12 Oct 2017

George Friedman on Manners


Times have changed since George Friedman was a boy.

I grew up in the 1960s, when manners were held to be a form of hypocrisy, the sign of a false and inauthentic time. When Mickey Mantle hit a home run, he trotted around the bases as if his excellence was incidental and required no celebration. His undoubted elation was contained within ritual. Today, success in sports has fewer limits, and success and contempt for the other side frequently merge. When I was very young, courtship and marriage rituals were ringed with things you did not do. Of course, all these things were done, but they were hidden from the gaze of others. Part of it was shame, but part of it was also respect for manners, even in their breach. It had the added and urgent dimension that the most precious parts of growing up were private things.

The argument was that honesty was the highest virtue. Manners restrained honest expression and therefore denied us our authenticity. What came of this was an assault on the distinction between what we are in private and what we are in public. The great icon of this was Woodstock, where the music was less important than the fact that things that had been ruthlessly private had become utterly public. The shame that is attached to bad manners was seen as dishonesty, and unrestrained actions as honesty. The restraint of manners became mortally wounded.

Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower had come to despise each other by the time of Eisenhower’s inauguration. They hid this in public. The press, undoubtedly aware of the tension, chose not to focus on it. The ritual that was at the heart of the republic – the peaceful transfer of power ­– was the focus, and the personal feelings of each were hidden from view. They were dishonest in their public behavior, and in retrospect, the self-restraint with which they hid their honest feelings was their moral obligation. These were two dishonest men, honoring their nation in their dishonesty.


3 Feedbacks on "George Friedman on Manners"

Seattle Sam

In the age of narcissism and Facebook, where what you ate for lunch is on display to the world, it’s not surprising that the standards for manners have been eroded.

It’s not clear to me which is the chicken and which the egg. Did Facebook, et al, simply unleash the animal expressions or does it help create them (particularly among those who grew up with them)?

Not all that long ago, sexual proclivities were mostly kept hidden. Now it goes something like this:

“Glad to meet you George. Tell me something about yourself.”

“I’m gay.”


It definitely predates Facebook. Remember how the Clinton people removed the W’s from keyboards, and glued drawers and graffiti before they left — to the time of something like $13,000?

Easy Money

George! Such drivel! Where are your manners?


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