“I’m nice to people and people are nice to me. And if they’re not nice to me then there are other people who are”.
The words of Neil Baldwin in the film Marvellous express an entire philosophy of life.
Neil Baldwin is a person incapable of malevolence. He is an embodiment of the Golden Rule. He seems a fufillment of the common notion of karma, that doing good brings good things to you.
Perhaps the deeper problem for those of us whose lives seem much more complicated is to discern what it really means to be “nice.”
It is easy to think oneself a nice person, only to realize later, perhaps years later that others had a very different perception.
Believing it proper to be nice can mean doing things with the best of intentions and the worst of consequences.
Niceness can be perceived as arrogance. People can assume that an attempt to be nice is an assumption of a status superiority on the part of the person who was doing nothing other than trying to be kind.
Niceness can be dismissed as being patronising, not treating a person with the respect that they expect. Niceness can achieve the very opposite of its intention, rather than being an affirmation of a person it can be regarded as a failure to accord someone a proper dignity.
Niceness can be seen as acting in a calculated self-interest. People cynical about the world and cynical about others can come to be suspicious of any altruistic gesture. They can think that people only do what brings benefit to themselves, so that niceness is not really nice at all.
Niceness can be thought to be naivete. Being nice may diminish the respect others have for you. They feel that you lack wisdom in the ways of the world, that you have failed to learn from experience.
Someone once said to me that they didn’t mind being described as “nice”, even if the word were being used in a pejorative manner, for they believed it was much better to be nice than to be nasty.
Once described as a “kind person,” there is a growing awareness that attempts at being nice have often failed to be seen in the way that they were intended. Sometimes they have achieved the reverse of what was hoped.
Neil Baldwin always found people who would be nice. It is not an option available to most of us.