Manners & Etiquette: Are They Important to Survival?
Remember to say please and thank you, take your shoes off at the door, send a thank you note when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you, hold the door for others, offer your seat to an elderly/disabled/pregnant person, etc., etc. Most of our parents and/or role models worked hard to teach us these ethical morsels of the human experience. They are baked into all cultures and ways of life. Obvious or not, they help us perceive who we are and in turn who others are.
Are manners only used by humans to create a perception? I think human to human manners bring into play something deeper than just a perception. I’ll need you to open your mind a little before you step in any further…
Francis Weller, MFT, writer, psychotherapist, and soul activist provides an important and rudimentary example of what happens to life in the wider world when manners and etiquette are ignored. Before we read his example, I’d like to get this little nugget swimming around in your head. Let’s take a quick look at how we apply manners to people. There are always outliers, but for the sake of argument let’s assume the following is true a majority of the time. Good manners make for decent people, and bad manners make for unfavorable people. Just how much do manners actually shape the world we live in? Let’s presume manners and etiquette are not only the perceptions they afford us, or don’t. What if their meaning is deeper than that, and WAY more important. What if manners are the humanity that encapsulates us all. Bringing us together, or tearing us apart.
Weller states, “What became clear rather quickly is that manners, when they are expressed, are typically reserved only for other humans. The wider world of watersheds, migratory estuaries, soil colonies, and ecotones are rarely included in what it is we approach with an attitude of mannerliness. This was not always so, as is evidenced by the practices of traditional cultures around the world. For Native American peoples, ethics and manners, as they related to nature and the well being of the village, governed a good deal of their behavior. Manners were essential in maintaining right relations with the world that supplied everything for them. A breach in manners or etiquette could result in the deer, elk, bison, or salmon feeling offended and disappearing for a time, placing the survival of the people at great risk.” – The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Pg. 141-142
He claims in today’s world, “Manners…are typically reserved only for other humans.” I couldn’t help but ponder, what happens when manners/ethics are no longer reserved for other humans? Is it fair to say that this alone would be, “placing the survival of the people at a great risk?” Is this the point we begin to see humanity slip away?
Could the Native American example be a foreshadowing to our own fate, if we do not tend to our relations, and respectfully apply the manners and etiquette generation upon generation has passed down, what will be the outcome for us and future generations?
Where do we draw the line, and when is enough, enough.