Manners. Etiquette. Protocol. Formality. Polite Society.
These are not words that we visit very often any more; they all imply behaviour that is meant to benefit others in society, are outward facing and not particularly concerned with one's inner child, self-fulfillment, personal freedom or instant gratification.
They are not cool, man! Take it easy! Don't be so stiff, uptight, old-fashioned! Call everybody by their first name, as if they were your best friend. What is the matter with that? We're all equal, right?
It can certainly be nice to let your hair down, throw on some sweats and mosey into class, work, a church or a restaurant, right? I mean who wants to go to all the trouble of getting dressed up? (I am guilty of this one in particular, and am certainly not excluding myself from my own criticism. I shall not permit myself to watch TV for 2 weeks or until I clean up my act!)
I started to ponder all this as I was making another desperate attempt to sort through the daily mail, as well as the pile that accumulated while I was up in Tahoe. Why do I get so much darn mail? I get at least 3 letters a day (right now it can be as many as 7 or 8) from various charities wanting money from me. Some are worthy, some less so, some I suspect are even scams. I would need several hours a day just to sort through, read and respond to all of these requests (not to mention that I would soon be broke).
How did this happen? How did seemingly everyone with a cause get my name and address?
I'll tell you how! I gave money to a few charities or causes, and lights and bells went off somewhere in a room where someone shouted "We've got a live one!" A sucker. That's me!
So, what does this have to do with manners, etiquette and the like? Please let me explain.
After the alarm was sounded, my name was quickly entered into a database and was sold, traded and even written on the bathroom walls of a few upstart political campaign offices. I was officially fair game! It is "anything goes" because businesses, politicians and even charities have taken society's lead and have abolished those trivial niceties that would have prevented the phone from ringing at dinnertime and my personal information from being treated as an asset to be exploited for others' gain.
It seems that all of those stuffy old rituals served a purpose after all! Maybe they were a pain in the arse sometimes, maybe they interfered with one's personal freedoms, but they also protected us from ourselves and others and in many cases were the grease that allowed the gears of society to turn.
Nowadays, because we all insist on the right to act like spoiled children in a candy store, we have to make laws to force people to behave in the way they should have in the first place. And if you think stuffy old society limited your personal freedom, just wait until you get a load of what the government can do.
Let's make 2008 the year that manners and civility replace the aria of "me me me me"!
Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!
Pass it on!
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