Good Manners, and Other Alien Ideas

I was with a group of friends today when the subject of using bad language came up.  Someone had the idea of gently suggesting to all in attendance that it would be nice if we all refrained from using bad language.  The exact thing said, I believe, was, no one has ever been offended by a lack of bad language.   Well, you would have thought it had just been suggested that hence forth all speech was to be censored.  The discussion was suddenly rich with self-absorption with a healthy amount of entitlement.  My suggestion of being respectful was met with disbelief and followed by looks of incredulity that I could make such a suggestion.  One woman suggested it was an obvious attempt to muzzle her.

I feel like I missed something, somewhere.  I had long-held the belief that, for the most part, when a person uses bad language it is either because they are not smart enough to use better language, or they think people will be impressed by the bad language.   To be fair, and honest, once in a while I drop a four-letter word or two into what I am saying.  But shortly after saying it, I think less of myself for having done so.  The fact is, save for the rare primal scream, there really is no place for bad language in our society.

That takes me to the next point, good manners, or lack of them.  Our society seems to have gotten away from the once popular idea of thinking of the other person first, before yourself.  Now, that seems to have been reversed.  It is a toss-up between me first and what is in it for me.  It was once believed to be good form for a man to hold the door for a woman.  It was almost a law that you referred to your elders, particularly those who were family members or in a position of authority, as mister or misses, aunt or uncle, as so forth.  That seems to have gone into disfavor, and I do not, for the life of me, understand why.

The world has gotten the idea that it has a right to know the most personal and intimate details of every public figure without exception.  And while I think public figures can expect a much higher than normal notice than the rest of us, they have a right to a very private life, a life free of the unyielding paparazzi, the withering shine of bright lights, the daily intrusion into their private lives.  The yellow journalism meant to thrill a voyeuristic society does not say much for our priorities.

During my last two years of elementary schools, grades 7 and 8, when boys messed up there was this teach who would require of us, as punishment, to copy, word-for-word, a short document named “The Gentleman.”  Its meaning was meant to give us contrast, what we had done via our bad actions, as opposed to what a gentleman would have done.

We seem to now live in a society that feels entitled to do or say whatever it desires.  And, strangely, along with that entitlement is the total absence of personal responsibility.  When confronted with our misdeeds we immediately go into “excuse mode.”  Excuse mode is that instance at which we recognize our misstep, we come up with an excuse rather than take absolute responsibility by making the painfully obvious solution of admitting that we messed up.  The truth has fallen victim to permissiveness and entitlement, along with a huge dose of irresponsibility.

Well, here is the reality: bad language is always unacceptable.  Being polite and showing good manners is always in vogue.  Being respectful of others is always a good idea.  Admitting to our short-comings is always better received than our best excuse.  But most importantly, showing ourselves to be decent and kind people,  makes us more memorable than pretty much anything else we can or will do.


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