Thursday, 8 May 2008

Radical Niceness

Niceness isn't usually seen as very radical. At school we are told that its a word that we shouldn't use as its not discriptive enough, nice doesn't get things done, it doesn't get your way, it doesn't change anything.

However, I am increasingly wondering if we (western society) are in need of a radical new niceness. The kind of 'niceness' that makes us stop and say thank you to the bus driver/cleaner/shop-assisant, or the kind of niceness that apologies when we bump into people and smile at strangers in the street (in a non-creepy way). Personally, I think that this kind of niceness makes the world a happier, sunnier place. In fact, I think this kind of niceness spreads, and makes us all better people, and therefore makes the world a better place.

I'm increasingly thinking about the importance of niceness in our activism. As in, niceness to those who think differently to us, or those are standing in the way of good change. I really believe that niceness and generally friendlyness (is that a word? It definatly isn't spelled right) will increase our effictiveness as we try to impliment real change in the world. Sometimes, the aggressive of left wing or feminist activists (I say sometimes and not all the time) can allienate those who may have been on our side, or who may have just had some sympathy with our cause. Courtisy, offers of friendship, and a willingness to explain or perspective can go a long way.

Niceness is necessary with those who we fundamentally disagree with, who probably will never 'come around'. Sometimes we will have to accept that we disagree about something big and important, and just carry on being nice to each other. People are suprised by niceness.

What do you think? Can we change the world just by being nice?


Feminist Avatar said...

You should (if you haven't already) read bell hooks All about Love: New Visions. She argues for the power of a more loving society- which in many respects in similar to what you are arguing for here only with different terminology. I especially think it's an interesting read from a Christian perspective, given the centrality of love to much of Christian thought.

twirlingmycni said...

I like the idea of niceness, and I like the idea that niceness could win, I really do. It's just that people unfortunately tend to walk all over that. There are things and times when people do not deserve niceness, and sometimes doubt and being nice can be a bit of a hindrance. I think niceness makes you harder to oppose, but easier to ignore - which is the problem with too much niceness.

I admire niceness - but I freely admit that I am not...

Christian Feminist said...

I've always meant to read bell hooks, but I've never got round to it. Maybe that would be a good summer project for me.

Liz, I definatly take your point about niceness. Perhaps grace is a better world for what I mean. I'm definatly convinced that grace will win. However, I'm not sure that niceness should be confused with weakness. I think that people are easy to ignore when they are weak (for any reason), but actually, I think its much easier to ignore people who aren't nice (or gracious). Its easier to dismiss them as being horrible or crazy or just plain wrong.

This is a bit of a subjective conversation though, not sure that eiither of us can really prove our points! Perhaps the only way to make sure that no-one can ignore you is by using violence and the long term concequences of that are bleak.

Perhaps my point is that we can only change the world if we live out the way we want the world to be. Otherwise, like so many communist revolutions, the wrong methods give the wrong results.