Miss Manners: Just because you can legally say it doesn’t mean you should

GENTLE READERS: An open society cannot function without etiquette.

Yes, etiquette, which many people still dismiss as having to do only with fork-obsessed snobs.

Miss Manners cannot help noticing that our basic forums for the open exchange of ideas are flailing: classrooms, lecture halls, town halls and legislatures. When everyone is spewing invectives and personal insults — and, in the worst cases, threats — nothing gets accomplished.

A democracy requires people of different views to listen to one another so as to work out compromises to keep the society functioning. So we need to agree not to clog up the works with our emotional outbursts, however strongly felt.

We need citizens to behave civilly.

Related Articles

Advice |

Miss Manners: People look when I drive down the street. How can I seem modest?

Advice |

Miss Manners: Is it OK to walk ahead of one’s wife if she’s carrying things?

Advice |

Miss Manners: She was the one with the bad meal, but I think I should get compensated

Advice |

Miss Manners: Everybody noticed when we walked out of this terrible concert

Advice |

Miss Manners: He walked out of our first date after just minutes. Was I in the wrong?

Nobody (except dictators, professional or amateur) wants it to be illegal to express one’s opinions. But all of us know people we wish would just shut up.

To avoid bringing down the heavy hand of the law on speech, we are supposed to be using a paralegal system of voluntary restraints, otherwise known as etiquette rules. Not laws; rules.

You see the problems:

1. Who makes the rules? Do they favor one viewpoint or another? Do they suppress legitimate speech? Everyone wants total self-expression, and everyone wants to be treated with respect, which would require others to be restrained.

Some rules are obvious. If everyone talks at once, or if speakers are shouted down, no one is heard. If irrelevant topics are introduced, everyone will be there all night. But the difference between a personal attack and legitimate criticisms of individuals’ actions can seem vague. Miss Manners can tell the difference, but she cannot be everywhere at once.

2. How are the rules enforced? With none of the law enforcement sanctions available, what can be done about the people who do not volunteer to restrain their counterproductive impulses?

The sanction that etiquette does have is expulsion from the activity that has been disrupted. In situations of the most serious contention — the justice system, the military and professional sports — this is backed up …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


(Visited 3 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *