Etiquette

Such a lovely old-world word.  It isn’t used often.  It makes me think of high tea with fine China and little tiny sandwiches. It makes me think of gentlemen and ladies and well-behaved children. Has that time really gone? Do we now turn our noses up at the idea of etiquette? Perhaps.

Many people look back in horror at the perceived injustices of times long past. Men and women had pre-ordained roles that society dictated. Individuals were expected to act in a particular way, only do jobs that were deemed fit for that particular sex. It had nothing to do with ability and more with perception of what a man or a woman should do. We have evolved. But have we?

In the third millennium BC, the Ancient Egyptian vizier  Ptahhotep (2375–2350 BC), wrote a book extolling civil virtues, such as truthfulness, self-control, and kindness towards other people, and that the pursuit of justice should be foremost.

Confucius  (551–479 BC) was the Chinese intellectual and philosopher whose works emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, the pursuit of justice in personal dealings, and sincerity in all personal relations.

In the mid-18th century, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, first used the word etiquette to mean “the conventional rules of personal behaviour in polite society.”

Even more recently, the rise of the Internet has necessitated the adaptation of existing rules of conduct to create Netiquette, which governs the drafting of e-mail, rules for participating in an online forum, and so on. And yet how often do we hear about trolls and scams and malicious viruses?

In society, there are either good manners or  bad manners to indicate to a person whether or not his or her behaviour is acceptable to the cultural group.  And yet our world is made up of many different cultures who have different manners and customs. Do we dismiss another’s actions because we don’t do it that way?  I was offended once by a man who burped after a particularly lovely meal. His wife saw the horror on my face and explained that in their culture that was a sign of respect to the cook. I had never heard that. I was in the wrong. And yet that is exactly what we all do. We judge based on our customs and manners. In a world of 7 billion people with hundreds of cultures and thousands of different customs it’s hard to know what is polite and what is not.

In my research what I found was surprising:   each generation was extolling the virtues of kindness, morality, respect and justice. These are concepts that should be universal and should dictate our behaviour. In fact, it does through laws that have been created. And yet these concepts shouldn’t have to be enforced, they should be the way we live. Some people do but far too many do not. Simple respect should be the norm, should be.

Even more surprising was that the concept we classify as etiquette exists in the animal world as well. There is a hierarchy in an assembly of animals that is viciously enforced. In a group each animal has its role to play: there are the protectors and the food gatherers, baby sitters and leaders. For example, In Meerkat families, only the matriarch is allowed to have young. If another female does, she is violently evicted from the troop. Even the solitary animals understand instinctually when they have to come together to procreate.

Human beings have lost many of our instincts that the animal world still uses to function. As a result, we have to put things down in writing or make laws to guide the way we live our lives. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

All I can continue to do is what my mother told me. And of course mothers are never wrong.

 

33 thoughts on “Etiquette

  1. Mark Lanesbury

    Mothers have that one instinct that rules them all…survival. And like your Meerkat tale it over rules all else, hence the ‘intrusion’ on others who do not understand. I too would protect strongly over something ‘I’ considered outside ‘my’ normal…but then my strongly might only be a pout and a look of horror on my face. Others may wipe out the many so that they feel safe again, hence the many wars overseas…that seem to be creeping into ‘our’ way of life.
    Mmm, maybe its a virus…but we just don’t know it yet 🤔

    Liked by 3 people

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  2. Murphy's Law

    A very thought-provoking, food for-thought post today.

    I too think of royalty and “upper class” when I hear the word etiquette. But if you think about it, ‘those’ people are usually nothing more than snobs and are generally very rude. They wouldn’t recognize etiquette if it were served to them on a silver platter.

    Etiquette is practiced by those of us who are polite, kind, considerate of other people’s feelings and customs and who don’t always have to have the last word. It’s common courtesy given by one person to another, and it doesn’t have to be learned. It comes naturally from a good upbringing that can be traced back generations.
    Ginger

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  3. John W. Howell

    I do long for the days of etiquette. I’m not sure such a thing exists beyond each individual house. I am dumbfounded when a neighbor cranks up a leaf blower or power washer on a Sunday morning. Sundays used to be for quiet. Sure rules are written but still allow Sunday disturbance after 9:00. I’m highly offended when someone gets in the 10 items of less line with 25. Etiquette should dictate wearing a mask or staying six feet away from me. Too often, etiquette doesn’t hold sway. A well-done post, Pamela. You have my brain whizzing today.

    Liked by 4 people

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  4. Joanne Sisco

    After reading this, my thoughts went off in a wild run, building up steam into a full-blown rant. But thankfully I’ve managed to damp it down again 😉

    This is such a hot button right now. Is the idea of manners, respect, kindness, and simple decency towards one another really as obsolete as it seems?
    On the other hand, it appears that mankind has been talking about a basic code of conduct since the dawn of time. How can something be obsolete if it was never there in the first place? I think that mankind, in the past, was just more brutal about socially censuring the outliers 😕

    This was a great thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 3 people

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  5. joylennick

    Excellent post, Pamela, That had me ‘bristling’ too. I was always taught that “Good manners have nothing to do with your station in life.” And here here to that. My maternal grandfather was a ‘simple Celt from Wales’; a bricklayer by profession and a most charming man who always behaved impeccably like a gentleman of so-called ‘breeding,’ despite an earthy sense of humour. My own father was a Lighterman on the River Thames and probably used ‘richer’ language at work, but – at home -. he and we knew all about manners..Pleased to say, my own husband also knows how to behave, and thank goodness for that. Often, nowadays, holding doors open for some people is met by a stony silence…The old days weren’t perfect, far from it, but most of the hoi poloi knew how to behave! x

    Liked by 3 people

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  6. Dan Antion

    This is a very good and thought-provoking post, Pam. I am disappointed in the trend that I see regarding manners and respect – things I was taught to understand and work into my character. I still see good manners, and I see examples of human kindness, but I see actions by many to whom these seem like foreign concepts. With each new law, one group wonders why we need a law and one group cries foul. I hope we figure it out before the animals inherit the planet from us.

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  7. dweezer19

    Remember Dear Abby and Miss Manners? I actually looked forward to those posts but those women would be berated by many groups as sexist. Yet, how is it not sexist to display oneself on social media in a degrading or compromising way? The ‘rules’ have become very blurred. This is now an age of ‘anything goes’…unless someone is offended by it. 🤨

    Liked by 4 people

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    1. quiall Post author

      I agree! And people seem to be offended by the most minute issues. If you don’t want somebody looking at you sexually then put some clothes on! I realize my opinion may offend somebody but quite frankly I’m still entitled to my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

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  8. dweezer19

    All of my sons love individualism without judgment. One of them while in high school loved to do things to astound people, like wearing a Dr Seuss Cat in the Hat hat. He would get angry if someone was rude or stared at him funny. I told him that while I understood his irritation with people expecting conformity that, if he chose to do things to stand apart, he needed to accept what goes with the exposure. He needed to blow off the bad attitudes or choose to conform. He kept that hat for a long time. Mind you these rude stares were coming from people who bared their breasts every year at Mardis Gras, so….

    Liked by 3 people

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