What is it to be a gentleman?

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What is it to be a gentleman?

  • Yilmaz Rona

    In the movie blast from the past, there is one very memorable scene, where two of the characters discuss manners.

    Troy: You know, I asked him about that. He said, good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them. See, I didn’t know that, I thought it was just a way of acting all superior. Oh and you know what else he told me?
    Eve: What?
    Troy: He thinks I’m a gentleman and you’re a lady.
    Eve: [disgusted] Well, consider the source! I don’t even know what a lady is.
    Troy: I know, I mean I thought a “gentleman” was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.
    Eve: Where do you think he got all that information?
    Troy: From the oddest place – his parents. I mean, I don’t think I got that memo from mine.

    Thoughts?

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  • Jon Kalb

    I was not a regular Ms Manners column reading, but I recall reading a book by her. In it she made it clear that many people seemed to think that manners was a way of putting others in their place, but that in fact that well mannered are those that strive to put others at ease. Or as this definition says, make them as comfortable as possible.

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    Mike Reid

    That’s great!

    A worthy goal.

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    Scott MG

    I remember hearing not to long ago that societies with greater racial and or cultural diversity have a lesser amount of social trust. Social trust meaning the level in which people in the community trust each other to be honest and at times give the benefit of the doubt. This didn’t just apply between people with differing cultural or racial backgrounds, but social trust was low even when people had the same background. It was only in communities that were homogenous that social trust was high.

    I bring this up because I wonder the role manners play, or more so the question of the “appropriate” manners themselves. I am not that well traveled but when I talk to people that have I am told that it is good to be aware of cultural norms. I think the reason for this specifically is for manners sake. In a society with many cultural norms and racial backgrounds distrust may come not so much from prejudice of others than that of a lack of understanding of manners between groups. Prejudice although may arise from this.

    Exactly what type, or what are the “appropriate” manners to have? I do not think this matters at least in comparison to the civilizing effect that manners do have.

    What decides itself to be manners in a certain area is perhaps much like what decides to be currency or money (depending on how you define it) in a certain area. If I show up in Hon-Kong with my Canadian Dollars to buy from a street merchant he would no doubt look at me with confusion. I would need to convert my Canadian Dollars to Hon-Kong dollars just as I would need to convert my Canadian manners to my Hon-Kong manners. As well, like currency, manners are supposed to say something about what we value, and thereby ourselves as well. Currency more specifically about products and services, and manners about people in society. Potentially what one group may think of as having value another may feel confused or even slighted by.

    Follow Up Questions:

    What are some more parallels between money and manners?

    Can manners then ever be universal like Gold and Sliver? (Perhaps Bit-coin?)

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