Saturday, October 4, 2008

A World Without Consequences Suffers for Manners

I've heard it said that good manners are the velvet glove which covers the iron fist, and I tend to agree. I am rarely better behaved than when I carry a gun. It is being polite, having good manners, that avoids animosities and deflects conflicts. But what makes manners work, is the threat that backs them up. There has to be a reason to be polite.
Now, modern social science pundits would tell you the reason and function of manners is to avoid hurt feelings, and psychological damage. We are polite in order to show our respect and love for our fellow beings, and their uniqueness. Because people, the emotional/psychological creatures, are unique and beautiful snowflakes and deserve to live their entire lives without ever having to feel painful emotions at the hands of another. I could go on, that line of bullshit stacks quite deeply - Deeply enough in fact to populate the text books of entire graduate degree programs in social "sciences". But, it is just that, bullshit. Non-competitive, non-aggressive, bullshit. Yet, we didn't get where we are today by being non-competitive and non-aggressive.
Manners are good things. Politeness is a good thing. Not hurting peoples feelings, and recognizing that inflicting yourself without provocation on another is a violation of their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, is a good thing. But there is a quiet understanding backing up why its good to be polite to people.
Because, classically, there were consequences for rudeness. If nothing else mattered to you, there was the ever present threat of getting busted in the chops. If you insulted a mans wife in earshot of him, you could expect to get hit. If you hit someone without warrant, you could expect him and his buddies to take you apart.
For most of us, we can see why its good to be good to others - And we dont like being cruel or hurtful. But, for others, manners are defined by their enforcement. You ever see two dogs whose food-bowls are near one another? One dog invariably finishes first. What stops him from going over and eating the other dogs food in most cases? A low growl, or if necessary a bite, from the other dog. And vice versa, how does the other dog lose his food? By cowing to the would be thief's presentation of force.

You'll note I refer to such enforcement of manners among men as something in the past. I do this because I believe, for the most part, it is. We live in a society shaped by the opinions of our social scientists, and the empty demand for manners and respect for other peoples deepest feelings and not hurting them, because its not nice. Not because there are consequences, but because its not politically correct to make other people feel bad. An attitude which is enforced by the well-intentioned, yet often mistaken, legal consequences for violence.
If someone says something rude to your wife, and you break his jaw, you will be arrested for assault - Because hitting people is not nice, and nice people "mind their manners" and let things roll off their back.
This is the tyranny of manners. We've become a quiet, polite, politically correct people. For the most part. Those who are not quiet, not polite, not politically correct, walk all over those who try to play by the rules, and be good people. They are rude, and brutish, and crude, and offensive because they know there is no real consequence for it. They may get looked at askance, muttered about under breath, and perhaps lose some social resources - But that will be the worst of it. They only have to be nice to a few people to maintain a social circle, to hold down jobs, etc. Everyone else they will bully and push and shove, and do so with relative impunity, secure in the knowledge that most people are well behaved and don't want to make waves by taking them to task for it. And that if they do get taken to task for it, all they have to do is call on the law of the land to protect them from the "viscous brute" who hit them in the mouth when they hadn't lifted a finger against him.
Manners are good things - But they are also crippling. A world which demands manners for manners sake, will (and does) find itself victim to those without any manners.
Manners should be maintained for the sake of good behavior, but upon the penalty of real consequence.

I've had occasion, twice in as many months, to forcefully call people to task for bad behavior with polite, but emphatic, threats of consequences. Threats I was more than ready to back up (or I wouldn't have been making them). A willingness which I am sure will eventually get me in trouble with the authorities for disrupting the flow and giving some SOB what-for. If necessary, thats a price I am willing to accept. Particularly when it comes to taking someone to task for offensive, over-the-line, behavior towards women. I have a special attitude for those people.

I dream of a world with consequences. I try to live my life as if I were living in one. I will, and do, hold others to that standard.

1 comment:

Hat said...

People are silly. Yes, we have feelings and are wonderful creatures and we should look out for each other.... to a degree. I'll be honest with people, and if that "hurts" them well so be it.

We don't need to be pampered and babied through life- we need to have consequences...