Manners. You either have them or you do not.
Courage. Like manners, is something that you either have or you do not.
In the early 21st Century, there is a distinct shortage of both manners and courage. You see it in your daily life, maybe in the way that customers treat the waiting staff in restaurants or fast food stores. You see it on the highways of this country, often in the form of one vehicle cutting off another vehicle which in turn, is followed by an exchange of bird flipping by both parties. Taken to the extreme, we call this "road rage". I know of one acquaitance of mine who was actually shot and killed as a result of a road rage episode. For what purpose?
You see people in public shoving food in their faces, speaking loudly on their cell phones, oblivious to the fact that everyone around them can hear every word of their conversation. You hear their music blasting out of their head phones. Hardly anyone opens doors for seniors or women anymore. Fewer still seem to have any idea as to what table manners are. Table manners are a dying art form, sad to say.
Things are worse on-line
The paucity of courage and manners is even greater on the internet. People who lack the courage to say something negative to the object of his/her derision face to face, think nothing about being uncivil or rude to another person since they have the safety of their anonymity of their keyboard and the internet.
You see it often in the comments sections of on-line news sites or political opinion sites (for both the Left and the Right). I can not believe some of the rude, dishonest and untrue things that people will post on the internet. It is particularly rampant on Facebook, where many "friends" seem to delight in posting disparaging "stories" culled from their favorite Liberal or Conservative web sites. Do people really believe that they are going to change other people's minds by posting their personal political propaganda on a Facebook page?
Let me put it to you this way: I've been married to my wife for 15 years and I have yet to convince her, on any point, that my political opinion is correct and hers is, well, incorrect. If I can not change my wife's opinion, what makes me think that I am going to change your opinion by posting some canned political propaganda on Facebook. I think that you, the reader, know the answer to that question.
This is largely why I am staying away from certain wargaming internet forums for awhile, i.e. I am tired of having to deal with the cowards and the ill-mannered in an area of what is supposed to be a hobby for me. A hobby is supposed to bring you some entertainment and relaxation, and not aggrivation.
My friend Stokes S. says it much better than I can, so I have copied his thoughts about manners on many online discussion forums. You can find his thoughts on his new blog: "The Average Guy's Guide To Classic Style".
In many online discussion forums, some of which do not necessarily concern clothing, there are a lot people who view manners and dressing decently as somehow false, stiff, and unnecessary. What a sad state of affairs that is. How can basic polite behavior and consideration for those around us be bad things?
The truth is that there is nothing at all fake about coming across as a nice and agreeable individual, whether at work, at a ball game with friends, or enjoying a glass of lemonade with the family on the back porch. As average guys, let's strive for better standards in our personal interaction with others -- including our behavior at the table -- and the way we dress. It's just the right thing to do.
If we make an effort to remember and practice the things our families hopefully taught us*, good manners and proper decorum will not come across as insincere and forced. They will, instead be what they should. Natural, easy, and comfortable. Like a well worn-in pair of loafers. You don't even have to think about them, but they are there. You wear 'em all the time without a second thought. They're just part of the scenery.
Making a good impression with people -- friends of long standing and new acquaintances both -- is not about tacky and ostentatious displays, obnoxious bragging, or making others feel bad about themselves. Demonstrating a certain level of basic respect for people, occasions, and settings is, however, vital when it comes to leaving a favorable impression with those we meet. Even if you're knocking back a few cold ones at the campsite with your old college buddies after a day of fishing on the lake.
At the end of the day, I think that it is much easier being nice to people and respectful to others, even if you don't agree with them. It really does not take a lot of effort to be civil and nice.
Or as Abraham Lincoln said in the movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure":
"Be excellent to each other."