How To Have Manners In The Apocalypse, And Why (Donkey Hody's School Of Courtesy)
Meditation #1: The Gracious Correction
“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
Miguel de Cervantes
3:26 pm, Granada, Spain
[I’m not procrastinating—I work on the book after I post, or before.]
This represents a vital moment for me.
I seem to be actually now writing on the forbidden theme that has been locked away in my mind, wanting to get written, but somehow experiencing itself as Bad. Mockable.
I didn’t allow it out, this Mad Mouse. But kept thinking about it, on walks, over years. Many years.
If I use the word “manners,” it sounds pious, trivial and outdated. It also suggests I am in possession of more of these than the next person.
Standards of conduct? Grace? What word can we use for the thing we all crave and need, and so rarely get? I argue that it gold-binds civilizations together, and that its erosion causes their downfall. I can say not that I “have” more or better manners, only that I am “obsessed” with them, and want more of them, both in me and in others. I aspire and dream.
They depend upon authenticity, not, as we assume, falsity, like in the tragedy of manners…The Age Of Innocence, where “manners” (strict code of conduct) are the agents of death.
I understand the pitfalls and contradictions. But I remain “obsessed.” (Cervantes on my bedside table.)
For many years I have waited for the world to stop burning and exploding so I could write my little meditation on “manners.” Now I consider them valid subject matter for the long war we face and have faced.
The way I see “manners” is that they are micro-opportunities, chances— to put oxygen into the life-blood between people. They’re packets of humanizing salt, tiny ways to inspire in the other a “human” experience.
There is no such thing, in Spain, as failing to greet people in accordance with the time of day. (Morning, afternoon, evening,) and each person gets a kiss on each cheek upon meeting and parting, stranger or not. Covid did not unspool this.
I collect (strange bird that I am) what I think of as false notes, things that hit my ear wrong, and make me wince, or make me beast-level furious.
Sometimes it’s just common parlance. Modern tics, like “Gotcha,” or “thanks.”
I make mental notes of the most common ones. And today, right now, I'm going ahead with it.*
Politeness is not the aim, but rather, connection with the other person, (who is 99% likely to be in your sphere electronically.)
They say the essence of science is curiosity. So what is the essence of manners/courtesy? According to me:
It’s the wish to minimize issuing shame to another person.
“The wish to minimize issuing shame to another person, even though God did not make you Japanese, so you’ll have to work at it.”
Issuing shame is the real native tongue of America, just turn on the TV. Being wildly insulting is not considered “bad,” in the US, in mass media, or in a coffee shop. Did any of you see Ben Shapiro’s interview with Andrew Neil, from four years ago?
Only an American would say: “I’ve never heard of you,” while being interviewed by…Andrew Neil.
No wonder people hate us.
In contrast to the United States, where we are largely un-embarassable, other countries still seem to revolve around standards of conduct.
(An aside: I escape to Spain, when lack of gentleness/thoughtfulness in America makes me overly depressed. But many Americans, to be fair, are very gracious.)
Nothing in this new column will be straightforward, or very little.
I would like to, in an imaginary other life, be an anthropologist of what “manners” mean to different nationalities and certainly different generations.
I once got an email from Christopher Hitchens, when I was possibly going to interview him, many years ago.
It began: “Dear Celia, (if I may)…”
Wait. Was the “…if I may” in brackets?
I think so.
In any case, I never forgot it. Such a tiny detail.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hitchens, in a VF essay, advised all men never, ever to ask if a woman was pregnant unless he saw baby’s head crowning. I stamp that one “good,” too, though it is absurd, as a scenario. We get what he means.
Hold your tongue.
Few people realize that this is the better part of not only manners but Christianity—to gain control of your tongue. You are what you say and you are what you do not say. This weaves the fabric. God will hold us accountable for our words when we die. (I know, it’s so distressing.)
Both my mother, and my father, on different continents, and both capable of tremendous pain infliction, and warfare, were also very invested in manners according to this definition I have laid out. Is that a contradiction? Perhaps.
I have a collection, in my memory, from each of them.
My father, for example, would never reject an invitation even if he knew he could not make it, or maybe it was even what he called “an oh Christ invitation.” Instead he would tell the inviting party he would check his schedule and get back to them. After a decent interval, he would call and say he regrettably could not make it.
I just like that.
It takes effort, and consideration, and before any of that, it requires an interest in the interior garden of the other person, not just ourselves. Again, we’re not Japanese, but the concept is: “If I confer respect to you, I feel better too.” It’s symbiosis/Margulis-ian inspired.
This brings me to our first meditation, which I don’t want to call a “lesson” since my own manners are often atrocious, and I can’t teach or preach. I have such a hard time keeping up with basic correspondences, and it gets worse by the day. That’s where my “manners” seem not to exist. But communications today are way too promiscuous and nobody can ever keep up, graciously. I lose so many intended communications, because something rushes in and displaces the communication I was about to generate. I lie awake feeling bad about it. The digital plague. It’s much easier to have manners before the digitization of humanity—but that doesn’t mean we can’t still try.
Meditation (Lesson) #1
How to correct somebody who made an honest mistake.
This one is easy.
Remember last week I published an Obama speech video that had been doctored?
I was alerted to it by (by more than one person) I “unpublished it,” (seems people prefer this function to the “delete,”) and published this correction and replacement material on a similar theme.
It bothered me, as it should. I need to assume things are fake, these days, until proven otherwise. I didn't, I just believed it.
This morning, I got the following email from a friend back in the States, who apparently did not realize I had corrected my error.
“Celia, please retract that. We cant be part of any lie. It discredits us. This is the actual speech. The clip was taken out of context.”
Here are my objections to her wording, and since I have not named her, it is not “about” her but about how to correct somebody… correctly:
“Please” implies that I need to be implored like a stubborn bureaucrat or Czarina to correct my own error. That I would not (as I did) leap on the correction as soon as it were brought to me attention, invoking the appropriate level of shame and horror.
It fails to acknowledge that I DID correct it, but that’s an honest oversight on her part.
“We can’t be part of any lie. It discredits us.” Wow wow wow.
A sermon, on the importance of not trafficking in falsehood, sounding not as though the recipient, in this case me, made an “honest mistake,” but rather, is entirely unschooled and primitive on the very notion of what truth seeking is.
“Us.” This whole notion of “us.” It is a form of entrapment, collective shaming, and control. WHOM exactly sits WHERE exactly in a position to “DISCREDIT”…”US?” The Club of Rome/Gates funded fact checkers? The apparatus of ceaseless lies and mass murder?
Tom Cowan! Now that you’ve done micro-organisms, please would you explain to people that other people’s errors are not infectious, can not “discredit” you. We each control what we issue, say, publish and stand by. One wishes people would be a little more tranquilo.
What would I have preferred?
1. That she took as much note of my correction as she took of my error.
Failing this, here’s how to graciously correct somebody: “Hi Max, quick alert. That video you posted was apparently doctored. Don’t feel bad, it happens to us all. Let’s try to talk soon. Hugs, Elinor.” (I will be inventing characters as we go.) Do you see the principle? Fold IN the potential shame, away from recipient, do not aim your shame hose at them and turn it on. You always want to remove the shame burden as much as you can, just as you would want somebody to do for you. Unless of course, you’re into it. In which case, it’s another subject.
[End Of Column #1]
Bonus material: About Obama. This tiny Obama Gate.
The doctored video of things O said in talks suggesting he wishes to dominate ordinary people as an agent of NWO. He does. But still, the video was doctored. We all fear and loathe doctored stuff. We all should be way more vigilant about it.
Incidentally, what is concealed about Obama by the Mockingbird media is not at all trivial. Why did Tucker interview Larry Sinclair some months ago, when his story was known already? Does anybody “care” if Obama is gay? Or where he was born?
Clue: Go to Amazon, punch in Sinclair’s name, and read the reviews of his book.
* (After this post, I return to the Dr. James Thorp manuscript, truly close now to being deliverable.)