This is a variation of a sentence I wheel out from time to time as a parent when I’ve reached the end of my tether. It’s not original but it does the trick.
When the cumulative behaviour on show is so uninspiring, I snap and ask everyone in the household to reflect on their contribution and consider whether they can make better choices when it comes to their conduct.
I’m at that point now but not as a parent. I am at that point as a citizen considering that ‘toxic’ is the word of the year.
Toxic is the word that the kind people at Oxford Dictionary have picked to sum up our collective conduct in 2018 and while it’s disappointing to consider it’s hardly unfair or inaccurate is it?
The Oxford Word of the Year 2018 is… pic.twitter.com/DotlZxxJVe
— Oxford Languages (@OxLanguages) November 14, 2018
The disappointment is crushing.
The Oxford Word of the Year is “a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance”.
“In 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics. It is the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title.”
Toxic masculinity. Toxic politics. Toxic air. Toxic cultures. Toxic waste. Toxic relationships. Toxic chemicals. Toxic everything!
Our data shows that, along with a 45% rise in the number of times it has been looked up on oxforddictionaries.com, over the last year the word toxic has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses.
Frankly it’s disheartening to ponder just how atrocious some behaviour this year has been which is why I want to pose the question I level at my children, to some of the ‘adults’ in charge.
On the odd (ok frequent) occasion I reach my limit I ask my kids to consider whether, perhaps, on reflection, throwing their cereal bowl or refusing to get dressed or pulling their sister’s hair or yelling at their fellow family members, was not the very best they could do.
Despite the initial protests, which vary in severity and duration, in time, they generally come to conclude that there was, in fact, a better course of action available. (Even if they’re dragged, in effect, to that conclusion such is their displeasure at missing out on a tuck-shop order or staying up a bit later or having an extra book at bedtime.)
The point is that even small children are capable of recognising when they could do better. It’s a proposition many ‘adults’ ought to consider when they reflect on 2018 and, somewhat alarmingly, the principles they would do well to follow are almost identical to those I seek to instil in my kids.
Keep your hands to yourselves. Listen. Respect the people around you. Be kind. Use an inside voice. Treat others how you like being treated.
How much ‘toxicity’ could be avoided in our workplaces, political parties, boardrooms, parliaments, universities, court rooms, newspapers if these simple principles were followed?
A new year is almost upon us and if we can’t do better? I’m cancelling Christmas.