Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Manners Maketh Man

‘Manners Makyth Man’ is the motto of the establishments founded by William of Wykeham, (1324 - 1404) - Winchester College and New College, Oxford.  

I would not like my one loyal reader to think that I was at all discriminatory regarding women. Quite the contrary – I have always considered women to be a jump or two ahead of men – after all human life is created within them. This is a fact that deserves a high order of acknowledgement. It should, therefore, be obvious that I am not being sexist when I use the word Man – it is generic and means the species homo-sapiens – so most certainly includes women.

But to get back to what I want to say about manners. The old Winchester College (English Public School) motto that “Manners Maketh Man” may be old fashioned and from a different time and different generation but it still has value today. Manners – good manners (and not just etiquette which is different) – are recognised in every society and culture as important. Obviously they vary from culture to culture and within societies but the fundamentals are the same everywhere.

Manners are important as a respectful acknowledgement of the rights of others (worthy or not). Generally (and I must be careful what I say here), generally, good manners are an indication of the level of refinement in a person. People with no manners; those who are offensive in their behaviour; those who use abusive language; those whose conversation contains a high proportion of expletives are generally considered as impolite or vulgar and lacking good manners. Good manners give an indication of how one treats others and how one expects to be treated by others. In other words – how good a person is – and we all want be considered good.

There are, of course, those people who use their (apparent) good manners and (superficial) personal charm for their own ends. Confidence tricksters (con men or women) often appear to be charming and well mannered people but always, very obviously, use these attributes for their own nefarious purposes. The opposite of this are those people with hearts of gold – kind and generous - but who are rather uncouth in their behaviour and speech.

In my book the importance of “good manners” lies in the fact that they are based on ethical principles which affect general behaviour. I always remember being impressed by something I read about Capt. Scott’s Antarctic Expedition in 1912. Scott apparently insisted on “good manners” – he believed that good manners reduced the opportunities for friction in a group of men forced to live together in a confined space for an extended period.

Generally it can be said that good manners set a standard of behaviour that those, in the culture concerned, understand and try to adhere too. Fundamental to good manners is ethics. And fundamental to ethics is the precept that a person’s behaviour should be governed by the standard of behaviour they would expect from others – in other words, treat others the way you would like to be treated. Someone who is ethical is, kind, generous, just, honest, courageous and temperate in manner (there is that word again). There is no other viable alternative.

So, in a way it is true - manners do make Man (as in a good person). 

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