Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Another Look at Civility

I know I keep harping on the lack of common courtesy and civility in modern America, but I can't help it...it drives me up the wall. The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) seems to have been replaced by The Zinc Rule (Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you...and do it loudly and often). Civility has all but vanished in politics, it's in short supply on the street, and it appears that many parents don't bother to teach it to their children.

WWGWD? - What would George Washington do?

A few months ago, an NPR report looked back at George Washington's handwritten list titled Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Yes, it's somewhat dated (we probably don't need the one which reads, Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others; if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes, return thanks to him who puts it off, at least in most locations in modern America), but many of his rules of civil behavior could apply just as well today as when Mr Washington wrote them down back in the 1700s. Here are a few of George Washington's rules to live by which wouldn't be out of place today:

- Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present. (Everyone wants respect, but nowadays no one seems to realize that it has to be earned, not demanded)

- Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.

- Read no letter, books, or papers in company, but when there is a necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave; come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired, or give your opinion of them unasked. Also look not nigh when another is writing a letter. (This is, after all, why people buy privacy screens for their laptops...)

- Do not laugh too loud or too much at any public spectacle. (I guess this means I have to stop laughing...or crying...at the antics of our elected reprehensives)

- Let your ceremonies in courtesy be proper to the dignity of his place with whom you converse, for it is absurd to act the same with a clown and a prince. (Of course, lately we all have more experience dealing with clowns than princes...)

- Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.

- Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.

- When another speaks, be attentive yourself and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not nor prompt him without desired. Interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech be ended. (Wow...I wonder if any of the bozos who try to shout down speakers at public events would recognize this one?)

There are 110 rules in George Washington's list. He tried to live by them, and perhaps we should, too. We could do worse.

And all too many of us usually do.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Agnes and I are headed out to Colorado Springs later this morning. I'm attending a two-day conference, and we're taking the opportunity to do a few days of sightseeing in the beautiful Rockies. I'll try to keep up the blog and the daily Facebook quotes while we're gone, but please bear with me if things are a little irregular for the next few days.



KKTSews said...

Did I send you the link to the comedy routine about bad customer service--the catch phrase is "what would TSA do" to model bad customer service. It's pretty funny.
Good Ol' George! I'm lifting a couple for my High Schooler:
- Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.

- Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
Thanks and have a great trip!

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Enjoy your trip...

Amanda said...

I like the list even if some of it seems dated. Lots of things I can refer to as I try to raise two gentlemen.

Enjoy your trip!

Bandit said...

Common sense with simple respect for others and their home and belongings. What a great idea!
WWGWD if he had to be in this society?

an orange county girl said...

oooh...i love colorado and the rockies are so awesome and majestic. have fun while you're there. be sure to drive slowly and watch for the bighorn sheep.

Mike said...

"- When another speaks..."

Next rally in your area, put this quote on a sign and stand in front facing the crowd. Dare ya'.