Are we a Defiant Society?

Recently I attended an event, where I volunteered as an usher and general support for the organizer. As the keynote speaker was about to begin his speech I was asked to help corral participants (about 150 people) to the designated seating area to hear and watch the presentation. It was a mid-morning event, and people had coffee cups and snacks in their hands. Most of them happily listened and took a seat in the designated area. But a few people were defiant and refused to listen. No matter how many times they were asked, in many different polite but firm ways, they stood, or sat, where they wanted.

I’m all for standing up for yourself, being a strong person and holding your ground. In the right situation. I hope that I am raising my children to be confident, strong people. But, that’s not the same as defiant.

When I look up “defiant” in my word processor’s thesaurus, I’m intrigued that its suggested words are everything from insolent and insubordinate to bold and cheeky. Interesting. Actually, I’m laughing. My middle child, Julia, is most definitely a cheeky little girl, and her personality can definitely be defined as bold. But for me, that’s not the same as defiant.

Insolent and insubordinate are definitely the terms I would use to describe the people who defied my requests to sit with the rest of the group at the event. These people were just plain rude and they stood out from the crowd in a negative way. And I don’t believe their behaviour is unique in our society anymore.

I see defiant behaviour every day when I drive around the city. The person who jumps the stop sign and rolls through when it’s my turn to go or the aggressive driver who pushes into a turning lane last minute so as to avoid the long line to get on the highway. How about the cyclist that flies through a red light or rides the wrong way on a one-way street? Defiant? I think so.

Maybe this behaviour is situational. For example, have you noticed how defiant people can be at the airport? When you travel, how many times are you forced to line up? If you check a bag, line up at the desk to hand it over. Then line up for security. There’s always a line-up to get food or drink, and my gosh, what a process to line up to get on the plane. People try to cut in and cut you off all over the airport, every step of the way. The person who pushes in line ahead of me to get on the plane first – is that person defiant or has he or she just had enough of the stresses of travel? Based on my many experiences traveling, I would say, defiant.

Maybe I’m just a crank and have become too touchy as I get older. Maybe I am easily bothered by what I see as purely impertinent behaviour. I feel it’s important to show consideration for those around you – whether it’s a driver in the other lane, the traveler ahead of you in line at security or the person who asks you to take your seat with the group. Be bold and cheeky when the situation calls for it.  Be respectful and compliant when it doesn’t.

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