We hear a lot about political correctness. You’ve probably heard people say things like ‘oh, that’s not politically correct’, or ‘that wasn’t a very politically correct thing to say’. It pervades almost every area of our lives – in some areas more than others.
You’ve probably also heard the saying ‘manners maketh the man’. I know I certainly heard it growing up. Manners were drummed into me from a very early age. Things like standing when an elder entered the room, opening the door for a lady, taking my hat off inside, table manners, conversational manners – I could go on. I suspect for many in my demographic this was the case. I’ve recounted a story before of a family friend, a doctor and true gentleman who referred to my grandmother always as ‘Mrs Vidins’, in the most respectful, humble way. His manners were always impeccable.
I’m sure you’ve come across people who have fantastic manners. The inverse is probably true too. I’ve certainly met people who come across as disgusting pigs – foul mouthed, disrespectful boors.
Political correctness is the idea that you are restrained by an outward force – a cultural norm, a policy, a coercive power. It coerces you to not say something, or do something, in the name of ‘offending’ someone, regardless of the truth or accuracy of the message. You may have bitten your tongue sometimes because you were worried, or feared about the repercussions of your words. I’ll give some examples. You might have wanted to question the effectiveness of our past, or current refugee processes, but didn’t because you were concerned about being called a racist. You may have wanted to raise your thoughts on same-sex marriage, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled a homophobe. Perhaps you had questions on the millions of dollars that were being spent on our indigenous brothers and sisters, without any identifiable increases in health, education, workplace participation or decreases in violence and abuse, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled as a hater.
It’s important to pause at this stage, because I’m sure some will think I’m pointing the finger at progressive, or left-wing political correctness. If you’re thinking that, you’re correct, I am. I’ve noticed the most intolerance has come from the left in our present age. It comes in the form of bullying, of the threat of legal action (s18c, anyone?), of having your businesses targeted (refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding). It even comes in the form of opposing a whole nation (the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement). We see our politicians take a politically correct line when talking about terrorism. How often have you heard a prominent politician say a terrorist atrocity undertaken by a Muslim in the name of Allah has nothing to do with Islam? It’s like saying a drunk driver hitting and killing someone on the road has nothing to do with alcohol. Are all Muslims terrorists? OF COURSE NOT! Are all drunks likely to get behind the wheel and be a danger on the road? OF COURSE NOT! Political correctness is that outside force preventing you from speaking the truth, asking a question or voicing a concern because it may cause an offence, be taken the wrong way or cause a retaliation. It’s external.
Manners, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The total opposite, in fact.
Manners come from a place of inner strength, a place of confidence. Manners isn’t cowardice, oh no. Manners, which goes hand in hand with self-restraint, comes from a place of steadfast conviction. Manners give you the confidence to articulate, not as a reaction, but as a confident position of concrete values. Manners comes from a place of seeking to understand first, to inquire, to test and to challenge, wanting the best, even if that means discomfort during the process.
Manners is an absolute inner process that regulates, analyses, tests and speaks from a place of conviction, with conviction. It comes from a place of respect – self-respect first, then respect for others. Manners is the practice of holding back, not out of fear of retaliation, but from understanding there is no point in an argument for the sake of an argument.
Political correctness is a fear that your words, or some actions will have dire ramifications either directly, or from a third party. Political correctness is suppressing the truth out of fear of retaliation. Despite what some argue, there are truths. There are universal truths. Biological truths. Scientific truths. Spiritual truths. Truths that have real implications for here, and the hereafter.
Manners always seeks the best, even when there is disagreement. It’s the dignified silence in the face of howled insults. Manners is the confidence of truth, spoken in earnest respect. It’s not a cowered, timid mumble. It’s not a brash bulldozer of anger.
Political correctness seeks to crush. It seeks to paint over truth with lies. It seeks to silence. It hates dissent. It fears the thinker. It scoffs at the one confident in truth. Political correctness employs all means necessary – shame, legislation, violence to silence and intimidate anything outside the ‘correct’ narrative. It uses name calling, lies, gross distortions and hatred to plough over and rip up. Political correctness hates free speech, free thought and debate. Intolerance is its mandate, coercion is its goal. It does it for power, for powers sake. It is never satisfied with enough.
Manners seeks to edify the individual. It seeks to understand, it seeks the truth, it proclaims what is right. Manners is the respectful debate of ideas. It’s the safe harbour where ideas flourish, where the individual is nourished. Manners come from a place of confidence, it extends the hand of respect. Manners doesn’t compromise the truth, and confidently invites others to seek it.
Let me tell you this. We need more people with manners, across the spectrum of ideas, ideals and thoughts. We absolutely need less political correctness. Next time you have a choice when it comes to the truth, what will you do? Will you cower to political correctness, or will you use your manners to confidently proclaim what is right?
“You don’t have to open the door for me because I’m a lady, you know” the bossy woman said indignantly
“I didn’t open it for you because you are a lady. I opened it because I’m a gentleman” the man politely smiled
You’ve probably heard this meme before, both being praised and refuted by many.
I was having a chat to my
bartender therapist about it the other day. In our usual ‘what is it with women’ conversations, we started discussing chivalry. Not too long ago, Boag’s ‘St George’ Beer ran a series of advertisements stating that ‘Chivalry isn’t dead’, and had a competition for men to send in their best examples of chivalrous behaviour.
There seem to be many arguments about chivalry. Check out the tag ‘dating’ on WordPress and you’ll see a range of attitudes from women about chivalry. Some dream of dating (and marrying) a true gentleman, who’ll open doors and pay for meals and be kind and polite. Others proclaim the ‘you go girl’ attitude and encourage the sisterhood to go out and get everything on their own. Many feminist writers aggressively proclaim that chivalry is the domain of the patriarchy and should be smashed and is demeaning to women and blah-de-blah-de-blah angry feminists.
We all know what chivalry shouldn’t be. It’s not a man falling over himself to open a door for a women, then giving her ‘the eye’ as she awkwardly walks by. It’s not a man inappropriately ‘complimenting’ a woman. It’s not buying a gal a drink with expectations attached to it.
What is chivalry to me?
It’s the simple notion of acknowledging others and simply putting that person first in an everyday occurrence. I love watching programs of yore where, when a lady walks into a room, or comes and goes to a table, the men stand up and acknowledge the lady. It’s being, where practicable, opening the door for anyone – being polite, paying respect to seniority. It’s going out of your way for a social nicety, without expectation.
Chivalry is graciously accepting manners, too. We so often hear of stories where anyone (usually a man) has extended a social grace to a lady, only to be shut down and insinuations to him that he is acting out of some 1950’s playbook of social expectations. As easy as it is for someone to show chivalry, it is just as easy to accept chivalry, for no other reason than you acknowledge the ‘givers’ desire to employ a social grace.
In many respects, it’s nice not to be bound by ridged social rules of yore. If I was a lady, I think that it’s grand that I don’t have to wear a hat, gloves and a layer upon layer of hot clothing. As a man, I appreciate not having to wear a three-piece suit or dress up for dinner. In some ways, however, we have lost our way.
So at the risk of offending both sexes, here’s the Vidins’ Guide to Chivalry:
For the Men:
The general question I ask myself before acting chivalrous is ‘would my mum or sister appreciate this’. This works in so many ways. Would my mum appreciate me opening the door for her? Would my sister appreciate me helping her with heavy luggage on an aeroplane? Would my mother be comfortable if I complimented her on a nice perfume or dress? If you think your mum, your sister or your wife would appreciate a random stranger acting this way, it’s generally safe to do it.
-Would your mum, sister or wife appreciate an open door and a ogle at her bottom? No? Then that’s not chivalrous. Would your mum, sister or wife appreciate a man pulling the chair for her at the table and a perv at her breasts as she seats? No? Of course, that’s not chivalrous!
-Men, displaying chivalry involves looking after yourself. I’ve written before about men’s grooming and dressing for office. Essentially, dress up to the occasion, not down to the occasion. Invest in a handsome cologne and be proud of smelling nice. Keep your hair well-coiffed and your breath fresh.
-Acknowledge when someone enters the room. If you are sitting, stand. If someone leaves the table, stand. Regardless if it’s a man or women entering or leaving. Confidently and appropriately shake hands, especially in a professional setting. Both men and women appreciate the integrity of a confident handshake.
-Don’t fall over yourself to be chivalrous. Don’t barge through to be the first to open a door, don’t bumble around trying to assist someone with heavy luggage. There is nothing more undignifying than a man who tries too hard.
-When your chivalrous actions fail, don’t blame the ungrateful recipient. Remember men, many women have been told they can do it all (and lets not beat around the bush – women do have the skills, capability and nous to achieve it all) and don’t appreciate social graces extended towards them. In these cases, don’t blame her or call her a feminist, but extend her the courtesy that she can, in fact, do it all herself. In time, she will find that she will be doing it all herself. No one likes to help the ungrateful.
And for the ladies:
-Never accept a ‘kind’ act that comes with an ‘expectation’. A man’s kindness should not come with an expectation that you will provide him with your telephone number! Men that hide behind faux-chivalry are mere playboys with outward manners.
-When a man opens the door, a simple smile or ‘thank you’ is all that is needed. It has cost him nothing to open the door for you, surely it costs nothing to extend a nicety back in thanking him. Despite what you may have been led to believe, not every guy wants to get into your pants. Believe it or not, most men simply act this way out of respect. He does not think that you are incapable or in any way needy of a man’s assistance. He is simply being nice, with no expectations attached.
-An un-required offer for assistance can also be handled with poise. Should a man offer you assistance with heavy luggage, or putting an awkward IKEA box in your car and you don’t require his assistance, a simple ‘thank you for your kind offer, I can manage myself’ is all that is needed. Don’t huff about him thinking less of you. Don’t slap back his offer with shrieks of the imposition of 1950’s values. Thank him and move on.
You may think of this as me trying to convince women that men’s egos are fragile, and it is the role of womenfolk to pander to that. To the contrary. It takes a strong man to confidently offer a social kindness to another (man or woman). A truly chivalrous man does not need a quick ego-boost from faux-altruism! He is simply seeing what he perceives as an opportunity to extend a social grace and has the confidence to extend himself in that situation.
There’s no doubt that expectations for manners have shifted greatly over time. Roles for men and women have equally changed – certainly for the better!
I’m interested in your thoughts on chivalry – the good, the bad, the ugly!