Manners, my friends, manners

For years, I’ve argued to anyone who cared to listen, that the need for PC goop, sensitivity training and hyper sexual harassment laws coincided very precisely with the decline in manners.  I don’t have any data to support this, just common sense.  In the old, mannered days, good manners dictated a few huge do-nots:  you do not discuss sex in the office; you do not insult people in the office; you do not try to proselytize your religion in the office.  In the office, you confine your talk to neutral subjects such as work (now there’s a novel concept); the weather (even Gilbert & Sullivan approved); and you make pleasantly neutral conversation about people’s appearance (“new haircut?”  “nice shirt” etc.)

All that changed in the 1960s, when manners suddenly became reactionary and passe.  Suddenly, it was de rigeur to regale your workmates with your sexual exploits.  And letting it all hang and out and being honest demanded that, if you thought someone was physically attractive, you described those attractions in the most graphic terms.  Likewise, if you didn’t like someone, what better thing to do than tell them why, in equally graphic terms.  Neutral topics and polite work conversation were for grandparents.  Our generation kept it “real.”

No wonder, then, that sexual harassment and racial discrimination, instead of dying out in the workplace with the Civil Rights era and equity feminism, suddenly became a land mine for every employer in America.  Just as the employers finally figured out that you can’t treat people differently based on race, gender, creed, country of national origin, etc., their employees stopped being able to keep their mouths shut.  Bad policies that used to come down from the top, and could properly be barred by law, trickled down to become the water cooler conversation of the ill-mannered — subject to all sorts of costly civil litigation, and state and federal penalties, against the employers.

I mention all this because of Bill Whittle’s righteous outrage at being forced to attend a sexual harassment seminar.  Even as he recognized that his employer required the seminar to protect itself from lawsuits, and that the person teaching the seminar had the best intentions, he was deeply offended at being assumed to be a sexual perpetrator or racial harasser, rather than a mannered gentleman whose mama raised him right.

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  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    I guess I’m really lucky….working for a church-related University I finally had to do sexual harassment and diversity training. Fortunately, they signed up for an online version…..so I did it from my office, all by myself.

    And even more fortunately, there was a “pre-test” with a dozen or so questions to determine whether or not I *needed* the entire batch of goop they were serving! On the few where I didn’t immediately know what the right answer was (just common sense), I knew instinctively which one they wanted….the most bizarre and extreme one, of course.

    I passed easily, and my training was over in about 10 minutes. I even got a “diploma” which I could print out….I put one in my file (I thought about framing it for my wall) and the other one went to H.R.

    Demeaning (I’m very much in Whittle’s camp), but relatively painless.

  • http://explorations.chasrmartin.com Charlie (Colorado)

    I was always rather fond of Judith Martin’s (“Miss Manners”) response to the question “What should I say when I meed a gay ‘couple’?”

    “How do you do? How do you do?”

    It seems to me that the vast majority of these things qould be much simplified if we reintroduced two things: basic manners, and an outraged “How dare you!” followed by a slap.