In general, one speaks of indecent behavior when certain actions contradict or violate the personal, current or social image. A person thus has no decency if he or she consciously or unconsciously behaves in a deviant manner.
In addition, other conditions must be met for behavior to be categorized as „no decency.“ This is because not all behavior that deviates is considered to be without decency. In this regard, the action must be perceived as negative or rude. Thus, the action must be in a negative context.
What is decency? Explanation, Meaning, Definition
„Decorum“ is a concept that is under the influence of numerous factors. In this regard, cultural and social influences play a substantial role. The zeitgeist of a society also determines whether a behavior is interpreted as indecent. Furthermore, there are political influences that determine which behavioral norms are considered acceptable. Especially in authoritarian regimes, such as North Korea, state institutions have an enormous influence on the code of conduct. Because of the many possible interpretations, it is only possible to a limited extent to give the word a universally valid definition. In the course of time, changes can always occur with regard to forms of decency.
There are indecent behaviors that become overtly obvious. This is the case when younger groups of people speak to older people in a disrespectful tone. In contrast, there are various milieus in which indecent behavior is less obvious. In conservative milieus, which are value-conscious, even wrong behavior at the table can be interpreted as indecent.
What does it mean when someone has no decency?
The reasons why some people lack decency, that is, why they lack certain forms of behavior, are many and varied.
It may be that these people come from a foreign culture where different rules of decency apply. These people have to learn the new rules first.
It can also be that indecent people have not enjoyed any education and thus the decency manners not at all familiar.
It can also be that indecent people deliberately violate the rules of decency, because they want to provoke or rebel, for example.
Another reason for indecent behavior can be that people of different generations meet here. Different rules of decency apply to older people than to younger ones. Thus, young people may behave „indecently“ in the eyes of older people, even if the young people believe they are behaving politely and are well-mannered. Some rules of decorum come out of time, some disappear, and some emerge anew.
Decorum and politeness: cultural influences on interpretations of behavior
In every culture there are different interpretations. Even in the Western hemisphere, there are sometimes serious differences when it comes to the interpretation of decency. Along with this, there are of course considerable differences between the continents.
In Japan, for example, it is impolite to tip other people. It doesn’t matter in which area you are requesting a service. It is also inappropriate to give a tip in a restaurant. This is because in Japanese culture, it is seen in an extremely negative light. It implies – according to Japanese understanding – that the employees are dependent on additional monetary donations. In contrast, in the U.S. it is important to tip – even for poor service. Generally, a tip of about 20% of the purchase price is the rule.
Apart from this, there are further differences depending on the respective culture. In Asian countries, laughter or smiling has a special meaning. Thus, non-verbal communication is also subject to the influences of the culture, which can lead to considerable misunderstandings. In this respect, it is customary in Asian cultures to smile – even in negative situations. Thus, it can happen that Asian people express their sympathy at a funeral with a smile. Asian people may also smile in other crisis situations. Consequently, smiling has a completely different meaning in Asian culture than in the Western hemisphere.
Decency in connection with the social zeitgeist
Different eras are accompanied by relevant changes. This also has an impact on attitudes toward behavior. In the recent past, it was considered frowned upon for women to advance professionally. Rigid social norms applied, which affected the family system, among other things. Along with this, it was normal for the man to be the sole breadwinner and provide for the family. The woman’s job was to take care of the household and raise the children. About 50 years ago, women were not allowed to open their own bank accounts. It was not until 1962 that the first women were allowed to open an account.
In modern society, there is a different zeitgeist. It is neither indecent nor offensive for women to have a career. Individuality and freedom are at the center of social life. In the 21st century, there is almost no more interference, depending on the region and country. Another negative example from the past is smoking behavior. While smoking was socially accepted in the past, things look different today. In the 20th century, the cigarette brand „Camel“ advertised its products with a doctor. This was because a doctor was depicted on the packaging. At that time it was allowed to smoke indoors. Contrary to this, in the 21st century it is absolutely impolite to smoke near other people.
Another pertinent example is drug use. The word „heroin“ is derived from the word „heroic.“ It was the miracle drug par excellence in the 20th century. This is because the Bayer Group considered the effect to be heroic, which is why the drug was given the name „heroin“. For many years, heroin was not a drug, but a cure – at least that’s how Bayer marketed it. It was only over the years, as the negative consequences came to light, that it was banned. Heroin was sold to numerous countries before it was perceived as a deadly drug. Today, consumption would not only be considered indecent. It would also constitute a criminal offense.
Ultimately, science makes an important contribution. Along with that, scientific findings have an impact on societal norms. The cannabis plant, for example, is becoming increasingly important, although cannabis products were less accepted in the past. Consumption was associated with a precarious social background. This is where stereotype thinking plays a role. At the same time, science has produced that cannabis products have positive effect properties, so that even medicine uses cannabis products. THC-free products, such as CBD oils, are gaining popularity. Thus, tolerance for cannabis products has increased in the past.
Bottom line: what is indecency?
Due to the many factors that influence, it is not possible to definitively define the word. There may be further changes in the future. Both social and political life are subject to constant change. In addition, digitalization has an enormous influence on developments. Life is increasingly taking place in the digital world, which is becoming globally networked. As a result, tolerance for technical devices has also increased and will continue to improve in the future.
Decency or indecency ultimately has many faces. It is important to include as many factors as possible if you want to look at the subject in more detail. In this way, misinterpretations and misunderstandings can be ruled out. It is important to keep an eye on the big picture.