Saturday, January 3, 2009


Here is a great idea for a New Year's resolution: be polite. (Via LRC)

Perhaps the biggest problem is that rudeness is, in some quarters, no longer something to be ashamed of; it's applauded. This is an attitude fed by reality television. We see it in every series of The Apprentice and Big Brother. Again and again, contestants who have said something tactless or insulting will protest that they're merely being "honest", while contestants who politely try to conceal their dislike of others are dismissed as "two-faced".

Last year, it was announced that lessons in good manners were to be introduced to schools. As long as teachers drop the waffle (the classes are to promote "emotional and social intelligence", apparently), this sounds a useful idea. Well, if you overlook the inevitable flaw: the pupils most likely to pay attention to such lessons are the ones who already have good manners. The ones with bad manners, naturally enough, will ignore them.

But how can we expect the adult world to become any more polite in 2009 – as the recession's grip tightens, businesses collapse and jobs and houses are lost? If we were irascibly inconsiderate in the boom years, goodness knows how we'll treat each other in the lean years.

Let's try to look at it in a more positive way. The less that we have, maybe the more we'll realise the importance of manners, of thoughtfulness, of common decency. In a time of pessimism, that would be one thing to hope for. As life gets crueller, perhaps we'll get kinder.



Lucy said...

Hi. I'm actually working on a book for teens regarding this whole issue of what's appropriate and what's not. The more I research and speak to young people the more I notice, like you mentioned, that the ones who are actually interested are the ones who already have mannners. It's a big job trying to bring things back in order...

elena maria vidal said...

You're working a book on manners! That's excellent! Yes, Lucy, I have found from teaching etiquette classes that the parents and the children most interested are the ones who already have beautiful manners.

El Cid said...

Keep up the grand work...We have forgotten so much in modern society, I rant all the time about the sad fact is we are mired down in bad political ideologies devoid of solid philosophical underpinnings - without any regard for the collective wisdom our ancestors accumulated over the centuries. Positions like mine are but one very minor aspect to setting the world right. We need folks like you reminding us of culture, manners and civilized existence. Without those the finest political philosophies are for naught.

I look forward to being edified and refreshed by your postings in another year.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you very much for your kind words and your support, El Cid.

Susan said...

Dear Elena,
How appropriate that you remind us in such a timely manner that "manners" are truly mandatory to a societal order that benefits all its members. Thanks again,

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Susan! I just find the lack of common decency getting worse and worse these days.