I originally wrote this on Facebook on August 28th, 2020. It’s no less true today, and thought it was worth sharing here.
As I observe how people are treating each other these days whether online or on the streets, I’m reminded of a quote.
“It starts when you begin to overlook good manners. Any time you quit hearing Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight…”-Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, “No Country For Old Men,” by Cormac McCarthy
I believe deep down in my bones that this is one of the most fundamental truths ever written. Punctilious courtesy, good manners, and the Golden Rule reflect an attitude and acknowledgement that other people are, you know…actually people, equally deserving of consideration and basic decent and civil treatment despite our differences. Manners, courtesy, and basic human decency can heal and unite. Their absence can only divide.
Creating and maintaining a culture of good manners and courtesy is important, because it is a self-fulfilling cycle. C.S. Lewis observed, brilliantly and correctly, “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”
So good manners and courtesy reflect a respect for the humanity of others which is essential to a peaceful, stable, civilized society. Even if we do not actually respect the humanity of others, forcing ourselves to act as if we did due to cultural imperative and self-discipline will counterintuitively help us to develop a greater sentiment of respect for the humanity of those with whom we disagree. That might be important in the coming days, friends.
When our great-great-grandchildren study these times, and they look at root causes of what is happening, among all the other obvious culprits, I hope they examine our cultural abandonment of manners, decorum, and decency. Our society has serious fundamental, structural issues which need addressing in numerous areas, to be sure, but our ability to address them without going down a road that will lead to bloodshed and seven-figure death tolls (or worse) will be significantly impacted by the decorum of our civil discourse, or lack thereof.
Some of you might be tempted to comment, “Yeah, but… What about… etc.” Don’t. You can fight valiantly for what is good while maintaining a bearing of kindness, composure, and fairness towards all. Be the best version of yourself. You know it isn’t the version that is a slave to your basest instincts of pettiness, vindictiveness, and dehumanization of others. Even if you’re right about something, dehumanizing those who are wrong can lead to incalculable human suffering and ruin that most of us modern Westerners can hardly fathom. Make the world a better place today by making yourself better, and treating people better.