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Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2003 / 10 Kislev, 5764

Tom Purcell

Purcell
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Who are you, Miss Manners?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | "Can you believe that poor woman got trampled at a Wal-Mart waiting in line for a DVD player?"


"But they were only 30 bucks. I'd trample my grandma for a deal like that."


"That, sir, is precisely the problem. Too many people are so consumed with their own needs and wants, they're trampling civil society."


"Ah, put a cork in it."


"You clearly fail to see the correlation between good manners and a well functioning society. I assure you, sir, the two go hand in hand."


"Yeah, yeah."


"Look, there have been times in human history when barbarians ruled and manners didn't. But what really ruled during these periods were selfishness and impulsiveness."


"If you say so."


"Did you know the word 'etiquette' originated under Henry the XIV in the 1600's? Proper etiquette and manners defined what was and wasn't proper in that highly civilized era."


"I ain't following rules of behavior drafted up by snooty old French people."


"Then perhaps I can reference someone nearer and dearer to your heart: George Washington authored the 'Rules of Civility,' an effort to define and strongly advocate civil society in early America."


"His wife probably put him up to it. We all know old Georgie preferred to carouse with the boys."


"The fact of the matter, sir, is that America was a more mannerly place until the 1960's. Children were taught good manners in school. Adults defined themselves as ladies or gentlemen based on how well they practiced good etiquette - based on how well they were considerate of their fellow human beings."


"Hey, my old lady grew up in that era and she don't know nothing about etiquette. We went to the ballet once and she forgot the sandwiches."


"But today, sir, civility is coming unraveled at the seams. People are rude, impatient and inconsiderate. There were some theories put forth in a recent ABC news article. Some say the lack of civility is caused by our fast-paced society. Others suggest that new technology, such as cell phones, provide new opportunities for rudeness."


"Yeah, yeah."


"But I say it's because we live more isolated lives. We're getting more wrapped up in ourselves. And that is bad for our society."


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"Who are you, Miss Manners?"


"To be honest, sir, Miss Manners speaks good sense. She, Judith Martin, says that manners and etiquette are the philosophical basis of civilization. That people must have a common language of behavior that restrains their impulses. This is how we prevent our communal lives from being abrasive, unpleasant, even explosive."


"Sounds like something that old bird would say."


"She says our legal system was originally intended to punish serious conflict involving the loss of life, limb or property, but now courts are forced to handle disputes that the proper use of etiquette used to prevent."


"I ain't following."


"She says that what used to be an insult, for instance, is now called slander. What used to be meanness is now called hate speech. What used to be boorishness is now called sexual harassment. If the rules of etiquette were stronger, you see, fewer people would engage in actions that are now considered crimes."


"You think so, huh?"


"It's really not so complicated, sir. A civil society is one in which people are concerned for their fellow man. Manners and etiquette are a conscious way of exercising this concern."


"You're losing me."


"Look, we need to remember to say please and thank you. We need to open the door for strangers. We should turn off the cell phones at the movies. And at dinner, we shouldn't eat until the host does, we should never put our elbows on the table, and we should dab our mouths with the napkin, never wipe."


"Napkin? What is this thing you call napkin?"


"Oh brother."

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Up


12/01/03: Joyless, selfish children
11/21/03: Thanksgiving, updated for our times
11/14/03: Hang in there, tubby America, your day in the sun will come
11/07/03: Morale at Veterans' Day
10/31/03: The Big Picture
10/24/03: A sorry bunch
10/17/03: Conversation with a typical poll respondent?
10/10/03: Men and women and brains
10/03/03: Iraqi Pork
09/26/03: They would not leave
09/19/03: A radical idea
09/12/03: Food Guide Pyramid has a "stupidity factor"?
09/05/03: Flag waving and football cheering
08/29/03: People who have it all, too often don't
08/25/03: Attack of the 'virus twits'
08/08/03: Why not have a whole slew of the world's dignitaries and leaders come by to visit you?
08/01/03: Do you really want to live until 500?
07/18/03: "Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell