Friday, 13 April 2012

Penny's homework assignment (1)

Why poor manners and disrespect are never acceptable, by Penelope Hasler

“Good manners cost nothing,” or so the saying goes. Whilst the simplicity and self-evident truth of this age-old expression make it easy to remember, they can also make it easy to take good manners for granted; to mistake their lack of cost for a lack of value. Yet to do either of these things would be an error. Far from being a superficiality, or an anachronism, good manners are an integral part of a healthy society: it is no exaggeration, in fact, to call them a foundation stone of civilisation.

Without manners, we are little better than the animals. Imagine any social situation, any aspect of everyday life, and then try to imagine it in the absence of manners. Ladies would have to open doors themselves, as gentlemen would feel no obligation to hold them open for them. The most agreeable shopping trip into town would become a dull series of transactions; an empty experience shorn of all charm and humanity. A tea party would degenerate into a scene of chaos, with the guests all sitting where they pleased, indulging in the most rude and inappropriate discourse, and fighting over the last buttered scone. Such scenarios are bad enough on their own; when they are set in contrast against what they might be with good manners at their heart, they appear all the more objectionable.

A quality that good manners go hand in hand with is that of respect. A key aspect of these concepts’ relatedness, and of their importance, is that both speak more than anything of consideration for others. This virtue is amongst the highest, and should be prized accordingly: consideration is after all an expression of love; of compassion for our fellow man. It is, furthermore, essential for co-operation, and co-operation has been a vital element in human advancement for as long as we have walked the earth (or, for the past century, flown across it).

Respect should be accorded as a default to each and every person that one might encounter, provided that they do not do anything to lessen it themselves. An individual does not have to be rich and powerful, or a leading light in his or her field, to deserve respect: intangible personal qualities such as fortitude, selflessness or a friendly disposition count for just as much, if not more, in this regard. Respect is, we should never forget, a recognition of a person’s dignity as much as it is of their achievements. The schoolgirl who tries her best deserves respect, even if she is not top of the class; the parents and teachers who inspire her do likewise.

The importance of good manners and respect having thus been established, it is easy to see the corollary concept: that is, the unacceptability of poor manners and disrespect.

We have all been on the receiving end of rude behaviour at some point in our lives, and the experience is unquestionably disagreeable. People shoving ahead in queues; acquaintances (or even perfect strangers) making denigratory personal remarks or inconsiderate demands; the lack of a simple ‘thank you’ in acknowledgment of a kindness. The specific example might vary, but the effect is generally the same. Just as an unsolicited kind gesture or an instance of good manners can brighten someone’s day, a thoughtless or deliberate barb can spoil it.

Hurt and embarrassment are unenviable feelings, and so it should go without saying that we should not seek to evoke them in others. Verbal attacks may not be visible, and may not leave a visible impression on their target, but they are just as unwelcome and unnecessary as physical attacks. If anything, a large part of their sting arises precisely because they are so unnecessary; so avoidable: common courtesy really does cost nothing, and so its absence is felt all the more keenly. Disrespect is perhaps even more injurious than rudeness for it is an assault upon the very essence of a person; an assault upon their identity.

Even taking the above into account, some might argue that poor manners or disrespect are sometimes understandable (or even acceptable). A person who is impolite might argue that they were so in a moment of anger, for example; that such rudeness is ‘out of character’ for them. Yet this should not be accepted as an excuse for their behaviour. It is a rare person who never has cause to feel anger or distress, yet not everyone feels entitled to discard their consideration for others when circumstances permit. It is easy to be charming and polite when everything is just as one would wish; it is more difficult – and more revealing of one’s true character – when things are not so. How admirable is the person who is courteous and respectful no matter the situation!

Yet, even for those who do not possess an even temper and an innate respect for others, politeness and respect should still be observed. If nothing else, these practices can serve one’s own self-interest: they can help to generate goodwill, which is very often likely to be reciprocated in a beneficial way. Treating people well in order to be treated well oneself is a universal concept, applicable across cultures and to an array of experiences. This universality explains why it applies to organisations as much as it does to individuals: not for nothing is good customer service considered an important part of any business. An expression that captures the essence of this idea (if in a somewhat colloquial way) is “be nice to people on your way up, because you might meet them on your way down.”

Whatever a person’s motivation or circumstances, good manners (and their counterpart, respect for others) are something to be valued and striven for, and poor manners something to be avoided. Quite beside the injury to a person’s feelings or reputation that an instance of poor manners might cause – and that alone would be reason enough for its unacceptability – rudeness represents nothing less than a violation of the principles of civilised behaviour. It is a conscious and wilful rejection of all that is good in human society, for it strikes at one of the invisible ties that bind it together in peace.


  1. Well, Penny, I have to say that I am impressed. Not only did you really follow through, the essay is thoughtful and SO true. Such efforts should not go unrewarded: you've earned yourself an indulgence in your favorite vice - whatever that may be - with no fear of retribution (THIS time).

    And I applaud your attempt to sit on your brush, however briefly.

  2. Shouldn't there be a comma in this somewhere?

    "Disrespect is perhaps even more injurious than rudeness for it is an assault upon the very essence of a person; an assault upon their identity."

    perhaps before the "for"?

    I could be wrong. I was trying to find an error hoping you'd be sent to detention or something.
    You know, in that show "You Can't Do that on Television" I told you about, they often had detention in the dungeon, with the bad kid hanging off the wall in chains.If only real schools were like that!
    One show even had a girl get ten years of detention! Then, the principal came in and put some "Youth Cream" on her face. This caused her to revert in age back ten years to exactly how she was when she began the detention. She was so happy because she had her life back! But then, when she asked the principal to undo the chains, he said, "I can't do that! If everything is just as it was ten years ago, then that means you have to serve your detention ALL OVER AGAIN!" And he walked out with her sadly dangling there, looking forward to another ten years in detention. She looks sadly at the camera and moans, "why me?"
    Hee hee. Cruelty is funny!

  3. This is a separate thought, but what do you think about Avril Lavigne? (I mean as far as a spanking candidate)She is a Canadian singer who is an absolute brat. She swears and drinks and smokes and gives the finger all the time. It is my dream to spank her.

  4. Thank you, RR! :) I'm all proud now. And thank you for giving me a treat - I'll have to toss a coin to choose between curling up on the sofa with some chocolate and a movie, and doing naughty things to myself whilst watching a spanking video.

    Nick: I think that sentence is technically correct, but it could probably be more elegant. And a comma might be good where you suggest. I might sneakily rework it when no-one's looking...

    Re Avril Lavigne, I must confess that she doesn't occupy my thoughts a great deal. But I guess I'd say that her whole brat image (as far as I'm aware of it) feels a bit contrived. You can no doubt tell me if that's fair or not!

    But sure, I can see how she would make a fun spankee - a headstrong little miss, all perky and bratty and a little bit elfin - I hope you get to realise your dream one day :)

    And that show of yours sounds like fun! Ten years of detention, ohhh!

  5. (Looks at essay for a minute or so.)
    I suppose you think you're very clever, don't you young lady? I think I detect a distinct whiff of disrespect in this nonsense. Am I correct?
    (Screws it up into a ball and drops it into the wastepaper bin)
    I shall give you the benefit of the doubt. Run along now, but be assured - I shall be keeping a very close on eye on you...

  6. I know Avril is contrived. Just one more reason she needs to be punished!

    When you were young did you watch any shows with gunge tanks? Or the show that had the gunk dunk? It sounds like for a time there in the U.K the whole country was fond of "gunging" people. Sounds like humiliating fun to me.

  7. There was a kids' show called Fun House that had gunge as part of games/challenges the kids had to complete, but it wasn't poured over them as far as I recall.

    With the gunk dunk you might be thinking of a show called Noel's House Party. I don't remember the show all that well, but it definitely had gunge in it. And Mr Blobby. Who I hated.

  8. A very well put together entry indeed young penny hassler and one i totaly agree with. Having been involved for most of my life trying to instil the correct type of conduct into individuals, not just for the benefit of themselves but others also i find your comments very encouraging ;however words only go so far in matters of this nature obviously actions are the true telling force together with any appropriate required corrective discipline to assist in the desired changes your excellent article speaks about Correction Man.

  9. Very well written Penny. The eassy is very insightful.

    Your poor hand must be aching from all that writing. But i'm sure thats better than a aching bottom!

  10. I have a suggestion for a post.Although you'll have to tell me if you've already written one like this as I haven't read all of your stuff yet. You should do one from the prospective of a naughty Penny who was passing notes in class, teacher catches you and gives you an ultimatum-either you get up in front of the class and read the note -upon which your punishment will be decided after you are done-or you can refuse, and be sent to the stocks. Now the scary part is the note that you have written you really don't want to read.It is very VERY naughty and is about some sexual fantasy you have of either another class member (boy or girl) or of the teacher. You will be humiliated to read it, but your fate will be much worse if you don't read it. It's great because you're doomed either way.
    Or have you done something like that before?

  11. Thanks Correction Man and Dante! I was indeed a bit tired after writing it, but I enjoyed it all the same.

    Now, give me an aching hand and an aching bottom and I'd be as content as could be!

  12. Nick: interesting idea! And I haven't written anything like that before, no. I'll have to put it on my to do list! :)

  13. good-I'd love to see you quivering, knocking knees, gulping in front of the class! also their laughter at your humiliation should add to the public disgrace aspect. and there's the thrill of not knowing what your ultimate punishment will be at the end. So many yummy possibilities!

  14. Oh my, what a teacher's little pet. OldFashionedGirl has you wrapped around her little finger.

    More seriously, this well-written essay shows a great deal of thought and effort by a young lady raised well. I am left with little doubt that you are a girl who understands time-honored propriety.

  15. Thank you, TFD - you're very kind. I did try hard with it and it's all stuff I genuinely feel and believe. I guess that made it easier to write in the end.

    P.S. Teacher's pet, am I? Wrapped around her little finger, am I? That'll be the day! I'm not afraid of her or any other teacher, so there!

    Uh... she didn't hear that, did she?