The Age of Rudeness As the social contract frays, what does it mean to be polite?

Rachel Cusk:

In a world as unmannerly as this one, how is it best to speak?

There’s no need to be rude, I say to the man in the packed hall at passport control. There are people everywhere, and his job is to send them into the right queues. I have been watching him shout at them. I have watched the obsessive way he notices them, to pick on them. There’s no need to be rude, I say.

His head jerks around.

You’re rude, he counters. You’re the one who’s rude.

This is an airport, a place of transit. There are all sorts of people here, people of different ages, races and nationalities, people in myriad sets of circumstances. In this customs hall, there are so many different versions of living that it seems possible that no one version could ever be agreed on. Does it follow, then, that nothing that happens here really matters?