LIVING IN CIVILITY – Marilyn Armstrong

Civility, manners, and communications has become a hot topic. We have a racist, narcissistic president who insults people in front of the entire world and a lot of people apparently believe it’s okay. Of course, some of these people also believe the same idiot blowhard is the next messiah, so maybe I can discount their opinion. I don’t have a strong religious predilection, but I’m absolutely sure Orangehead is no one’s messiah.

We talk about manners vanishing and I’m beginning to believe it. Not only can our head of government not conduct a civil conversation, but delivery men lie, our neighbor is mad at the world and won’t deliver packages accidentally delivered to him rather than us.  Some years ago, Bonnie had wandered up the driveway. A passing  motorist picked her up and would not return her until the police showed up with sirens wailing and then she decided I didn’t really need to pay for her to return my dog.

Cover of "The Graduate"How many people are actually know what good manners are? So many people are clueless about what’s appropriate  They don’t know when it’s okay to be casual — and when it’s not.

This is pretty much a no-brainer for my generation. It’s not that we’re so smart, but we were raised differently. We grew up when there were clear rules about social behavior. The standards were pretty rigid for professional communications and I’m pretty sure they still are. Nobody had to tell us how to talk to superior officers or bosses. We learned this stuff watching other people. We learned it at home, in our friends’ homes. We even learned it on television.

We called our teachers “Mr. or Mrs. Whats-your-name.” That’s also how we addressed our friends’ moms and how our friends addressed our parents. That’s how we addressed everyone older than us.

It’s one of the funny parts of watching “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman. He may be sleeping with Mrs. Robinson, but he never calls her by her first name. That would be impolite.

The next generation had its own set of rules. They didn’t believe they needed to respect their elders simply because they were elders. Or bosses or teachers. They heard a different message: everyone is equal. They didn’t get that equal before the law is not the same as equal in the office. Or in the military.

The thing is, we are very far from being equal. It’s not only about race or ethnicity, color or sex, although these issues are a huge factor. Dig a little deeper and it’s just as much about money and power. Which is what it has been about since history began. That’s how society really works. Being a minority is fine as long as you have more money than the other guy. Green is really the only color that matters.

In my generation, we all knew this before we left high school. You don’t treat your boss like your buddy. It has nothing to do with whether or not your boss deserves your respect. It’s nice if he or she does, but In the course of a building a career the odds favor you working for any number of people who are unworthy of anyone’s respect.

As long as they sign your paycheck, you treat them with respect, tact, and care. Not only does your salary depend on it, so does your reputation and future career moves. Your boss may be the biggest asshole you’ve ever met, but keep it to yourself.

Filling in the forms

If you’re smart, you don’t say it behind his or her back either because another rule of the real world is what you say will get back to roost. You will need all the goodwill and recommendations you can get as you fight your way through the working world. Don’t squander it. Don’t blow up your world by gossiping, backbiting, and behaving like a brat.

To people my age, all this stuff was obvious, that all men may have been created equal, but after being born, some are much more equal than others. No one had to tell us not to start a memo to the boss with “Yo, Bossman!”

Looking for work?

We knew that. We knew who had the power and who didn’t. We knew when to fight and when to duck and cover. We knew we needed to earn our way and had to behave professionally. Kids who are long past childhood don’t seem to get it. Unsurprisingly, neither do their kids. I don’t understand what they don’t understand.

Do you? Maybe they’ve been watching too much news and have a bad case of Trumpitis.

Categories: civility, Education, Friendship, Reality

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Amen to all of this!


  2. I don’t get it either. It’s like respect disappeared during just one generation or so. As for Trump, he has massive charisma so it doesn’t matter to his followers what comes out of his mouth. A couple of days ago I saw a short clip of a chap called Joe Biden who I learned is running against Trump. From the little I saw, he has no charisma whatsoever. Though that little clip is all I’ve seen of him.


  3. I sort of ‘get’ it. The generation who are the parents of the next generation, didn’t learn any manners from THEIR parents (the children of MY generation). My generation has a lot to answer for, because we were spoiled and pampered and the 70s was the ‘me’ generation. If you were raised by parents like mine? Dis-respect (especially for authority) was the venue of the day. I think my father had respect for people, but my mother had the louder voice. She didn’t respect anyone, not even herself I don’t believe. I heard dozens of stories about their childhoods and how they grew up; they were older than most of my peers’ parents too, so they KNEW better. Not saying “sir” when addressing one’s father might result in a hiding (with leather strap) or a beating and ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ was the letter of their parent’s day. My generation grew up being entitled, spoiled and pampered as I mentioned. We didn’t teach our children to have any manners, so how would they teach their children and so forth and so on. We’re reaping a whirlwind now. In this case my generation DID start the fire and we should take responsibility for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not universally, true, but a lot of “kids” who are no longer kids had to learn it all IN the workplace. As a result, they also didn’t make nearly as much progress and they might have had they not started out as the company’s “bad kids.” Most of them improve with age, but by the time they get it, it’s too late.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No I don’t understand it either. I didn’t understand when I was at TAFE College and my twenty something classmates thought it was OK to go on Facebook even though we’d been told not to, or send text messages to their friends during class or make so much noise talking that others could not concentrate on their studies. They didn’t seem to understand that’s not the way you behave at work. That was ten years ago, they probably all have kids now. I wonder what they are teaching them?

    Liked by 2 people

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