February 22, 2011

I blame all this on the collapse of good manners. Homosexuals have always been around but did not parade the fact as they do now. Coarseness is everywhere and is celebrated in our modern culture and manners. Spitting in public in all civilized societies has traditionally been an almost imprisonable offense. Nowadays, the sports fan sees his role model spitting as a casual matter. I once remonstrated with a black man who spat in front of my New York house and almost ended up in a race riot when even white people told me to mind my own business and that I didn”€™t own the sidewalk.

Good manners are not a superficial activity; they serve a moral purpose. They are the outward and visible sign of an inner unselfishness, a readiness to put others first, and an exercise in self-restraint. I suppose Elton John and David Furnish have a right to have a surrogate child, but the publicity it engendered was vulgar to the extreme, as was posing for the cameras with their baby. Manners used to be the antithesis of brute force; they conceal and subdue our natural belligerence. Even the duel, with its mannered code, was better than the murderous street brawls our modern society excuses as self-expression by underprivileged youth.

Celebrities swearing in public is now par for the course, as it is part of the culture of triumphant ignorance”€”the belief that to behave like a slob is an indication of manly virility. I remember when as a boy at Yankee Stadium I heard a man warn some youngsters to stop swearing in front of his family or else. They stopped. Today he”€™d be most likely beaten up. In our celebrity-mad culture, the young as well as the old (and that includes women) emulate rock stars and other celebrities who swear nonstop in public to be cutting-edge and contemporary. But swearing is not cutting-edge; it’s the equivalent of the caveman’s grunt, a sign of personal inadequacy, an indicator of low self-respect.

Speaking of the latter, Rachel Johnson (London Mayor Boris Johnson’s sister) recently went public in the Daily Telegraph about her personal grooming. Yes, something to do with Brazilian waxing you-know-where. Rachel was born a lady, but waxing lyrically about her nether regions is hardly ladylike. It’s what modern manners are all about. Shame on you, Rachel.



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