Rules are at the very least for the bending.  Following instructions to the T will probably make you one big bore, IKEA furniture being the only exception.  Your desk might fall apart if you don’t.  You probably shouldn’t touch pieces of art either.  Really though, where would we be without the rule breakers?  Without those who did not want to be caged within convention?  Non-critical people are the biggest source of frustration for my husband.  He does not get them.  At all.  Does that make us cynical and unhappy?  Probably at times.  It’s easy to be happy.  It’s harder to view the world with playfulness and an adventurous heart.

But you know where regulations gain more importance?  Manners.  I’m not saying that we return to the sitting rooms of Victorian England, but a little bit of civility goes a long way.  Etiquette can regulate our behaviour positively through kindness and allow us to play the social game more effectively.

Compassion and appreciation are at the core of certain practices.  For example, you write those thank you cards because you recognize people’s efforts and thoughtfulness.  I also don’t care if the Queen of England has to wait, you don’t start eating till all of your guests have arrived.  You don’t look down on others because you’re secure in your positioning, and perhaps recognize that dumb luck is one of factors that placed you at an advantage.  That does not mean that you’re not critical of how people operate.  You just have enough sense to leave it alone and choose your battles, because really, at the end of the day it’s probably none of your business.  I’m pretty sure that Prince William would be the most polite person you’ll ever meet.  He has nothing to lose with treating others with reverence precisely because of his privilege.  It’s the insecure people who are making it difficult for everyone.

Knowing the rules also allows you to play the game more effectively.  The winners circle is formed by those who can read the social signifiers and strategize where they would like to go.  It’s strange because a lack of manners comes in so many different forms: racism, sexism, ableism and other types of discrimination.  I’ve felt more sorry than anything else for ignorant people.  I feel sad that their perspectives are so narrow and small.  I hope that these viewpoints are transformed with time and experience.  I always try to correct when my own intolerance is expressed.  But in your daily life, even if these practices cause hurt and scars, it’s best not to engage.  When Lainey describes how the comedian Chelsea Handler has publicly made so many heinous comments against Angelina Jolie, she praises the Jolie’s tactics: “Radio silence. Chelsea doesn’t exist in heaven. That’s how it’s done.”  I like it.  Ignorance cannot exist on the high road, on our higher ground.



2 thoughts on “Etiquette

  1. Nice post, Ei Phyu.

    Not long ago I was consumed with the thought that rules and consideration for others were intimately linked. Particularly with respect to traffic or other things safety-related. My thought goes something like this: If your primary concern is for the consideration and safety of others, it’s likely you’ll end up following the rules that are in place to keep us out of harm’s way. For example, you’re approaching an intersection on foot, in your car or on your bike. You are unsure who is or might be coming in another direction, so you STOP to assess the situation before advancing. And, oh, funny that, there’s a stop sign at this intersection! This line of thought was born out of a deep frustration at drivers, pedestrians and cyclists doing more or less what they want when then want all over the road and wondering why, when I feel so compelled to follow the rules in place, that others were so blatantly breaking them. One friend argued that it was human nature to want to break rules, another that maybe it pointed to those particular rules being out of date, but in the example I provided, I disagree entirely. I feel very deeply that many of us go about our days in our own world, missing opportunities to interact positively with one another and, instead, looking for shortcuts (blowing through stop signs in this example or another one that boggles the mind: texting while crossing the street – what about all the other people not following the rules?! That’s begging to become road hamburger.) that can and often do negatively impact those around us. Follow the rules (of the road): stay safe and be nice at the same time.

    I LOVE the rules. I love traffic rules, the rules of etiquette and unspoken rules that we create within our own circles. I think they provide structure to our lives, and encourage critical thinking in the instances when we feel confined by them.

  2. I completely agree with your post about safety Dana. I remember many a time riding my bike in Thailand feeling like I was just asking to be hurt but it was too hot to walk and the dogs were territorial. But because I was operating in a society where cyclists are literally lowest on the pyramid, we received no consideration. I also like your comment about being aware of the rules so you know when to bend or break them. That’s part of the game too right? To know when to hold em and know when to fold em? Love you and miss you!

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