Le Coup – Quatrième Colonne

The social cut is so long-standing as to have gathered a set of rules governing its use. They are as useful today as they were in the 18th and 19th century – people may have cars, computers, and cash these days but they are basically the same inside as they always were. If you doubt this get an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy and a scalpel, but don’t blame me if the police intervene.

a. Le coup absolu is a direct confrontation between two people where one does not acknowledge the other in any way. It can be devastatingly insulting and if seen by others, socially demeaning.

b. This form of cut must be deliberate and obvious to the victim.

c. Gentlemen must never cut a lady.

d. Unmarried ladies are not to cut married ladies.

e. The social cut cannot be employed within military or naval circles. While this is not a rule adhered to entirely, the good of the service requires that all instances of it are either suppressed or addressed.

f. Hosts cannot cut their guests.

g. Cuts cannot be done indiscriminately or for light purpose. They could have serious consequences for both parties – if between equals the cut may provoke a challenge and if between disparate classes it might redound badly. Some social cuts destroy careers and marriages.

There is little enough general society these days – the class system having realigned itself around money rather than birth – and the population having grown so much as to diffuse contact and/or interest. People can get fame or notoriety, but it is rare that enough people focus upon them long enough to grant them real respectability. To get this, one must go into the smaller divisions of organisation – the social club, the hobby group, the sporting association. You might even need to go down as close as the family before you find respect or notice.

Thus the loss of social status that someone who was snubbed might have felt in 1850 does not generally exist now. It might still be operating for someone who has been suspected of a major crime but has escaped conviction – they may find themselves refused entry to the social scene they once frequented. People might avoid them in public. They might find that their careers are blighted. The curse of widespread modern communication and the free interchange of information might also mean that they cannot find rest or respect elsewhere. Mind you, Cain had his problems too…

But snubbing, cutting, and general exercise of hubris may backfire. The story of Beau Brummel’s snubbing by the Prince Regent is well documented in Wikipedia. It notes the reasons why it was done and his rather foolish reaction – judge for yourself when you read it. The Prince Regent was seen as abusing his power and Brummel had enough social steam to ride it out. Of course Brummel’s own lifestyle could never be sustained and he was lost to France and debt…but take it as a lesson to be careful who you cut and why. If you do it unnecessarily you do it wrong.





Le Coup – Troisième Colonne

This column should really be subtitled ” Le Coup Numerique ” as it deals with the social cut on digital media. This was not an option in the 19th century, but I’ll bet they would have had a ball with it…

Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al – seems to be an electric slate onto which nearly anything can be written. Better still – anything can be drawn, cut, or pasted. The sources of the postings can be as truthful as mathematics or as false as marketing. It is all grist for the mill and the mill is speeding up.

If you wish to cut someone publicly on Facebook, you can. The vilest insults and coldest sneers can be typed out and sent with one press of a button. The fact that you may get a reputation as a troll is neither here nor there – you might live under a bridge and welcome any notice taken of you…

But this is not the most sophisticated use of the medium for the coupeur…the best tool is found in the settings that decide who remains within your electronic circle of friends. It has always been possible to de-friend people on your list – and to block approaches from others. It’s now possible to ” snooze ” contacts for 30 days, though this is more a cooling-off mechanism for you than for them.

Perhaps the best analogy for the social media site is that of a cocktail party. You would do best to be bright and cheerful whilst attending – not to cut people dead when there – and not to start awkward discussions about sex, politics, or religion. That makes you a welcome guest, and one who gets more invitations.

If you wish to be a curmudgeon, backstabber, or villain, get yourself a WordPress page and start writing a regular column…

Note: I have used the Facebook de-friend option five times myself. To some extent it was an over-reaction and a misunderstanding of the mechanism. In the future, I think I’ll just use the ” block ” option for this social platform. It will do the business more politely.


Le Coup – Deuxième Colonne

The written coup is a more interesting intellectual exercise than the spoken one – requiring as it does the same motif but adding the need for writing ability, opportunity, and method of delivery. It can be a rarer and more dangerous thing.

a. Direct letters from you to the person you wish to cut are not very common. Few people choose to send a direct confrontation that brooks no misunderstanding. Letters expose your intention, and can be kept for evidence. They invite return communication in a way that a spoken cut does not.

They have the advantage of being private if you so direct them – registered mail to be signed for with an external note that it is private and confidential usually succeeds in this. Placing a sealed envelope directly into the hand of the victim is even surer.

Any disclosure of the contents is then for the recipient – they may wish to explode publicly or privately. But they cannot accuse you of defamatory publication.

b. Public posting is much more dangerous, as it can lead to legal action. If you make your cut public knowledge you cannot retract it or hide it – the best you can do is make it vague. This is the basis of any number of social media posts.

Some people do need public posting, particularly if the public needs protection from them. This is rarely the job of a private person, though, as they generally do not have all the facts of a case, and in any case do not have the authority of police or court to back them up. In all instances it is best to discuss it with the staff at the police station desk and be guided by their advice.

c. Official complaint is not really within the purview of this column’s subject, but if you need to make one, make it through the correct channels if possible. Start low and polite and if you are taken notice of – be satisfied with that. Quit there. If you are ignored, go one step higher, but still be polite. Arm yourself with the name and rank of whoever failed to address your first approach. You may find that you have to climb many administrative steps to get to a real response, but remember that in Australia a real response is possible.

If you are a crank, ignore the above advice.


Moving On With Life

Recently I met someone who told me that they were moving on with their life. They’d gotten to a point where the older associations and interests no longer satisfied them. They were going to seek new things.

I recognised the feeling – it has happened to me on a number of occasions in the past and I suspect it will happen again in the future. I am not sure if this means life for me will be better or worse, but in any case it will be different.

Breaking ties to the past can be problematical – it’s not just the mafia that is hard to leave – many innocent social groups are just the same. We need to observe some niceties when we do:

a. Do your changing for yourself – not for someone else. By this I mean do not leave friends or family because someone else tells you to. Whether your departure is a good idea or a bad idea, it must come from you alone.

b. Do not leave mad. Even if you are angry, repress this so that no-one is subject to it. You can discharge it elsewhere another time. If there is to be any leave-taking do it upon friendly grounds if at all possible. At least try for civility.

c. Do not announce your leave-taking generally. There may be some people to whom it is politic to make your congé, but these are generally very few these days. There is no nobility any more, and the people you need to deal with are officials or employers. There are accepted forms of severance and you would do well to observe them.

d. Do not expect mourning or great consternation. That might be evidenced if you were to die tragically but then you’d never see it. If you angle for it to gratify your ego while you are still here, you’ll be horrified to find it does not exist. The world turns without you very well.

e. Make no explanations, provide no justification. If there are reasons, they can remain within you and make you a stronger, better person in the future. You really only need to account to courts and the ATO, and if they are not involved, the rest is a private matter.

f. Leave no debts. If anything is demanded of you, consider whether it is justified. Whatever you honourably owe, pay. If you do not owe anything, smile and decline.

g. Do not return. If you think yourself improved by leaving a social circle, consider that you may also have improved that circle by your decision. Don’t go back and spoil the thing.

h. Go out and begin afresh in the social scene. You have learned a great deal about other people and, hopefully, something about yourself. Make use of the knowledge.

i. If you meet old companions, partners, acquaintances, group members in the future…and you will… be gracious. They’ll think better of you, and so will you.


The Untouchable List – Part Three – One From Column A and One From Column B…

If you are going to make up a menu of displeasure for yourself you need to actually understand what it is that makes you happy/unhappy. If you make that list unbeknownst to others you have a better chance of making an honest one – you are not trying to impress the crowd. If you are strong-minded you will not try to impress yourself.

Is there an underlying theme to your aversions? There are a number of classic ones:

a. Disgust. You might have had a childhood experience that has left you with a horror of something. It could be as simple as illness, saliva, regurgitation, noise, etc. Others may not notice it at all – if it is real to you, however, it is real and you are wise to honestly admit it to yourself.

b. Disdain. You might have experienced it from both sides – given or received. Contempt is one of the most powerful distresses one can experience and one that lasts the longest. It can engender the most inveterate hate.

c. Fear. Mostly physical, as in the fear that has been associated with bullying. Sometimes psychological, as in the fear of rejection or betrayal. It also drives a hatred that can last a long time. In some cases it also drives a desire for revenge.

d. Loss. Have you been robbed? Cheated? Underpaid? Swindled?  You’d be a fortunate person who never had any of this happen to you. Most people can recall monetary loss and it is something that can generally be sheeted home accurately. Many times it is irrecoverable.

Note that in all these there is no mention specifically of jealousy – you might have thought of it yourself, but then jealousy is so often an incomplete emotion – we never know the sorrows of the person whose joys we envy. Were we required to shoulder their burdens as well as share their rewards, they might never make it to any list at all.

Note as well that there is no mention of politics or religion. You can hate someone’s choice or avowal as much as you like, but it is rarely a thing for a personal list. Disapproval can safely be left to journalists and other commentators, and the consequences of anyone’s choices are generally on their own heads. Just stand clear and wipe your clothing down with a damp cloth…

The Untouchable List – Part Two – Cause and Effect

I realised that when I wrote the titles for this series of columns that the words ” Untouchable ” had an echo within the caste system on the Indian subcontinent. No such connection was intended – those who worry about it can comfort themselves that the actual caste or class situation is covered by a series of words in Hindi and the other subcontinental languages – ” Untouchable ” is just a good cover word in English for the concept. Peace, Brothers.

Making a list of unpleasant things, people, places, and situations sounds like nothing but trouble – a procedure that could only make us feel bad. Possibly for some people, but in my case it is having a positive effect on me. I am feeling better.

Perhaps it is like the business of lying on a psychiatrist’s couch and rambling onwards. Talk long enough and you let slip the root causes of your problems – and possibly let the therapist find some way of easing them. Think long and write an honest list and you might be able to see clearly into your own mind…and do a similar amount of good for yourself.

You’ll be asking yourself some serious questions:

Do you hate thinking or dealing with a particular topic? Ditto about certain people? Real hate?

Why? There might be a very good reasonIf so, recognise this and carry on. You know your own life better than anyone.

Is this hatred affecting you now? How? How long has it been going on?

If you write it down and encapsulate it in a list, can you go on even further and leave it in the past?

Saints and philosophers might be able to look at that list, crumple it up, and throw it away. Those of us who are not on that elevated plane of piety or knowledge would to well to keep it – well hidden – and to use it as a warning device in our daily lives. It might save our social standing and credibility.

There’s a terrible temptation abroad in the aether to air all our opinions on social media. We lay ourselves open to all the other people who want to express an opinion, and some of them are just looking for a chance to make us feel small. If we let them see the list we give them valuable targeting information about ourselves, and it always comes back to bite. We do far better to honestly make our list, honestly abide by it, and do so in strict secrecy.

Part three – are you on my list yet?  Would you like to be?


The Untouchable List – Part One – Opening The Jar

Glory be! I’m getting smarter in my old age!

I’ve finally realised that there are some things that are untouchable – and for darned good reason. I’ve compiled a list of them for myself and will be adding to it as time goes on. Currently the divisions include discussion topics and people, but I will be expanding it to include places, things, and experiences.

It’s a totally subjective list – I would advocate that other people also make lists, but they are free to put whatever they want on theirs – and I think it might do them a world of good to do so…as it has done for me. But it must be deliberate.

You see, until you actually think long about this sort of idea, you are unlikely to benefit from it. You’ll have aversions that come up quickly and then go away just as fast. You’ll have momentary hates without keeping them long enough to make pets of them – and nowhere near long enough to benefit from them. You need to consider the business soberly.

” Soberly ” can also include thinking outside of a stiff drink of rye whiskey. If you are one of the people whom it takes favourably, it may strip just enough of your inhibitions to allow you to see what you really do feel and think. Just make sure that when you do cocktail meditation that you do it alone, and that you write your conclusions in secret. You may need to revise them and you do not need everyone to see what your original thoughts were.

The list should be drawn in such a way that it can be altered easily as new aversions make themselves known or as old ones are discovered to be harmless. I’ve removed a person from the list after realising that there was no need for them to be there. It was not that they did not deserve to be on it to start with, but they have since ceased to be objectionable. No point in bearing a grudge if it has no substance.

In the next part, we examine what the list does for and to you…