Posted October 23, 2005
Where Are Our Manners/Civility/Gentleness?
Seventy percent of Americans say rudeness is on the rise. A poll finds
Americans’ fast-paced, high-tech existence has taken a toll on civility in
From road rage in the morning commute to high decibel cell-phone
conversations that ruin dinner out, men and women behaving badly has become
the hallmark of a hurry-up world. An increasing informality – flip-flops at
the White House, even – combined with self-absorbed communication gadgets
and a demand for instant gratification have strained common courtesies to
the breaking point.
“All of these things lead to a world with more stress, more chances for
people to be rude to each other,” said Peter Post, a descendent of etiquette
expert Emily Post and an instructor on business manners.
In some cases, the harried single parent has replaced the traditional
nuclear family and there’s little time to teach the basics of polite living,
let alone how to hold a knife and fork, according to the Post.
A slippage in manners is obvious to many Americans. Nearly 70 percent
questioned in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll said people are ruder than they
were 20 or 30 years ago. The trend is noticed in large and small places
alike, although more urban people report bad manners, 74 percent, than do
people in rural areas, 67 percent.
Peggy Newfield, founder and president of Personal Best, said the generation
that came of age in the times-a-changin’ 1960s and 1970s are now parents who
don’t stress the importance of manners, such as opening a door for a female.
So it was no surprise to Newfield that those children wouldn’t understand
how impolite it was to wear flip-flops to a White House meeting with the
president – as some members of the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team did in
A whopping 93 percent in the AP Ipsos poll faulted parents for failing to
teach their children well.
“Parents are very much to blame,” said Newfield, whose Atlanta-based company
started teaching etiquette to young people and now focuses on corporate
employees. “And the media.”
Nearly everyone has a story of the rude or the crude and others certainly
have their pet veeves.
Bernard F. Scanlon, 79, of Sayville, N.Y., for one detests cell phone
conversations on trains.
Amtrak has taken a stab at that by banning cell phones and other loud
devices in one car of some trains, especially on chatty Northeast and West
But if those trains are sold out, the Quiet Car service is suspended and
Taken from Express 10/17/05
What, then, is courtesy?
Originally the word courtesy denoted proper behavior at the court of the
ruler, in a noble environment. Then it lost this particular meaning and took
on a more general one, proper behavior as such, the result of a good
up-bringing; it is in this sense that we shall use it.
People live together in narrow spaces, within a house, an office, a factory,
in conference rooms, in the crowded streets, in traffic, in the limited
confines of a densely populated country. Consequently, their spheres of
action are always touching each other. Their purposes cross just as their
paths do. Here there is constant danger of friction, of the kindling of
anger; and every sensible persons wishes to encounter courtesy. He will try
to find forms which express concern for a proper association of the
multitudes, which lessen the violence of antagonism and of cross-purposes,
and which move people to be obliging and enable them to receive
consideration from others.
This is courtesy. It is an everyday affair, but how important for the whole
. . . . Courtesy is very important and very helpful in our life. It is not a
great act, such as standing beside someone in great danger or freeing him
from some pressing need or distress, but it is one of the little things
which lighten the ever perceptible difficulties of life. It is consideration
for the mood of our neighbor, sympathy for his weariness, smoothing over a
painful situation, and so forth. A constant attempt to make life easier and
to obviate the many, and often strange, threats that endanger it — this is
Here belongs also that facilitating of life which St. Paul means when he
says, "Anticipate one another in showing honor." But why does he use the
noble expression, "Showing honor?" Because man possesses what we call
"dignity." A thing does not have dignity; it only requires the treatment
suitable to its nature — unless we mean that deep, even mysterious quality
which belongs to it as an essential structure, and which we perceive so
keenly in a noble object. But "dignity" in the true sense of the word is
found only in the person. A thing can be bought and sold, can be given and
received, used and destroyed. All this is proper, as long as we act
according to the nature of the thing. But this cannot be done in the case of
a person. The fact that we feel this marks the beginning of culture, and it
indicates a great and ever increasing threat that man today is forced more
and more inot the role of a thing. But man is a person and this means that
every man is unique. No man can be replaced. His achievements, his work, and
his property may be replaced, but not the man himself. Every man is unique,
in his relation to God and in God's relation to him.
This uniqueness demands a special attitude on our part — "honor." This is
shown in our daily intercourse, by the forms of courtesy proper to every
situation . . . .
Courtesy is a thing of beauty and makes life beautiful. It is "form": an
attitude, gesture, or action, which does not merely serve a purpose, but
also expresses a meaning which has value in itself, namely the dignity of
man. At their highest point these gestures and actions become a drama which
represents a lofty mode of being; for example, in the ceremonies of state or
in the ritual of liturgical celebrations. Of course, there is also the
danger inherent in every symbol; that is, that it may become artificial,
unnatural and hence untrue.