Buck advises me that the article referenced below came from the New York Times rather than the WSJ. Oops -- my bad!!
Blog Buddy, Buck, emailed me a link today to an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "A Last Bastion of Civility, the South, Sees Manners Decline." In addition to me, apparently several scholars of southern tradition and culture have documented a definite erosion in what was once the headquarters of politeness, deference, and making one's guests feel at home.
I believe that erosion has reached a critical stage, where, if we don't build a retaining wall pretty soon, etiquette, common courtesy, and table manners may just crash right onto the highway to hell.
We are living through the Jerry Springer-ization of America. There is not much evidence around these days suggesting that people of different opinions can engage in a reasonable debate without yelling over one another, and/or slinging furniture.
The article explores many possible causes for the death of Manners: parents too busy to teach their children; hyper-sensitive political correctness; feminism. Damn Yankees. I'd like to add the absence of military service as a common practice -- there's a culture of respectful behavior if ever there was one in which one must adhere to The Code to survive, not even mentioning to thrive.
Back in the '90s, when I was teaching in the College of Business Administration at UALR, a male colleague and I wrote a Grant Proposal to fund a team-taught class in Business Etiquette to be presented from both a man's and a woman's perspective. We included not only such obvious things as Interview Protocol, Phone Etiquette, and Correspondence Do's and Don'ts, we also included Table Manners, Cocktail Party Etiquette, and Varieties of Attire. We didn't get the grant, and the idea pretty soon faded. It's a shame that we were ahead of our time (and that the Dean at the time did not have Southern roots!).
At least the article ends on a hopeful note -- it seems that 70-year old Mrs. Dorothy McLeod, who teaches ballroom dance and etiquette to children, has no room in her classes; they're filled to the brim. Let's just hope someone comes along to keep her mission alive.
As an aside -- contemplating a time when good manners were de rigeur -- I'd like to share a little piece of the tour I took last week of the Houmas House Plantation on River Road. The house and grounds have been meticulously and lovingly restored to a period when gentlemen retired to the Drawing Room after dinner for cigars and bourbon while the ladies made do with brandied fruit and embroidery -- and the servants did the dishes. (I think I could get into that "servants doing the dishes" thing!) The Docent, Judy, was among the best I've ever seen -- she was spirited away from another plantation when the current owner of Houmas House (who actually lives there!) saw her perform. She's been with him since 2003 and is raising three children on what she earns there. She's funny and very knowledgeable, being a student of history, the Arts, and human nature. And talk about talented! She not only described the 1813 Steinway grand piano in the front parlor, she played it!
She chose to do "Desperado" instead of a period piece because she really likes The Eagles. And, she thought our group was fun. And, of course, we were.
So, let's all just slow down a little bit and try to engage in a little bit more Golden Rule action. Remember, as I pointed out yesterday, Karma can be a bitch.O