Lyric FM has become, for me, a place of retreat from the nastiness of much of daily life. Coping with enough harsh realities in the course of parish ministry, there is no desire to hear second hand accounts of it on the radio. Corruption, aggression and violence have become the normal diet of everyday news, perhaps they have affected those listening, perhaps they have created the impression that foul language and confrontational attitudes are an acceptable norm, that this is now the pattern of social life for most people.
It seems that to suggest otherwise, to write to the newspapers and argue that expletive laden sentences and derogatory comments are not the mark of a mature society, would be to be thought elitist. It would mean being seen as “out of touch;” as if four lettered words and insulting people is being “in touch”, in touch with what?
Yesterday must have been a new low. Listening to the lunchtime request programme, there was a feeling of disbelief at the presenter feeling a need to explain why some musical pieces were introduced with a dedication and others were not. Perhaps the presenter was told by the programme producer that he should respond to a particular text, when there would have probably been a temptation to ignore it altogether. His explanation was brief, “Some texters like to hear their names, others don’t: to answer the texter who asked ‘why?’ in a not very polite way.”
A not very polite way? What sort of person listens to a classical music station and sends abusive texts to a presenter? Surely, base ignorance has reached new territory when those who might have been assumed to be reasonably educated, mainly middle class and courteously mannered sends foul communications from a mobile phone?
Ireland used to be different. It used to be a place where people were polite, warm, friendly, where even your greatest enemy would greet you with a smile – even when bad-mouthing you when your back was turned. Ireland used to be like California where even in the bustle of San Francisco people still have time for courtesy. It used to be like Austria, where country people people still regard politeness as a duty. It used to be like rural France, where even the checkout operators in the supermarkets offer cheery greetings and thanks.
At some point, things changed. Visitors comment on the coarseness of language; even ourselves we notice shop staff and bus drivers and receptionists and numerous others who feel no need for courtesy. Sending rude texts to classical music programme presenters is presumably just a part of the process.
Inevitably, violent words lead to violent attitudes and to who knows where. Politeness costs nothing, a lack of it will cost us a lot.