Dictionary.com defines “ethics” as “a set of principles of right conduct” or “a theory or a system of moral values,” which to me sounds like “etiquette.” Too long I have stood by and heard people defame the name of etiquette and manners, claiming that manners and good taste were only for the elite, the elderly, or even for the (dare I say it?) the bourgeois.
Nay, my friends. I say, nay. Etiquette in its purest, best form is not an outdated series of moves designed to make you feel stupid that you don’t know them, or a way to seperate the well-bred from the drinking classes. Etiquette is a way of considering the feelings and needs of other people and acting constantly in such a way as to answer those needs and safeguard those feelings. It’s not just about knowing which spoon to use, though the original point even of that was so that you would use the proper tool for the proper meal and never embarrass yourself by dribbling or having to use your hands. It is not about pretense, but about substance, not about lording something over someone else, but about serving them via your human grace.
I plan here to discuss such issues: as a teacher, I know that the best way to get people to learn and then use a grammatical rule is to get them to understand why the rule exists in the first place. Therefore, if people learn the reasons behind etiquette, they can not only learn to follow such rules as exist, but improvise when perhaps no current rule exists to guide your behavior.
Subjects I plan to tackle include such things as thank-you notes, using one’s turn signals, asking about salary, responding to viewpoints with which you do not and cannot agree, and so forth. In a world full of pain, ignorance, rudeness, and outright stupidity, it seems that ethics and etiquette (ethics’ practical sister) may just save us all from ourselves.