Dwyer: The Decline of Manners

dwyer_thumbGood manners are on decline. Rules of etiquette are being ignored. Boorish and disrespectful behavior, even bullying, become more and more prevalent in workplace and in public square. Rap “music” has been declared an art to which the entire generation of youngsters is exposed. You may watch on TV people screaming at each other, resorting to abusive or inflammatory language, and engaging in other breaches of civilized conduct, let alone their nonconforming looks and body language, but that kind of misbehavior was unseen on silver screen just a few decades ago. Are we, Americans, progressing towards social primitivism? 

We well may. A downward trend in this respect is undeniable. It’s a relatively new phenomenon reinforced by the “mainstream” media’s apparent fascination with the subculture. One etiquette expert blames the Vietnam war on spawning the trend of misbehavior (read [1] for details). Although the “all roads to evil begun in the ’60ties” seem to make some sense here, I see things quite differently.

Classy people are polite and respectful not just because they decided so, but because there is a good reason for it. Those who behave have statistically higher chances to succeed in a civilized society, particularly, in the American society, and those who don’t are typically ostracized and may suffer serious setbacks. In other words, classless behavior has been socially maladaptive. Until recently, that is.

The higher one’s social standing was the higher price one would have to pay for one’s misbehavior. (Just remember Tiger Woods, although even if you are a hobo, insulting a cop may prove detrimental to your travel plans.) When you hang out with the powerful and rich, not watching your mouth may cost you dearly. But when you are among the commoners, unloading a stack of insults on a guy next to you, although an unwise move if your looks are not intimidating enough, will typically have no further consequences on your life and career. Since there has been relatively little interaction between the top and the bottom of the social hierarchy, with the middle trying to follow the top, the rules of etiquette became a conditio sine qua non of socio-economic success. And so the society obeyed them scrupulously.

The Liberal revolution of the 60ties brought some rather dramatic changes in this respect. The engineered upward mobility of the under-represented and the underprivileged not only promoted some formerly low standing individuals and groups all the way up to the elite spheres, but also created a venue for their lower class mores to advance upwards with them. This gave them a good starting point to set the tone in the society. To make things worse, in order to not reverse the effects of this kind of social engineering, people are no longer rewarded for their classy manners nor are they being disadvantaged by a lack thereof. Any serious attempts to resist this newly imposed social arrangement are being portrayed as racist or anti-progress.

All this is just the tip of an iceberg since a lack of class is by no means the only attribute of the groups that have benefited from four decades of serious social engineering. The decline of manners is a symptom and not the cause of the social disease. We know the prerequisites that brought us where we are now. Nothing will really improve without a reason, not until we get rid of them. It may be a sober realization for some well-meaning Democrats that it is, by and large, their party’s leadership that firmly stands for this undesirable status quo.

Socialism with Human Face

[1] “Oh, Behave!” by Shellie Terry
Newsmax, December 2009, pp 78 – 81.

~ The Author ~
dwyer_thumbMr. Dwyer has been a continuing contributor to the Federal Observer. Mark Andrew Dwyer’s commentaries (updated frequently) can be found here. Send your comments to readerswrite@yahoo.com.

2 thoughts on “Dwyer: The Decline of Manners

  1. hippybiker

    I still strongly believe in the words of ‘the Dean Of Science Fiction” Robert Anson Heinlein.
    “An Armed Society Is A Polite Society.” ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’

  2. A Reader

    That’s true. But please remember that in medieval Britain lower classmen were not allowed to keep and bear arms. Only as the downward mobility in British society continued (up until industrial revolution or shortly thereafter), the custom of keeping arms was passed from the elite down to the commons, together with principles of politeness and respect (to insult an armend individual was a potentially deadly mistake).

    Unfortunately, in today’s America social mobility is directed upwards, with all the negative consequences of it. Get ready to see your right to keep and bear arms seriously restricted and revoked, eventually. They are incompatible with the upward mobility.


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