Contact Disrupted

The other day I was walking down the street, when I saw a car parked halfway across the pavement. An elderly couple was approaching from the other side, so i stopped and let them pass first. Then the man says: “Bedankt, gij zijt een heer.”, which is slightly old-fashioned Dutch for “Thank you, you’re a gentleman.” I went back to school smiling the whole way. So I wandered: how come nobody really pays compliments anymore. I so very seldomly hear someone compliment someone else, escpecially strangers. Here’s my theory why this is: paying someone a compliment because of something he does either puts you in a possition where you owe him something (when he or she lets you pass first, for instance), or it makes him or her temporarely superior to yourself, as you haven’t done anything worthy of praise. But most of all, you don’t have reason to expect the other to respond in kind. And after all, in this individualistic, post-modern age we all function on the do-ut-des principle. The only sollution I can think of, is a rather silly one, but it may just be silly enough to work: when someone pays a compliment to someone else, this is an action worthy of praise. in other words: when someone compliments you, you compliment him or her for complimenting you. (This goes up once, or we’d be stuck in a visicious circle.) How’s that?

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