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So, I googled “Is America getting less nice?’ The first thing that came up?  “Do more, apologize less – how bitches get ahead.”

So then I googled, “Are people getting less nice?” The first hit was “Nice guys finish happier, but they make less money.” Most of the entries on this list concerned the fact that people who are nice make less money. Others focused on how being nice can actually hamper you in society. None of them wondered if being nice was worth it simply for the value in being nice.

Humans, it seems, don’t like nice people. This seems contrary to the apparent needs of a functioning society, but there it is. Look around. Doing something for other people just because freaks other people out. Stop it.

I’m probably not one to start a Starbucks pay it forward. It’s not my personality. (Though I realize it’s not quite the same thing as fomenting revolution. It’s a couple cups of coffee. But…they might be VENTIS. Those ain’t cheap, bub.) But while I won’t start a pay it forward, I will typically participate if one has been started.

Does that make me a weak-willed patsy for the bullying tide of coercion as a tool of social niceties? Sure, but, really, does any good deed come without a push? People can claim to do things for selfless reasons, but you always get something in exchange – be it money or power or the promise of a favor in return. Even if all you get is a sense of worth and accomplishment, you’re getting something.

So what about that Starbucks pay it forward thing? What do you get out of that? Sometimes, I suppose, you get a financial boost – maybe the car behind you had a small bill than yours. But sometimes you have to pay even more than you would for your own order. People hate this thing. Start typing “Starbucks pay it forward” into Google and it auto-finishes “Starbucks pay it forward stupid”.  Some people go out of their way to purposely disrupt pay it forward chains. “A cheap publicity stunt,” they sneer.

Sure it’s good publicity. But it’s also a nice gesture for the stranger in the car behind you you’ll never see again.  There are bigger things to worry about, friends.

Forget coffee. Why don’t we do other “selfless” things anymore? Holding doors for people. Not cutting people off in traffic. We gleefully trash strangers on the Internet just because it’s anonymous. We don’t hitchhike because the people who pick us up might by psychopaths and we don’t pick up hitchhikers because hitchhikers are psychopaths. iTunes and the band U-2 gave everyone a FREE ALBUM and people lost their shit. “How dare they give me something! For free!” When our kids are little, we tell them to say thank you when they’re given a gift, whether they like it or not. Why shouldn’t we do this as adults?

And these aren’t even big things. I’m not even talking about lifting people out of poverty, making health care abundant and affordable for everyone, or free copies of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. (Sorry Bono, but if I have to choose between you or Kate Upton, well…)

All I’m talking about are the minimal levels of decency society needs to actually be considered decent. Uber- nerd Wil Wheaton might be onto something. Sometime ago, he laid out his “Dont Be A Dick”  plea. The idea is simply that people should be decent to each other. That’s it. It’s actually both a pretty good mantra and a pretty low societal threshold.

But I’m not sure we’re up to it.


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