Bad Manners

George Will writes in today’s *Washington Post*:

>Actually, manners are the practice of a virtue. The virtue is called civility, a word related — as a foundation is related to a house — to the word civilization.

Nevermind the specious analogy. The real surprise is that one of the most mannerless of newspaper opinion mongers utters it. But we should thank him. We’ve been looking around for a new analogy. The principles and practices of informal logic (those first scientifically studied by Aristotle) are like manners (and to some degree the rules of punctuation) to the extent that they seem much to *our* dismay to be “unenforceable.” But unfortunately, if it’s the case that

>a nation’s greatness is measured not only by obedience of laws but also by “obedience to the unenforceable”

as Will himself affirms, then we are in deep trouble; for civil society–a society of *cives* who persuade by reason rather than force–is grounded sound reasoning. The citizens who argue–especially those gifted with semiweekly spots on op-ed pages of world-wide circulation–have a special duty to be on their best behavior in their discursive interactions with others. That such has not been the case with this particular author is amply demonstrated by the archives of this website.

We would certainly agree that “manners are means of extending respect, especially to strangers.” And for this reason we bristle at the following:

>It is politeness to the league’s customers who, weary of seeing players dressed in “edgy” hip-hop “street” or “gangsta” styles, want to be able to distinguish the Bucks and Knicks from the Bloods and Crips. Stern also understands that players who wear “in your face” clothes of a kind, and in a manner, that evokes Sing Sing more than Brooks Brothers might be more inclined to fight on the floor and to allow fights to migrate to the stands, as happened last year.

The suggestion that the clothes caused the fight (and only one fight in all of the games–hockey anyone?), or made the fight more likely is as unmannered as judging a person by the way he or she dresses.

3 thoughts on “Bad Manners”

  1. I will ask again: who’s afraid of opening doors for people? I think Will is justifying his own lack of manners by calling others racist, I mean mannerless.

    So, there’s a causal relationship between style of clothes and potential for criminal behavior, just as there’s a causal relationship between being arch-conservative and spewing forth thinly disguised racism.

  2. There were other gems in this piece as well. One of them was noted by (liberals are against rules of punctuation). Since liberals dominate academia, and academia is were one learns puncuation, then liberals must be teaching puncuation, right kids?

  3. Am I missing something here? We’ve descended to a new level of bullshit–a place I simply cannot go; however, I have always assumed that people like Will decried the post-modern impulse of deconstructing language to find the hidden meanings in commas and semicolons, or the phallic thrust of the em-dash imposing itself on the chalice-like ‘>’ to symbolize chauvinistic masculine entailment (though a more mannerly reading might reveal the strict entailment to have at least purchased dinner and a movie beforehand); but are these musings less about my personal liberal bias than about my lack of good sense to make a coherent argument (maybe the reader has observed my personal abhorrence of periods, or, as I like to call them, failed chances at creating life)?

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