Manners is the foundation of civilisation and a form of living poetry. It is the applied art of consideration, the realization of an inner understanding or true awareness that other people exist as beings with their own needs and feelings. It is an acknowledgement that they are not simply robotic simulacra or characters that populate your life story, rather they are fellow travellers through life, suffering just like you.
Manners though, like poetry is a fading art. This truth is most acutely seen in our modern schools among our post-modern youth. They, with a few exceptions, are devoid of manners or respect for anyone, not even themselves. They will not give way to another person along a corridor, for example, but will bump, thump and knock into you as if you’re not there. They usually have their heads buried in a digital device and are cut off in their own digital world. Watching them I worry that in a hundred years there will be so such word as ‘manners’ or perhaps it will have fallen into disuse like ‘sneaping’.
Manners, like poetry, is fundamentally a quiet art, an art focussed on not intruding into another person’s life. In that sense it is a form of applied poetry, as if poetry were something your could enact. Yes. Manners is a poetic act, a moment in time and space where we quietly say ‘I see you.’
Perhaps this is why its light is fading from the world in our noisy post-modern times. How can a quiet privacy survive in the age of Facebook and Twitter when people want to constantly share what they had for breakfast or what they are getting up to every second of every day?
This quiet art of not imposing yourself on others just does not fit the times we live in. But there is always hope, isn’t there? Otherwise why would we continue to write? Surely a dedicated band of poetic people might bring about change? Anyone up for a quiet revolution?