Whether it’s Kanye West in a drunken outburst at the MTV Music Awards, Serena Williams showing poor sportsmanship, or Joe Wilson breeching Congressional etiquette by heckling the President—it certainly seems this has been the month for showcasing BAD manners and the pervasive lack of “common decency” (as my Mother used to call it.) Mother taught me to be considerate of the feelings of others—to show respect to my elders and betters. Has this society lost the concept of being polite? The idea that there are certain considerations earned by the position, age or accomplishment of someone else seems to be eluding far too many!
Let’s start with my Mother’s stock advice—“Respect your elders and your betters …” Elders … that’s a given … betters—don’t confuse that label with the idea of an intrinsic class or caste system to be honored. In Southern speak your “betters” are those whose position of authority, achievement or post held merits respect be shown regardless of your personal opinions. You know …doctors, lawyers, Indian Chiefs, teachers, law officers, adults (if you’re a child) … etc. Now this is not to say you are to allow yourself to be led astray or ignore an overt wrong perpetrated by someone else. There are appropriate venues in which one can express opinions or offer an editorial—it’s not in the face of someone as in any of these recent faux pas.
Yes, Virginia—some assessments of others should remain personal and everyone around you is not entitled to your opinion! (I don’t care how great Kanye thought Beyonce’s video may have been; he didn’t need to share that with the audience at the MTV Awards … nor did the world need to know what Joe Wilson thought during the President’s address on Health Care Reform. Both men showed boorish ill manners in their actions. … and these two instances are certainly from vastly different segments of our society.)
Evidently etiquette and “common courtesy” has gone the way of the typewriter, rotary phones and gas station attendants. Too bad—the computer is far more efficient and the iPhone is amazing … but occasionally it would be great to have someone “fill up the tank” for me and more often than not a little common courtesy would improve everyone’s day.