Polite Society – When To Smile – When To Bite

We are all under an obligation to other creatures – whether it is to high society or low biomass. The basic laws of the land ensure this, though they don’t extend much beyond prohibitions. No murder, no robbery, and as little counterfeiting of tram tickets as possible. The mechanism for policing this is …police.

Past the bare civility that keeps you out of leg irons, there really is little more actually required of you. You can be as nasty, smelly, kindly, wonderful, or suspicious as you wish and the rozzers do not touch you. You do not get on in your career or personal life in many cases, but then you may find the same exclusion and failure even if you are pleasant. It depends upon other people’s opinion of you.

And that largely depends upon other people’s opinion of themselves. What they fear in themselves they revile in you. What they are ashamed of in their life they shame you with. If they are rotters, so will you be, but a worse one. It can be a big responsibility.

The best way to get on is to adopt the advice given by Noel Coward when he directed a stage play. A young actor asked what the underlying message and motivation was for his part. Coward told him to say his lines clearly and not bump into the furniture. The play contained all that was necessary for success in itself and the only thing the operators of the thing had to do was turn the handle smoothly and let the gears do the work. I suspect it is the same in open society.

How do you say your lines? By doing what the structure of society’s play has set up. Be pleasant and kindly to all the people you can – when this is not possible, be polite. If you still find there is no possible accord, be civil. No more is actually required by law.

How do you avoid bumping into the furniture? By looking out ahead of you and recognising where the stumbling blocks and sharp corners are likely to be – and then not precipitating yourself into them. In practical terms, avoid painful situations and foolish actions.

This may seem like a simplistic formula – not so. It is as difficult to see and avoid trouble as it is to get out of it…but a hell of a lot more comfortable if you can do it. You may find yourself excluded from the cool kids’ group in the lunchroom, but the thing to remember is that the actual function of the room is to eat lunch – concentrate on that. Coolness and getting fed are often two different things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close