A Tragedy of Manners – A blast from the past post from Nov. 2012

I think the first person I hated was also the first person who tried to teach me manners.

In retrospect, the poor lady – who died relatively young – was absolutely right.  At eight, when she met me, I had the vaguest hints of civilization overlaid on a willful personality and all the grace and gentleness of an untamed monkey.  In a country like Portugal, which only isn’t as formal and tradition bound as Japan because… well, it’s Portugal and people can’t do the same thing in the exact same way twice, I must have been an offensive creature and also something really hard to understand.

Though honestly, it shouldn’t have been that hard to understand.  My parents talked routinely of how bad my manners were and how by the time he was three my brother could be taken into any company and behave like a perfect gentleman.

I’ve never fully understood if this was part of their illusion that, because I was smarter than the average bear, I should be able to pick up things I’d never been taught – for instance, they were disappointed I couldn’t play the very first time I saw a piano, and they dismissed my art talent when I didn’t draw like DaVinci by five – or if it was because I was ten years younger than my brother, who, in turn, was the youngest of the extended family.

I think it was a combination.  In retrospect, I wonder how much they taught my brother his manners, and how much he picked up from the cousins who were just five or four years older, and who would have, in the way of kids, found it funny to teach the toddler.

Anyway, I came afterwards, and it had certain advantages, like the ability to learn whatever the older kids were learning in high school and college, by serving as checker of answers; like the inheriting of a vast library that had grown with each cousin; like not being taken very seriously and therefore being able to disappear for the whole day into the depths of the backyard with a book, and not having anyone do anything but be relieved you’re not tagging along and bugging them.

It had the same disadvantages, though.  Perhaps my parents thought that by letting me grow up as I wished, I’d pick up manners through observation.  In which case, they failed to note I had the world’s worst visual memory and lived most of the time in a world of my own that did not intrude on reality.

The lady who tried to teach me manners was probably in her thirties and childless – the friend of one of mom’s best friends – and she went about it entirely the wrong way.  In retrospect, I think she was a deeply conventional person who liked things in their proper places at their proper time.

The problem was not that she told me things like “You should say thank you when someone gives you something” or “The proper answer to ‘would you like some cake?’ is ‘no, thank you’ not ‘no’ or even ‘you should say excuse me before entering a room’ (a Portuguese thing.  Go with it.  It’s actually “do I have permission.”)  No, the problem is that instead of informing me of these rules, she assumed I KNEW the rules and was breaking them willfully, which was furthermore – in her opinion – proof of a low character.  So she accosted eight year old me in corners and hallways with such charming diatribes as “You are the rudest child I’ve ever met.  Why will you not ask permission to enter a room?”  Or “You are the most ingrate person in the world.  Why don’t you say thank you when someone hands you a glass of water?” or, my ever favorite “If I had you a week under my command, I’d teach you not to be such a vile, self centered little monster.”

As I said, I hated her.  I spent hours plotting horrible deaths for her.

Because I hated her, I extended my hatred to all manners.  For a while, in pre-adolescence, I did go out of my way to be as rude as humanly possible.  You see, I was wounded because I was actually full of good intentions.  The first money I earned I used to buy gifts for my family; I was always trying to think of ways to help the people I liked; I TRIED not to be a selfish little beast.  But here was someone telling me I was the world’s most self-centered person because I’d not thought to say “Thank you” when handed a glass of water I hadn’t asked for.

For a while I became like Rousseau and his ilk, full of explanations that the “natural man” was better than all this mannered and carefully cultivated society.

Fortunately, somewhere between eight and ten I realized I was wrong.  I think what made me realize it was leaving the village where people wrote off a lot of what I did because I came from an eccentric family, and going to middle school about ten miles away…  where people didn’t know me.

Also, my best friend came from an impoverished family of aristocratic background and I noted people – just common people, on the street – treated us differently.  It wasn’t her clothes or her looks, so it must be her manners.  For the next five years, I watched her family like a hawk, and studied to behave as she did, with all the little flourishes of manners and mode.

And it worked.

I never met the lady who wanted to teach me manners after I was about ten – my parents were probably afraid I’d kill her – but I ran into no one who commented adversely on my manners, after that.

So, what is this long disquisition?

I came to understand, particularly through changing cultures, that manners are more than a senseless form.  They are things people do to let each other know that they belong – that they are part of the group.

Humans are a social animal.  Little meaningless rituals are built in to us, as a way of saying “I belong in the nest, don’t throw me out.”  Also, while manners are slightly different in each country (for instance, I think Americans would think I was out of my raving mind if I asked “Do I have permission to enter this room” – except in SFF, where they’d probably stake me through the heart.  While Portuguese would find it bizarre for a shop attendant to thank them for buying something.) they are also not entirely meaningless.  They are things that get automated, at a trained-in level, so you don’t have to think about it and don’t unwittingly offend someone.  I could be dead tired, for instance, or in the hospital, but if someone does some minor favor for me, I’m going to say “Thank you” out of automated reflex.  And that thank you lets the other person – no matter how tired or dead on their feet THEY are – know their action was seen and appreciated.

As Heinlein put it, it makes things run smoother.  In the same way, I might not be aware of the shopper coming out of the store behind me, both arms loaded with parcels.  But I am aware someone is behind me, and at this point it is a reflex to hold the door open so they pass.  When I’m the one on the receiving end of this kindness, that manners-reflex is much appreciated.

Why this matters – since the sixties we’ve gone on something like my tantrum between eight and ten.  We have been worshiping the natural man, saying exactly what one feels, and the total lack of artificiality and “meaningless ritual” as a supreme good.

Where this is probably the worst is in politics, where one side tends to come from places where they were taught – or taught themselves manners – while the other side worships the “natural man” and is therefore free to throw tantrums and scream.  (Hint, only one side thinks papier mache puppets are a masterful political argument.)

For instance, no matter if I were sure that 90% of the people in a room were of my politics, UNLESS it was a political gathering, I’d never tell a convention dinner “Let’s hear it for so and so, our next president” – when the man wasn’t even there, and wasn’t called into the matter at any level.  And yet, a well known science fiction writer did just that in 2003 at the World Fantasy Awards banquet, causing those of you who didn’t want to clap and cheer for the – er… rather screamy – politician to feel deeply uncomfortable and wonder if our editors were marking our reaction.  (They were.  Probably.)

I wouldn’t do it, because it would be bad manners to make people who couldn’t escape (awards banquet) and who weren’t counting on this, were forced to withstand proselytizing with no means of countering or even saying “Yes, but—“.

Part of the problem is that those who worship the “Natural Man” tend to think that if you can control yourself, then you don’t feel strongly enough, and if you don’t feel strongly enough, then you can’t be “right” or, pardon me, “on the right side of history.”

Lately I’ve been wondering if I should have kept that reservoir of “manners are bunk” and used them over the last thirty years whenever I was ambushed by one of the Natural Men – particularly the female ones – in the most unlikely of circumstances.  I’m wondering if that would have made any difference – if puncturing the bubble of self-affirmation and these noises they make for group coherence, (Perhaps they’ve taken that instead of manners) or in the case of the deeper thinkers, questioning their principles, would have made a difference and not have got us where we are: in danger of destroying our kids’ futures because the Natural Man is sure the “Man” (those untrustworthy people who can control themselves and use manners to mask their worst feelings – and who also, occasionally, make more money) is hiding some mysterious stash that could get us all out of trouble and buy everyone a pony.

I don’t know.  I know at least half the people will say “No, no, we must not descend to their level” – but I think it is not a matter of levels, but simply a matter of not communicating.  Like my untutored self, they aren’t even aware that there are rules, or that the rules have any validity.  Instead, they’ve taken this ideal and these feelings, or always being “natural” with no disguise and no self control, and have elevated that to the center of “goodness.”

They get that from stories, of course.  Since at least the sixties, and for high culture before, stories have put “being natural” and “being true to yourself” as the highest good.

But because they get it from stories, unexamined, doesn’t mean we can’t make them examine it.  The problem is, we have to approach them not in a way that impugns their character – like the lady who assumed I was selfish and mean when I was simply ignorant – by saying things like “I won’t lower myself to your level.”

Instead, we might have to lower ourselves to their level – momentarily – and show them why the rules exist, and what they protect.  Unless, of course, we’re all very gifted teachers and can do it only with rhetoric.

Manners are an instrument of civilizational cohesion.  They haven’t been taught in three generations, and that cohesion has fallen apart, except where it’s been replaced by mindless repetition of slogans.

We can let it go on, but the thing is, mindless repetition of slogans doesn’t create a civilization.  Not one of free men.  Sooner or later things fall apart.

Or we can try at this late a date to bring the savage children into civilization and to explain the natural man is all very well in nature, but when dealing with other humans there is this thing called “signals of belonging to the band” and this thing called “Not offending people who don’t need to be offended.”  We need to explain to the wolf-boys and girls that there is such a thing as self control and that it not only can and should, but has to be exerted, unless civilization is to revert to a wilderness with everyone’s hand against everyone else’s.

I wish I had any idea how to do it.  Perhaps for now it is enough to know it has to be done.  Somehow.

173 responses to “A Tragedy of Manners – A blast from the past post from Nov. 2012

  1. Wolves demonstrate this with their teeth. It’s worth a try.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree. One side has so dehumanized the other that they do not think the “rules” matter when dealing with them. They are generally polite with each other. At least until one of them falls out of the group then they can be rude to them as well.

    • Note this was written 2 years ago — how we’ve co.e so far so fast.

    • No, they aren’t polite to each-other. They are FRIENDLY with each other, but they have no actual politeness rituals, because they are not aware of their utility, and are fundamentally self-centered boobs.

      • Heaven help you if you do not in fact like their mass-produced and standardized FRIENDLINESS. It is not their duty to be good friends and notice your differences from other people; it’s your duty to like what they shovel out.

        • Watching my Father (who worked in Academia, and thus had to deal with some of the worst of them on a regular basis) I observed that while they might try to crow-mob you if you didn’t just swallow what they were dishing out, if you were a CERTAIN KIND of deliberately rude, they frequently backed off. They were TERRIFIED of my father, because he didn’t bow down in the house of Rimmon, AND he opposed them with logic, reason, and real scorn.

          If you lash out in the usual crude way, they will call you a “Racist” or a “sexist” or a “homophobe” … despite the fact that they use all the terms and phrases they denounce as regularly as they breathe. If you tell them they are pissants, fools, and scoundrels, or that they are vulgar, or use some other word or phrase that has potency because they are too uncultured to have run it into the ground, they shrink like vampires from daylight.

          They are used to cowing and overawing their opponents, and to being more articulate too. Which is odd because they are not really that physically frightening, they are almost never impressive enough to inspire genuine awe, and they have the innate articulateness (if that is a word) one might normally associate with so many turnips.

  3. Rudeness is a product of a safe society, a civilized society. Only in a society where the first response to rudeness is not a sock to the mouth is rudeness tolerated.

    Manners are those things we do that allow individuals to coexist together in the same room.

    I can see “May I enter?” and “May I join you?” as ways to verify if someone wants and can tolerate company at this time.

    • “Do you mind?”
      “Mind what?”
      “My being here.”
      “I can please myself whether or not I endure it. That’s freedom ain’t it.”
      And Then There Were None, Eric Frank Russel (perhaps a bit paraphrased since it’s been a long time since I read it.

      Not really apropos of anything, just something that came to mind on reading that “and can tolerate company” bit.

  4. Oopsy.

    C4C

  5. Several years ago, I was talking to a friend. (this is paraphrased now, because the exact details are lost to memory) The topic was proper order and protocols, especially in the upper levels of government and in the international scene. Protocol and the knowledge of it dictated behavior, speech and actions, and Obama’s refusal to pay attention, I said, revealed him as a base cur and pretender. I was told that protocol was outdated and had no place in every day society or day to day living.

    I asked to pretend he was working in a certain imaginary job, and if he would simply go to his boss and tell him “What you’re doing sucks and your methods are costing customers, you should do THIS.”

    “Of course not. There’s a much nicer way of saying that, and besides, I wouldn’t want to lose my hypothetical job. There are proper channels to voice complaints, or make suggestions. That’s just good manners.”

    “What did you think protocol was? Other than a set of dictated set of rules that ensure that you keep your good manners and allow different cultures and mindsets and people to talk to each other, without misunderstanding what is being said – and avoid wars?” I asked.

    • “What did you think protocol was?”

      The key word here is “think”. While they do this sometimes, under unusual circumstances, it isn’t something they do with any regularity. They have been trained out of it, since in a Progressive school, asking intelligent questions is likely to bring the whole facade crashing down, and consequently tends to get you attacked.

    • In one of Brian Daley’s books (Fall of the White Ship Avatar, I think) there was an episode where a translator/protocol robot went haywire, and began translating exactly what two villainous and potential allies were saying to each other – to the point where they set about fighting each other, instead of demolishing Our Heroes – who managed to escape in the fracas.

      • Loved that scene 😉 It was the “diplomacy module” and it was deliberately sabotaged by Our Heroes (one of whom knew exactly how rude one of the bad guys was being to the other).

        • Oooh, can I get a diplomacy module and set it to precise translation? I promise I’d only use it in really important situations. Sometimes the problem with diplomats is we can be too…diplomatic.

          • *slight smile* The art of diplomacy is the ability to be able to tell the other person to fsck himself, and have the other smile and take it as a compliment.

            It’s quite fun, and a devastating use of language.

          • In The Goblin Emperor, the half-goblin emperor who succeeds to the throne of the elves was not raised with proper manners. He keeps impressing goblins with something blunt and accurate.

      • In a similar vein, the Hitchhiker’s Guide says that the “Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”

  6. Wow, I’ve been here long enough to actually have seen a blast from the past on it’s first time through!

    IIRC, C.S. Lewis faced a similar problem in “Surprised by Joy”, of people assuming that innocent slips in manners were based on intentional malevolence.

    • Screwtape advised that the patient and his mother should both be urged to evaluate their own words merely on the words, and the other’s words on every nuance of tone and inflection, to maximize conflict.

      • One of our household’s favorite way of bringing a conflict of a certian sort to an end has been for one of us to say:

        ‘But all I said was that I wanted a little weak tea and toast just so.’

  7. “Manners are an instrument of civilizational cohesion.”

    I’ve referred to manners, customs and courtesies as the oil between the gears of personal interactions. It smooths out the daily grit, cools friction, and keeps things going relative smoothly where otherwise heat and friction could cause real problems.

    As we’ve seen, you take away the lubricant of manners, customs, and courtesies and the civilization overheats…

    • Yes, this.

      Manners provide a structure to help navigate awkward or potentially combustible social situations.

    • That’s pretty close to the actual phrasing of the Heinlein quote Sarah referenced above.

    • But oil is bad, don’t you know. Polluting, bird killing, fish killing, all the evils of the world can be traced back to oil.

      • We could always use spermaceti.

        • As long as you stay downwind of Schloß Red when you open your tryworks, go for it.

          (Totally off topic, but if anyone is looking for a neat book about ships and adventure that might appeal to a boy {or girl} ages 10+, I highly recommend _Seabird_ by H.C. Holling. It includes several bits about whaling.)

          • I recall the title as one highly recommended for home education.

          • Seabird got me going on a life-long career of sailing, design and boat building – I’ve even crewed on a barquentine
            . I’ve given a copy to our grandson, we’ll see if it does it for him.

    • For many people manners are a form of lodge handshake. Knowing which table implement is for the grapefruit and which for the shrimp marked you as “belonging.”

      American, where social caste went to die, adopted a somewhat more pragmatic approach to manners, including the idea that the well-mannered do not use their knowledge of manners to embarrass a guest; if your guest digs into the grapefruit with the shrimp fork, the host was duty-bound to follow suit.

      Nowadays that routine courtesy toward a guest is commonly calibrated according to the perceived status of the guest, especially amongst the self-consciously well-bred, determined to impose their ideas upon the rest of their stupid subjects citizens.

  8. It comes to me that Manners are like martial arts and/or acupuncture for human interaction. You can fight/make people fell better without the training, but to REALLY hurt/help you want the grounding.

  9. stories have put “being natural” and “being true to yourself” as the highest good.

    Which is not all wrong. I was thinking about it when watching Tangled in which what Flynn has to learn is to be himself.

    The fun part is that the very people who use that to ignore manners are often as much poseurs as the pre-reform Flynn.

    • It may not be all wrong, but it is superficial to the point of meaninglessness. “Natural” is hugely overrated. For social apes, “Natural” is living in trees, picking parasites off each-other, and getting bullied/raped by the alpa male. You can have “natural”; I’ll take High Tea.

      Being true to yourself is fine, if you have developed a self to be true to. Many people haven’t. Perhaps better advice would be “Find a self you like, and try being true to THAT.”

      • I think of it less as true to yourself and more as self-actualized. I know who I am, what I want out of life, and I don’t give a darn what your opinion of me is.
        That said, I try to be polite and indeed believe good manners, like other commenters say, they lubricate your interactions with others, and make social life enjoyable and predictable for everyone.
        My default position to a stranger is to extend a level of conditional respect. That is, you start out polite and respectful, and as you know them better they will either increase to respect and total respect, or descend to slime-ball. That said, even slime-balls have to be accorded the minimal courtesy when encountered in public, say a convention of the party of a mutual friend.
        This works for me; however, since self-actualization is indeed at the top of the hierarchy of needs, I implicitly acknowledge that 1)our country and way of life are good in granting these needs 2)other cultures are less likely to provide for all these needs. 3)I have conditional or greater respect for the dead white males that created our society and culture. 4)I do not respect those who try to tear it down because they are too lazy to make the efforts in their life of accepting responsibility for their actions and choices. 5)Spitting out drivel like the heteronormalpatriarchy is evil and offensive will automatically place you in the slime-ball category.

        • Agreed: Respect is something earned, extended to strangers only as a gesture of courtesy.
          An (obvious) thought: if the “natural men” have elevated and distorted the benefits of their simplistic self-regard to the detriment of social cohesion through their books, why should not excellent writing that elevates and vividly explains the benefits of courtesy and respect have a like countervailing effect?

          • They will not read ideas that do not conform to their own opinions. The quality of the writing is immaterial.
            Or they will do something like what they do to Heinlein’s writing. His distinctions between citizen and civilian were in part questioning how to create a society where the privilege of voting extends only to those willing to defend it.

          • Respect is extended to strangers under the principle of “innocent unless proven guilty” — especially as so many so quickly indict, try and convict themselves as unworthy.

            • I would argue that politeness is extended towards strangers, people must earn respect.

              OT: Respect is not something the government can take from you and give to those lacking, no matter how much they may try.

      • Actually, that snow monkey Nature episode? Monkeys have proto-manners and proto-social faux pas. I’ve known people who weren’t nearly as polite as Japanese snow monkeys.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Strange, I sometimes thought “Liberals” were evidence of evolution. IE their ancestors were monkeys. [Evil Grin]

          • The Other Sean

            Are you saying liberals’ ancestors were monkeys, conservatives’ ancestors were apes?

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Nah, Liberals are still throwing “end products of existence” but Conservatives (generally speaking) have learned to throw other things. [Evil Grin]

          • I beg to differ, Baboons obviously descended from Liberals, they are the true evidence of evolution.

    • They say “be true to yourself”– which is a must, you’ve got to be “in accordance with reality” (true) in reguards to yourself, because otherwise you are just lying to yourself and it’s all GI:GO.

      What they practice is “do not restrain an impulse.”

      • Much of what the political left embraces boils down to psychobabble; a Sunday Style Section précis of an actual therapeutic technique that the reporter understood badly in the first place.

        Example; Any good therapist will tell you that “Emotions are real”; that is, you ignore them at your peril, even when they are completely irrational and/or simply giving in to them is not an option. They must be dealt with. Popsyche version; you have to go with your emotions every time; let it all hang out.

        The Popsyche version does a lot of damage. It is almost NEVER a good idea to give your emotions totally free reign. If for no other reason than that you will run roughshod over the emotions of everybody else in your life, until one of them puts you out of their misery.

        • *wry* So their approach to this is much like the approach to science. (ex: inbreeding has a higher chance of recessive traits displaying; popsci version is “inbreeding almost always causes genetic defects”)

      • Patrick Chester

        What they practice is “do not restrain an impulse.”

        Exactly.

    • No, Flynn has to learn that it’s worth the risk to care about some people.

      Because, well, when your dream is, “I want to get away from everyone,” and you’re as extroverted as he is? People have been teaching him that every hand is turned against him for a _long_ time.

      • That too. But to do that, he has to stop playing Flynn Rider, who never would, and admit to being Eugene Fitzhubert. How much can you care about people when you are endlessly posing for them, with intent to deceive?

      • People have been teaching him that every hand is turned against him for a _long_ time.

        Something that everybody here, even the most extreme introverts, can easily relate to….

        (One of my mom’s first social rules lessons was, translated, something like “wear masks, so that those who mean you well won’t take your good manners and kindness as an invitation to attack.” Flynn is just a really, really good example of someone who took that rule– “don’t tell them it’s a good idea to attack”– and took it way, way too far, so that he won’t tell people ANYTHING that’s true.)

        • And one of the tragedies of the story is even when Flynn is lying to Rapunzel (and she knew he was lying), he was still being more truthful with her than “Mother” ever was.

      • Flynn is a good example, but I am also reminded of Malcolm Reynolds from “Firefly”. Captain Reynolds is a romantic and cares deeply about people, and he has been badly hurt as a result, particularly in the rebellion against the Alliance. After the war, he chooses to hide his feelings under a gruff, mercenary exterior, pretending that he cares only about money and will do anything to get it. But you don’t have to know him for long to see through that, and to realize that he still cares about people. He’ll do anything to protect his crew, even if it COSTS him money. And he’ll scuttle a lucrative deal if it turns out to involve hurting innocent people (see “Train Job” for an example).

        • My favorite lines from the series are from that show:

          Sheriff Bourne: You were truthful back in town. These are tough times. A man can get a job, he might not look too close at what that job is. But a man learns all the details of a situation like ours… well… then he has a choice.
          Mal: I don’t believe he does.

  10. I want a pony.

    • Why? Masochism? A deep seated fondness for horse shit and hard labor? you like being kicked and bitten?
      But perhaps I have let Thelwell color my view of ponies too much….

      • Actually I should have specified, and someone else to take care of it. If I have to take care of it myself, I’d prefer a new snowmobile, that I only have to feed when I want to use it.

      • I want a pony, and a groom to take care of it.

      • A 2×4 will help with the kicked and bitten issue…

        • Pop favored a sawed-off baseball bat. Quicker to maneuver, and easier to wind up.

          • Those little souvenir baseball bats, the ones running about 18 – 24 inches are quite useful. Light enough to manipulate easily, heavy enough (and with the mass suitably distributed) to strike with authority.

        • Were you around my dad growing up? He used to talk about a horse he had as a teenager, it had been professionally trained, and well trained. But it was an obnoxious and cantankerous brute, and he certainly wasn’t offering any mere human respect unless they earned it. Dad used to say if he hadn’t been ridden in a while, you always packed a 2×4 when you got on him, because he had to be shown who was boss, and unless you packed something big enough and solid enough to stop him by hitting him between the ears, he was going to come over backwards onto you.

          And yes he would also kick and/or bite anyone who hadn’t earned his respect.

          • I remember my father being caught in a stall by a horse who thought he would crush my father against the wall. Fortunately, there was a loose board handy (or maybe he always made sure he had one nearby? Probably), and he picked it up and smacked that horse about the shoulders and hindquarters 5 or 6 times. The horse became uninterested in messing with him after that.

            • It occurs to me that people who want to take us back to the ‘gentle’ days of living in a pre-automotive world probably don’t know horses very well. (Or cows, or pigs, or livestock in general…)

              • Yes. They imagine farm life to be like a petting zoo – docile critters and no clean up required, with food still arriving on styrofoam trays and plenty of free time. I’d love to see a few of them go mano-a-udder with an obstreperous Holstein. *evil grin* Or try to harness a Percheron with other plans.

                • I have mentioned before that I worked one summer as a mother’s helper in a farming community. That summer I discovered that cows are more amenable when you are sitting on top of a horse — it puts you more on their scale of size. (Did you know cows like hydrangeas?) I thankfully never had to milk a cow, not that the dairy producers in the area did it by hand.

                  While I don’t know about horses and two by fours, I do know that one can be startled into submission by a very skinny angry and determined kimono clad, galosh wearing teen charging up and slapping them hard on the rump … It was dawn. The horse had gotten loose. It was snacking in the vegetable garden.

                  I also learned that when the harvest comes in you put it up — whatever the temperature outside and in the kitchen. You gather, preserve, dry, pickle, jam, and jar until you never want to see another whatever, and then start on the next thing to ripen as soon as your done with that.

                  The place did not use wood for heating, cooking, etc.. We had electric for refrigeration, freezing, hot water, washing clothes, lights and fans. I would not have liked to have done without.

                  • Horses can be startled that way, but if you’re behind them when you slap them on the rump, you risk getting kicked before they take off.

                  • ” (Did you know cows like hydrangeas?)”

                    Yes. I still remember how made my mom was when the cows got out and ate hers down to the ground.

                    I worked on a diary farm when I was younger, and while we didn’t milk them by hand, I have stripped cows with mastitis by hand. There is a reason that old dairy farmers have forearms bigger than some peoples thighs.

              • Oh yes. Talks-to-Plants was merely on the far side of the probability distribution when she said women get the fun jobs like preparing animals for release to the wild.

  11. “Also, my best friend came from an impoverished family of aristocratic background and I noted people – just common people, on the street – treated us differently. It wasn’t her clothes or her looks, so it must be her manners. For the next five years, I watched her family like a hawk, and studied to behave as she did, with all the little flourishes of manners and mode.”

    Soooo, am I the only one to see the parallels between Sarah and her friend and David Drake’s Tovara and Adel Mundy? I mean, I know she is part of the EL0E, but that’s just scary! 🙂

    • I like Tovera, but she doesn’t have that excitable Latina fire.

      • It does explain why Tovera is considered a sociopath and Adel Mundy who kills as quickly and efficiently is referred to as ‘Lady Mundy.’

        • Being able to kill isn’t what makes you a sociopath, and being able to talk doesn’t make you a demagogue.

          Adele has a very intellectualized outlook and a lot of PTSD, but she does still have normal emotions and a normal knowledge of right and wrong. Tovera actually has rather nice manners (when she practices them as she was taught), but she has no knowledge of right and wrong at gut level. That is what makes her a sociopath. (It’s hinted that she receives some kind of sexual pleasure from some bad stuff, but we don’t see that on the job, and not all sociopaths get off on killing or pain.)

          There are clinical sociopaths out there who never kill and never hurt a fly, because they learn the rules of right and wrong intellectually and stick to them. They may be a little rigid, but they aren’t dangerous. There are also sociopaths who do some incredibly rotten stuff, but would never kill; or it just never seems advantageous to them. Right and wrong just has nothing to do with their lives.

          OTOH, there are people out there who are wonderful, kind people who can go to war, kill efficiently and cheerfully, and never suffer any PTSD. Usually they were raised on farms and were used to tasks like butchering and hunting. They may get moral crises, but not PTSD. They have normal emotions, and in peacetime they would never kill anybody, but justified killing doesn’t bother them or they enjoy it. It’s not something our society is comfortable with, but it used to be regarded as pretty normal for someone doing military stuff.

          • “They have normal emotions, and in peacetime they would never kill anybody, but justified killing doesn’t bother them or they enjoy it. It’s not something our society is comfortable with,”

            No it isn’t something our society is comfortable with. Probably because in our current society most people are never in a situation where it is acceptable or necessary to kill someone. So most people don’t actually know whether they would be unaffected, sickened or enjoy it.

            I haven’t seen a movie in recent times where a ‘good guy’ actually enjoys killing. Either the main character is not a ‘good guy’ or they spend half the movie angsting about killing somebody; which REALLY irritates me.

            A couple of authors have done so, while Tovera is a sociopath who is entirely rational and doesn’t seem to enjoy killing, Hogg on the other hand does seem to. Ringo fooled around with characters who enjoyed killing in some of his books, but only some of those can really be called ‘good characters.’ It is one of the driving plot points of E Moon’s Vatta Wars series, also. But still the vast majority of books go along with the accepted views of our society; and have characters who angst away a hundred pages about possibly having to kill someone who really needed a bullet in the opening chapter.

            • Raylan Givens

              • Raylan never shoots somebody unless it is justified, although that may be more a matter of dislike for the requisite paperwork.

              • I had never heard of him, and had to look him up, from what little Wikipedia has on him I am unsure whether he enjoys killing, or it simply doesn’t bother him.

                Anyways I’m glad someone made sense of my ramblings, because I poured them out here like pouring ingredients out of the cupboard; without bothering to mix them into a recognizable entrée.

              • As an Elmore Leonard creation one does have to think a moment about the Raylan Givens’ phyche.

                I would be more inclined to say that Raylan is able to divorce himself from his feelings at the time when he is getting his job done. He would be quite willing to arrest any bad guy and take him in, if the miscreant will let him. But Raylan is damned if he will be the one to die if the crook won’t. In the end: if a fellow needs killin’, a fellow needs killin’.

                • It was the name that popped into my head, and was just putting it out there.

                  Bearcat, For what it’s worth I found Justified worth the time, if you get the chance.

                  • Oh, I’m not saying it was not a thought in the right direction. Part of what makes Raylen interesting is trying to figure him out.

                    Now one could make a real case that Robert Quarles, the Detroit boss who showed up the third season of the TV show, really like inflicting pain and had few qualms about killing — probably even ‘got off’ on it. Of course, Quarles was a bundle of self-destruction as well.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I keep thinking Drake must have known a sociopath at some point, because he characterizes them so well.

      • Based on what Sarah has said about the publishing business, I think we can take it as given that Drake has known several sociopaths.

        Where he ran across one as sensible and (for certain values of “like”) likable as Tovara is another question.

      • He has kinda said as much, but obviously he’s not going to name names. For all we know, whoever it was is dead. Although, for all we know and him having been a lawyer, it might be somebody at the Bar Association. 🙂

        • I believe I have heard that the percentage of sociopaths is higher in the Bar Association and Wall Street than practically anywhere else. On the other hand, I suspect Drake knew some that had plenty of experience at killing when he was in Vietnam, and that is where at least part of characterization comes from.

          • As I recollect, Drake was City Attorney for the township of Chapel hill, NC, homes of the main (i.e., most prestigious) campus of the University of North Carolina system. As such he would have had frequent dealing with politicians, lawyers, academics, and students in a community commonly referred to as “Berkely East.”

            I think it very safe to assume he interacted with sociopaths, psychopaths, culturopaths and any other type of path you can think of. And then some. Daily.

          • I believe I have heard that the percentage of sociopaths is higher in the Bar Association and Wall Street than practically anywhere else.

            Survey reporting was kind of designed to get high numbers– their definition of sociopathic (psychopathic? Been a while) traits was such that doctors were required to fit if they did any cutting in their practice; only doctors that did no surgery could possibly be counted as not having the “tendencies.”

  12. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I know Sarah posted this a while back, but it’s striking home to me right now.

    I have a tendency for pessimism and tend to “embrace it” too much but I once thought there was such a thing as “acceptable” behavior on Baen’s Bar.

    While I tend to get “all worked up” about a subject and push the limits of “acceptable behavior” there, now I’m wondering if the Bar standards of “acceptable behavior” have gone away.

    Something happened there that I believe I would have been whacked for doing and the individual appears to have gotten away with it.

    Right now I’m in a glum mood over it.

    Sorry if you considered me inflecting it on you.

    • Not in my case, I have been thinking about signing into ‘Baen’s Bar’ for almost two years now. I’m shy, ok? I keep hearing about how Baen’s Bar is such a good place to hang out and get ‘writer’s help’. Something my fragile ego wants. I don’t mean to butter me up, but not go past the polite criticism that teaches into rude criticism that bruises. To learn that it is not helpful like this blog helps me avoid areas that are detrimental to my progress. So, I thank you for helping me not make a decision that I may regret.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        To be fair, I’m glum about the Politics conferences (Blazes, Politics & Truth vs Pravda).

        You would get polite and honest feedback in the Slush conferences.

      • Like Paul says, Slush is fine, even if you’re shy. Everyone who posts in Slush wants to get better, and understands just how much terror there is in submitting to others’ critique.

        • And I haven’t been there in a while, but from what I remember, some might post some constructive criticism, but nobody usually comes out and downright bashes any of the stories posted. Generally if you are getting comments, it means they liked it and want you to improve it, they simply don’t comment on the really bad stories.

    • Something happened there that I believe I would have been whacked for doing and the individual appears to have gotten away with it.

      *points up* Let me take a wild guess, it’s along the lines of who is expected to be polite in politics and who can do whatever.

      Part of why I stopped hanging out at Ricochet so much is because they started making it a policy to not apply the Code of Conduct equally to all, because they wanted there to be more leftists on a “center right” site.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        While you’re correct about the person, I have heard from the moderators and the situation is “tricky” for reasons that I don’t want to go into here.

        • *sigh* There’s always a reason…..

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            And sometimes the reason is a Good One.

            I’m going to say a little more than I wanted. The jerk in question is a friend of a Baen Author and doesn’t “act like a jerk” where the Baen Author can see it. Knowing the author, he won’t accept the jerk’s behavior from anybody else so it’s a matter of getting evidence to show the author what his friend is doing.

            Sometimes people can be blind where their friends are concerned. [Sad Smile]

        • In my experience that means either they are spineless or they are playing favorites.

      • I let my Ricochet membership lapse when I observed that one of their more prominent members liked to post insulting tirades (filled with ignorant, vicious stereotypes and personal attacks) against particular groups that she had some grievance against, even though the Code of Conduct specifically forbids that kind of behavior. When it became clear that the administrators were not going to do anything about this, I left in disgust.

        • The one that takes as a personal affront that any woman thinks it’s a good idea to stay home with her kids, or the one I frequently mine here for examples of “rational anarchists” behaving badly?

          • I don’t know how many times I have heard the argument made that women who choose to stay at home and raise children are letting down the cause of women’s liberation. Or if there were better private schools in a given area people wouldn’t have to home educate.

            I used to like to throw the word CHOICE back into the mix. But as one person has already observed, some people only accept the idea of choice when the ‘right’ choices are being made.

            • I know a feminist of what’s now called the “first wave” and she has lamented how feminism lost sight of one of its original goals, which was to get *respect* for women who stayed home and were either housewives or raised children. Because that’s a choice too, and sometimes a logical one. (After all, raising the next generation is IMPORTANT.)

              • I suppose I am about a half-generation into the ‘first feminist’ generation, and that always struck me, too. I wound up not staying at home raising the sproutling … but I would have, at least for a good few years if I had the chance to make a choice. (Unfortunately, my bad luck in picking a life partner ensured that I had to be a single parent working mother.)

                I think I began noticing the extremely doctrinaire nature of the mainstream feminists along about the mid-1980s to early 1990s. There were so many things that you had to be, apparently, to be considered a ‘real’ feminist – which constraints appeared to eliminate everyone who wasn’t a leftish vegan lesbian with a high-paying day job in academia, who eschewed bras, makeup and conventional male-female courtesies.

                And that was such a pity – because originally, feminism meant opening up and supporting a whole range of choices for women; choices in the kind of work and career you wanted, getting equal consideration when it came to pay, education and profession. It meant supporting the wide range of women’s choices as valid and interesting, and made from free will.

                It did not mean to provide an excuse for being a doctrinaire, judgmental man-hating b*tch on wheels.

                • Feminism has become a cult, in which the primary qualifying attribute is to believe what your leaders tell you. A select few are advanced to leadership in every generation, and factions with the elect battle over increasingly trivial distinctions, but most of the membership are allowed no significant role and their opinions are of no interest to the priestesshood.

                  It has become the oddest of things, a matriarchy that abhors mothers — probably because having an actual child forces too much contact with reality and establishes an anchor not cult controlled.

        • Thus the importance of manners — the awareness of others that might be affected by our behaviour and that not all present are sure to agree with us on all points. The Hundom (denizens of Hoytville? Hoyt’s Horde?) is rife with participants who often occasionally from time to time need a safe place to rant about idiocy, but even here we try to be cognizant that we are guests and to follow the standards promulgated by Callaghan’s Saloon: comfort the afflicted, rein in the out-of-control and drive off the malicious.

  13. We should not descend to their level. We don’t find their means of argument convincing, so why adopt empty sloganeering? We don’t find their style charming, so why mimic it? (My Momma always told me two wrongs don’t make a right.) This does not mean we should let them force us to keep our mouths shut.

    Momma’s Momma was a true southern grand dame. She often demonstrated that, on hearing certain kinds of nonsense, one should politely raise one’s eyebrows quizzically and, with a solid hint of a patience and occasionally an indulgent sigh, comment, ‘Oh? Really?’

    You can politely turn their own arguments on them and note that in a society such as ours, which has a wide and rich representation of multiple cultures, it should not surprise them to discover that not everyone believes as they do, and that they need to respect that.

    Still, there are circumstances in which it is best not to engage. People who are so unused to being challenged often explode when the basis of their beliefs are questioned, and they may not be able to hear another word said after that. It can be rather frightening to think that the world view you have been standing upon is without substance.

    • Bless their little hearts.

    • Oh, I don’t know. When being told that manners and politeness are relics of the past (or the patriarchy, or whatever), it might be eye-opening to them to say, “Is that what you really think? Ok, then…” and unload on them. Then, after their eyes have expanded by about 500%, saying, “Now, are you SURE that manners and politeness are out of style?”

      • Yes! I have found the very best policy is to be polite until I’ve had rude ground in my face. Then roll up my sleeves and raise the whole area to the ground, sow it with salt, and in parting, nuke it from orbit.

        I try hard to smile at waiters, checkout people, and supermarket-herds. If I’ve gotten service I consider especially good, I ask to see the manager and tell him/her so in person, and fill out any customer service surveys that have on hand (making sure to mark all 5s or 10a, whatever is best, because I’ve felt with Middle Management types).

        But God help you if you think you can screw me. I will make a scene in the middle of your sales floor. I will cost you customers and time until you give me some minimum of what is fair, and the longer you piss me off, the more you are going to have to give in.

        The same goes for political debate. Argue with me, and we’re good. Belittle me, call me names, or otherwise disrespect me? You. Don’t. Want. To. Go. There. You REALLY don’t.

        Try to pick me up, and when I turn you down tell me I’m homophobic? Get told “I don’t want to bed you for the same good reasons that I don’t want to bed a diseased monkey”.

        Won’t take “no, thanks.” for an answer on your little Environmental cause petition? Get told “I think an awful lot of our environmental problems would go away if we crucified the executive board of the Sierra Club on national television.” (they scuttled down my from walk like the Devil was after them).

        i like being nice to people. I like being cheerful, saying “thank you”, tipping well. And I get remembered. There are places where I get Duke of Devonshire level service, simply because I compliment the staff.

        But you don’t want to cross me.

        THAT is what manners are for.

        It is good manners to socially destroy an oaf or a boor. It preserves a level of civilized discourse among good people. It may devastate the oaf, but he’s probably a lost cause anyway.

        • *a polite and ladylike round of applause*

          Yes, don’t for a moment assume that because I am mild and polite in appearance, that I can be ridden over, rough-shod. Because, upon being offended, insulted and demeaned, I will respond. At the very least, your ears will be ringing.

          For about a decade.

        • *Applauds*

        • You’re quite correct. It is well within the dictates of good manners and right conduct to do that. It was meant to be corrective in nature, to remind observers of the consequences, as well as inform the offender that he or she has gone too far – and offer the opportunity to make up for it and apologize for their base behavior.

          When the corrective methods and obligation to do so were deemed ‘wrong’ by the ‘well meaning’ morons who were very likely the same people who did not ever wish to be corrected, we end up with what we have now… a society like the ones that the SJWs have built, where ‘the correct people’ may not be criticized, regardless of their behavior, or the evil of their actions.

          That’s why they don’t like spanking, or criticism, or scolding, or even mild corrective punishment … applied to them.

          And everything you said, I would do as well. *claps*

          • There used to be a custom of manners in American society whereby a newspaper editor who lied about a respectable gentleman would be horsewhipped.

            The New York Times desperately needs to be introduced to this custom.

        • I have to say that I wasn’t very polite one day when someone stopped me on the sidewalk on my way to lunch, to ask if I would help out the poor in some other country. I wasn’t in a very good mood anyway, and I stopped just long enough to say, “It doesn’t do any good. The only way to help (whatever country it was) is to conquer the country, execute all the heads of government, and install a temporary government that will teach them how to govern themselves without stealing from their citizens.”

          She held it together pretty well, I’ll have to grant. She just said, “Oh, ok then,” and turned away.

        • You obviously have not been to gatherings of my family … there are times when scorched earth is not really a practical option.

          • Eh, there is a reason that I don’t talk some of my extended family, scorched earth is ALWAYS an option; sometimes it is just an option best unused. There are people I would use it on if I had to talk to them, and since it is probably best not to do so, I simply don’t talk to them.

            • Experience has taught me that the supply of fools so vastly exceeds my capacity to instruct them as to their foolishness that it isn’t worth my time to try, I generally eschew wrestling pigs except when it might serve to prevent some other person being gored.

            • Sadly, in my case it is what is left of my immediate family, outside of The Spouse and The Daughter. You only get one set of parents, and Momma has already passed.

              Yes, scorched earth may always be an option, but sometimes it is not the best option used.

          • For the most part the knowledge that Scorched Earth is always on the table is something that keeps most family gatherings civil these days. My wife thought it odd when I explained that one Christmas I got into a screaming match with my sister and went back to my college apartment 75 miles away. My at the time girlfriend was a little shocked as well when I looked at her and said “I’m leaving. Now.”

            One of the scariest things I ever heard was my brother tell a representative of Continental Airlines (who had lost his luggage on the flight from Paris I was picking him up from) “THAT is NOT acceptable.” I left before the sparks flew.

            • After a holiday where The Spouse almost packed us up to start the drive the 600+ miles home just before dinner because of a ‘misunderstanding’ that caused my step-mother to start screaming at The Daughter I can imagine. (It would be one thing to assume the worst possible motives about me, I can hold my own, but someone who had just turned five? Come on.) If it had been only 75 miles I think we would have gone.

              Of course, it had been a spectacularly tetchy holiday, where all sorts of things had gone wrong. Starting with the plumbing failing for the third year in a row. All of the older generation of the family were not doing well, and my usually astute Grandfather had become quite fuzzy from TIAs. Daddy was wound dangerously tight. So was my step-mother. Still.

              Anyway, if we had gone we would have missed it when Daddy started carving one of the two geese — and it went flying off the carving block, whizzing straight across the room before landing with a thud. Daddy, with a deafening cold silence picked up the bird and strode out to the kitchen where we then heard water running in the sink. Moments later he stalked back in, solidly plopped the bird back on the cutting board and began to dismantle it with a vengeance. (Several of us had to shove our napkin wrapped knuckles into mouths to keep from laughing out loud.)

        • Patrick Chester

          *searches for the like button*

  14. When I was first dating my now wife, we went to an event where I ran into several people I went to college with. One of them I didn’t like and I pointedly didn’t introduce her to him as a slight to him. Later she read me the riot act for not introducing her because she thought I was embarrassed of her. Funny how things like that can back fire.

    • Did she accept “Embarrassed of you, heck no– I wish I didn’t know HIM!

      • Scene from the movie “Real Genius”
        Girl: “Are you going to introduce me to your parents?”
        Boy: “No.”
        Girl: “Why? Are you ashamed of me?”
        Boy: “No. Them.”

        • I really like that film. Among other things the boy in the above quote is offered sex by a blond bombshell, and turns her down because what he wants is love from his female friend (the girl in the above quote). YES!

          And blowing up a house with a jiffy pop and an orbital laser? Wonderful!

          Not a Great Film, but the proportion of Great Fioms i can actually stay in the same room with is small.

          There are some; THE LION IN WINTER,
          The 90’s version of HENRY V
          IKURU
          HOBSON’S CHOICE

          But I mostly watch junk.

          • Patrick Chester

            “Why am I the only one who has that dream?”

          • Jordie, the hyperactive girl genius, is one of my all time favorite movie characters.

          • What’s even more fun is that most of the pranks in that movie (and several subtle in-jokes) are directly from Caltech, including the “enter as often as you like” WITH the calculation of prizes that turned out to be incorrect.

      • One of my college friends was there and backed me up. The guy was a real jerk who did some rather questionable things. She has since understood that the only reason I don’t introduce her is 1) I don’t like the person or (more likely) 2) I can’t remember their name.

  15. Pingback: Manners | Something Fishy

  16. Humans are a social animal. Little meaningless rituals are built in to us, as a way of saying “I belong in the nest, don’t throw me out.”

    This is true, but I tend to focus on the other thing it says– “you can trust me, I will not betray the expectations of basic behavior for this culture.”

    That’s why that Hate person gets such big reactions from them, and why I feel sorry for even the really bad people who were victims– they were lied to. On top of being a vicious, manipulative thug, that Hate person is A LIAR. You might want to say “con man” or some such, but the effect is the same.

    • If it’s merely someone who I have philosophical disagreements with (no matter how extreme), I would agree with you, but if it’s someone who has engaged in the same kind of behavior? Goose, sauce, gander.

      • It’d depend on what you mean by engaging in the same behavior– it’s sort of why I respect Singer’s honesty more than most pro-abortion speakers, because he is both honest and consistent in his philosophy. Wrong and evil, but honest and consistent.

        Those victims who did the same thing, but stayed within the implied rules? Same situation.
        Folks who exploited the rules, then I agree.

        It’s kind of like the head-banging stupid of folks who, say, disapprove of guns and thus think it’s great that a gun owner gets shot by an intruder. Even someone who philosophically disagrees with guns should be able to recognize the difference between a malicious violation and a standard with which they disagree.

        Again, though, they’re both following an evil system. Just one is a liar or hypocrite, as well.

  17. I don’t know. I know at least half the people will say “No, no, we must not descend to their level”

    A comparison I use from time to time is boxing. There are rules in boxing: no hitting below the belt, no “rabbit punches”, no biting, no weapons other than fists, that sort of thing.

    Those rules are great in the boxing arena when you can rely on the other person to follow them, where there’s a referee and judges to, in fact, ensure that the rules are followed by both participants.

    When you’re fighting for your life in a dark alley somewhere, though? That’s a whole other ballgame. Following boxing rules is a good way to get dead.

  18. Off Topic:
    Time magazine is running a poll to determine which word should be banned in 2015.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that people vote for “feminist” to see if some SJWs’ heads will explode; maybe you feel “kale” or “disrupt” deserves your vote instead.

    http://time.com/3576870/worst-words-poll-2014/

  19. Still useful to consider that there are some tribal markers which exist in some large part to allow an in group to feel superior. Rumor says there are yet today tribes in which a woman is more liable to use an informal and a man a correspondence card and it matters. Other groups have more or less given up written correspondence at least hand written. Just as there are grammar police there can be mutaween (volunteers) in many areas of human interaction.

    BRITANNUS (shocked). Caesar: this is not proper.
    THEODOTUS (outraged). How!
    CAESAR (recovering his self-possession). Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
    BRITANNUS. On the contrary, Caesar, it is these Egyptians who are barbarians; and you do wrong to encourage them. I say it is a scandal.
    CAESAR. Scandal or not, my friend, it opens the gate of peace.

    as Mr. Heinlein repeated in part.

    I’m inclined to agree with what I take to be in the background of Mr. Heinlein’s thinking. A society that does not meet my own minimal standards of politeness is not my tribe and by my standards a sick society. A polite man as I know him seeks to avoid giving offense save when he offends deliberately and paradoxically is offensive by rules. For my tribe long after Britannus or at least in Tudor days

    As the bride and groom left in their carriage, wedding guests would throw their shoes at them because it was considered good luck if you hit the vehicle.

    later tied to a motor car including tin cans for the form. Other tribes are known to throw shoes to different effect.

    Agreed the person who disrupts a friendly society when it would be just as easy to be polite should be corrected. I’m not sure the proper response to a one finger salute is cutting the finger off but it may be to cut the individual in a social sense.

  20. Patrick Chester

    Notice something new on Baen’s ebook site:
    The Many Deaths of Joe Buckley

    Someone has been naughty. Though it seems for a couple of good causes. 😉

  21. Heh. I’ve often suspected that half the popularity of steampunk was the shock and delight in finding and using manners by kids who have been raised without.

    In this day and age, which is more shocking to the people around them – the top hat and tails / corset and long skirt (completely opposite of the baggy jeans and scraps of clothing of their peers), or the ostentatious display of manners and treating men as gentlemen and women as ladies?

    • Considering how much “Sir” and “Ma’am” make some Baby-Boomer-types cringe and duck, I’m all for it. *beatific smile*

      One of the evangelical churches around here had a billboard reading “Teens: Shock your parents! Come to church this Sunday!” Don’t know if it worked or not, but the sign made me laugh.

  22. “I wouldn’t do it, because it would be bad manners to make people who couldn’t escape (awards banquet) and who weren’t counting on this, were forced to withstand proselytizing with no means of countering or even saying ‘Yes, but—’.”

    THIS is why the Dixie Chicks received so much blowback when they insulted President Bush in the middle of a concert. And why the deserved every bit of it.

    It wasn’t the opinions they expressed. It was their assumption that, because they had a captive audience, they could do whatever they liked and the audience would have to sit there and take it. And the audience HATED being manipulated in such an opportunistic fashion.

    Yes, they couldn’t escape from the Chicks’ condescending lecture without forfeiting the concert seats they had bought with their hard-earned money. But they could decide never to give these women another dime. And they could tell all their friends about what the Chicks had done. Actions have consequences, and when you treat your fans that way, they stop being your fans.

    What the Dixie Chicks did that day, probably without realizing it, was to say: “From now on, we’re a package deal. Our music and our political opinions are bundled together. If you want one, you have to accept the other. It’s both or neither.” And many of their fans responded by saying: “Fine. I choose NEITHER.”

    • Thank you. I’ve tried to explain that to people before, but that is a much better way of putting it than I ever was able to come up with.

      • Yes. I was trapped in an office with a professor defending the Chicks and decrying the “censorship.” I kept wanting to say, “No, it’s not censorship, it’s marketing. The stations don’t want to lose ad revenue. You can still buy their music and hear it on other stations, just not C&W stations.” But that would not have been wise.

        • Funny how so many of the people who decry “censorship” when it isn’t occurring are so accepting of it when it actually is being done. Mostly a matter of who is being censored, of course.

        • “No, it’s not censorship, it’s marketing. The stations don’t want to lose ad revenue. You can still buy their music and hear it on other stations, just not C&W stations.”

          Yep, one of the local C&W stations took a poll of their listeners and 75-80% did not want them to play the Dixie Chicks, so according to the common marketing ploy of, “stock what the customer wants.” they didn’t play them. Unfortunately they probably lost more listeners, because one DJ thought they should continue to play the Dixie Chicks, and He preached sermons on why they should play them, that their political opinions didn’t matter (but of course he agreed with them) and did this every time he was on the air for months. Finally he either moved on or the station got rid of him, but I never did understand why if they were willing to listen to their listeners and not play them, why they wouldn’t shut down one of their employees who talked about NOTHING else but how bigoted and close-minded the listeners were, on air, for months.

      • It helps to point out other cases in which people might try to take advantage of a captive audience. How would you react if your barber/hairstylist insisted on making political speeches while you were in the chair and couldn’t escape? What if your DENTIST did this? You might endure it until the end of that one session, but you would resolve never to come back. And you would probably tell the offender why, in no uncertain terms, before leaving.

        It’s unprofessional and rude behavior. People who act that way deserve to be shunned.

        • I know I’m rather late to the party, but I just wanted to thank you all for this little subthread. A bit ago the host of an event I go to regularly added a short bit of political advocacy at the end of the announcements in the middle of the evening. This is a very liberal area (peoples republic of Massachusetts) and he clearly expected everyone would share his opinion. I went up afterward and told him he needed to do what he thought was right and it was his event, but that I didn’t come to the dance for politics, I came to dance. The…shoched? Nonplussed?… look on his face has left me with a little worry that I had stepped over the line there, but this discussion has convinced me that I did not.

          I also realize that there are occasions when I have been in retrospect impolite. I think this is partially a consequence of the (very “liberal”, as I said) mileu in which I am embedded…it is *accepted* in a way it should not be…and I am resolving now to root that out an be properly polite in the future.

  23. I haven’t seen anyone cite this highly relevant passage from “Friday”:

    “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot. This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength.”

    Heinlein strongly implies, both in “Friday” and in “Time Enough for Love,” that such a culture is too far gone and cannot be saved.

    • I’d like to point out, though that’s not how it’s viewed, (because the reporters are not on our side) that EUROPEANS are the kings and queens of rude, compared to even NYC.

    • I’m not convinced it is a sign that it’s too far gone, nor was I when I read those, until there is no one left who displays manners and politeness. While we still have role models, we have hope, because they have to have come about somehow, from cultures where rudeness was the norm to those where rudeness was shunned.

    • In my understanding Mr. Heinlein’s notion of culture particularly in Friday – given his age and experience by that time – was that expressed by the L-rd in Alfred Nock’s writing on Isaiah’s Job.That is politeness and some elements of freedom in the general population will survive but only in small groups here and there and maybe not for long in any particular group. Always a remnant to be sure.

      I think earlier in his life including from If This Goes on to It’s Great to be Back Mr. Heinlein believed that a good society could be built from proper first principles.”They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society” Nock op.cit.

      By Time Enough for Love I find the notion that every society goes astray and Happy Valleys are by necessity smaller groups found only by leaving the bulk of society behind..

      As for European behavior – ASBO’s haven’t impacted Rotherhams so ever stronger orders and less and less freedom will surely yield a polite society.