There were standards of politeness that people followed

Saturday, July 23rd, 2022

One factor driving Wokeness, Virginia Postrel notes, is a desire on the part of young people to be polite, and Arnold Kling doesn’t quite agree:

Calling people by their preferred pronouns and avoiding micro-aggressions can be seen as an attempt to be polite. Of course, by my standards these forms of politeness are not admirable, and the activists on Twitter are anything but polite.

Some more of my thoughts:

If you go back to the 1950s, there were standards of politeness that people followed. You were not supposed to use four-letter words. Men went to baseball games in white dress shirts. Nobody went to the theater or went on a plane trip in blue jeans.

We boomers treated these norms of politeness as at best unnecessary and at worst hypocritical. We threw out the whole concept.

But maybe there is a human longing for standards of politeness.

I’m reminded of Neal Stephenson’s defense of the (Neo-)Victorians against accusations of hypocrisy in The Diamond Age:

“We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy,“ Finkle-McGraw continued. “In the late-twentieth-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception — he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it’s a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing.”


  1. Hoyos says:

    See I’ve been saying this for years, a hypocrite is more like a conman or a fraudster. If it’s failing to live up to a personal moral standard that’s just everybody at different times. There’s a radical difference between failing to measure up but accepting the standard as real and making a pretense at something you don’t believe in or try at for a second.

  2. Bruce says:

    Yes, the young wokies I meet have a mix of:

    1) Nice young person, well brought up and well aware that they are in the power of larger, older, uglier, people who are easily offended. Be polite to them.

    2) Nasty-nice young people, well aware that they are more freshly-informed about fads in the indoctrination than older adults and using that against us.

  3. Ezra says:

    Famous picture taken of the 1906 World Series Chicago. Cubs versus White Sox. Westside Grounds. Men in the stands all in suit, tie, hate. Women in long gowns and wide brimmed hats. Vendors in uniforms. Etc.

  4. Wang Wei Lin says:

    I think much of this “politeness” is the response to intimidation. HR departments, the paramilitary of the F500, will absolutely and intentionally destroy you if you don’t participate in homosexual and gender delusions. I got bounced out of a F500 company for a shift for calling one of the worst employees a ball-less son of a bitch. When I came back to work I got handshakes and fist bumps from my normal peers. I am the first to be polite and cordial, but I will not put up with fake cooperation or kumbaya crap. Yep, I’m an old guy with no patience for bullshit.

  5. Lu An Li says:

    “Among the heathen we shall find no other persons that exceed the Japanese in manners.” — Francis Xavier.

    Same way of behaving in Japan today. The Japanese set the standard the rest of the world should follow. In many other ways too the Japanese are the standard model.

  6. Harry Jones says:

    I have never trusted overly polite people. They’re just itching to conquer Manchuria and rape Nanking.

    To be polite implies that you think someone can’t handle straight, honest communication. It is implicitly condescending.

    I am polite because I have a low opinion of most people.

  7. Bwana says:

    People that actually live on the edge are exceedingly polite and well mannered. When men became office plankton standards started to slip. The Xtian Evangelicals are among the worst in this regard. Wearing a flannel shirt and Bermuda shorts to a church service shows a lack of respect to oneself and their Divinity. As a combat soldier of three wars we learned quickly to respect all others; it keeps the IEDs at bay. At the same time these juvenile delinquents expect to be treated without the distain that their morals and manners dictate. Dueling societies are polite societies

  8. Eli says:

    Etiquette is a convention for social discourse among disparate minds. Etiquette is necessary when life is close to nature. It’s a lesson that will be learned again.

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