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I'm astonished at the number of folks who are sincere in their belief that politeness and respect make one immune from abuse at the border.

I am baffled that you would interpret statements that "it makes a difference" to mean "it confers immunity". Of course it does not confer immunity. But it does make a difference. The author of the piece strikes me as extremely contemptuous. I imagine he attracts a lot of negative behavior from people without having any clue that he did anything to encourage it.




I'm a guy who thinks of the TSA as "security theater" and I still thought the author sounded like a douchebag.

The guys an attorney; he's obviously pressing legal buttons because it's intellectually interesting to him. Bully for him. He has studied the law a bunch and knows exactly what to say / do down every branch of the decision tree.

Me, I'm just trying to get into the country or past TSA as easily as possible and the last thing I need is some dude winding up the officer who's about to inspect me.

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The guys an attorney; he's obviously pressing legal buttons because it's intellectually interesting to him. Bully for him.

At the risk of really, really stepping in it:

My oldest was not identified as "gifted" until he was 11. A few months later, it dawned on me that his obnoxious habit of torturing me with argumentative behavior was rooted in boredom. (He was in special ed in public school as he is both gifted and learning disabled, something schools generally do a poor job of dealing with.) This realization empowered me to put a stop to this bad habit of his by making sure he was more constructively occupied and spent less time bored.

There is an old saying: "Idle hands are the devil's workshop". I have noticed that extremely argumentative people are typically quite intelligent and their arguments frequently seem to be something they do to entertain themselves, and damn the consequences. In most cases (of individuals I have personally known), where this is an incredibly obnoxious habit on their part, like my son, they also have some kind of personal handicap (in other cases of individuals I have personally known, they might have a handicap but I did not know for certain). Baiting people is a cheap and easy means to get around their handicap and get some of their intellectual needs met.

Someone utterly and completely convinced that "politeness makes no difference" may well have a personal handicap that may have never been identified. "Twice exceptional" individuals (gifted and learning disabled/handicapped) frequently go unrecognized. Their strengths tend to make up for their weaknesses and mask the problem(s). But it also generally makes for an enormously frustrating life so, unsurprisingly, most of them seem to carry a huge chip on their shoulder. Such individuals are often fairly paranoid as well, most likely due to routinely and consistently having their very real problems dismissed, poo-pooed, and so forth and generally being treated like they are imagining things. Since they aren't imagining things and do have a very real problem and their predictions are routinely borne out as more accurate than that of most people around them, they commonly become convinced that everyone else is also just an idiot. I have an "invisible" handicap that was not diagnosed until late in life and I spend a lot of time wrestling with something that Einstein described very well:

"A question that makes me hazy, am I or are the others crazy?"

On another note, IIRC, only 7% of face-to-face communication is the actual words we use. The rest is body language, voice tone, facial expression, and context (and I might be leaving something out). So if you have a chip on your shoulder and you walk up to the desk and haughtily look down your nose at the person across from you and your facial expression and body language just scream "I'm better than you, I'm sure you are an incompetent dolt and I am expecting you to be an ass to me", before you have said a word you have already negatively influenced the way the whole thing will go. Then you open your mouth and your voice tone just reinforces all that negativity. People who do that sort of thing are frequently not consciously aware of it, which tends to just make them believe the world is full of assholes since "everyone" routinely reacts negatively to them.

I can understand that sentiment. When I was very ill, in constant excruciating pain and doped to the gills, I could not keep both feet out of my mouth no matter how hard I tried. And I really tried like hell. But there are people in the world who will probably never forgive me. I feel no real compulsion to kiss their asses. I feel like "Excuse the hell out of me for living". Getting well/healthier has done a lot to improve my social experience. I don't have to try nearly so hard anymore yet I get better reception from people generally. For me, this means that subjectively there is a huge disconnect between how much effort I put in and the outcomes I get. That doesn't mean that if I am polite, it makes no difference. That means that trying to be polite and actually being polite aren't the same thing.

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All very good points, and convincingly presented. But I don't think anybody (nobody here, at least) is contesting that politeness is important and useful in social interactions.

The question was whether being polite or brusque (and he wasn't rude after all, just perfunctory and not actively polite) in refusing to answer CBP officers' questions would have made much of a difference to the CBP response.

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If you cannot see that interacting with CBP officers is "social interaction", then I don't see where we can ever come to any agreement. And if you were not there and if there is also no videotape of the interaction, I don't see how you can assert with any certainty that he was not being rude at all. As I stated above, the vast majority of such things is conveyed not by words but by voice tone, body language, facial expression and so on. As far as I know, the only account of the incident is from his point of view. Perhaps the CBP officers have gotten together and written their own account, but so far I have seen no mention of it (and I consider that unlikely as it could potentially cost them their jobs -- security jobs typically require you to generally keep your mouth shut). His writing tone and his framing of things (that these people are "thugs" who deserve to be treated a certain way by him for, apparently, not simply up and quitting their jobs as proof that they don't agree with ...whatever he is taking issue with) doesn't give me much confidence that he wasn't rude in some way.

For that matter: Most people cannot up and quit their jobs. Having a job is not strong evidence that someone wholeheartedly supports and believes in all policies and practices of their place of employment. In many cases, it is only evidence that they prefer putting up with the crap at work to putting up with the alternatives (such as homelessness). Even in cases where someone does strongly disagree with what goes on at work, most people cannot afford to simply up and quit and there may be little they can do to change it while they are there. If they really feel strongly about it, they typically begin job hunting and leave as soon as is practicable without cutting their own throats. Additionally, if they have any sense, afterwards they tend to keep their mouths shut about the things they did not approve of. Talking trash about a former employer can be a good way to ensure that other people will be reluctant to hire you.

He makes snide remarks about the "low pay" of these people in a way which strikes me as classist and then makes even uglier remarks about how they deserve his treatment for not up and quitting which he claims they can do "at any time". He damns them coming and going, which does nothing to convince me he was even civil. Everything he wrote paints a picture of an individual with a chip on their shoulder who is actively looking to create such a confrontation. In his own words: "But that’s a small price to pay to remind these thugs that their powers are limited and restricted." So his stated goal was not to simply exercise his rights. His stated goal was to "teach them a lesson", in essence. That kind of goal is generally rife with unstated hostility.

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> On another note, IIRC, only 7% of face-to-face communication is the actual words we use. The rest is body language, voice tone, facial expression, and context (and I might be leaving something out).

That's a popular idea to throw around nowadays. Try body-languaging and voice-toning "excuse me, could you point me towards the nearest post-office?" to someone.

But yes, a really negative attitude usually shows.

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That's a popular idea to throw around nowadays. Try body-languaging and voice-toning "excuse me, could you point me towards the nearest post-office?" to someone.

:-) :-) Not being a smartass and I'm sure I couldn't body language a "could you point me towards the nearest post office" to a total stranger, but my oldest son talked in sentences late and invented an elaborate system for communicating with me involving two word phrases, made up words, miming and grunting and gesturing. I finally stuck him in preschool to force him to use sentences, which I knew he could do but was refusing to do for some reason. Years later, when I was so ill and frequently in the midst of swallowing pills and thus unable to speak right at that moment, he was the only family member whom I could gesture and grunt at and usually get what I needed.

Language had to start somewhere. Presumably, it began with voice tone conveying important information, which is not terribly different from what most animals seem to do for communication.

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Alright, you had some kind of primitive system for communicating certain "messages". It could be comparable to Morse code - two taps on the table means "me hungry", etc.

But I don't think that's related to people saying things like "70% of all communication is non-verbal". I just took it at face value, and tried to point out that it's not. It's just a comment that's tempting to throw around because it's kind of dramatic.

Instead of slapping an arbitrary percentage value on it, I'd be more comfortable saying "a considerable part of our communication is non-verbal", which it obviously is. 70% is just too high a percentage to be realistic.

Yes, language had to start somewhere, and because grunting and gesturing just isn't enough, it had to evolve to what we have now.

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