A Saudia ticket counter agent once told me how a customer went on a rampage screaming at him and telling him, “I work for so and so; I can have you transferred you from here in a second!”

The agent said that if he had not been an employee, he would have given the man a bloody nose as his insults became personal. “But,” he said, “I kept my cool and calmed him down knowing that what he wanted was against the regulations.”

It’s good that he maintained his cool. We will never know what may have occurred if he had answered back. I would, therefore, advise against confronting these rude people who do not know how to be civil.

Just walk away. It’s not worth it …

– The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena


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