The Death Of Decorum In Our Time
Decorum, now that is a word that isn't used much anymore, but is perhaps a word that should be dusted off and brought back into mainstream language. It seems, at least to me, that a little decorum would go a long way to righting some of the social wrongs that are going on around the world, in politics, in entertainment, in sports, and quite frankly in most daily interpersonal interactions.
According to the Free Online Dictionary, decorum refers to the "appropriateness of behavior or conduct" or in the plural sense the "conventions or requirements of polite behavior". Well, that’s great, but what specifically does decorum refer to?
What Decorum Is Not
Let's take a look what decorum is NOT first. It always seems easier to define things by what they shouldn't look like, rather than what they should. Some very recent examples of what ISN'T considered under the definition of decorum include:
- Calling out "You lie" to the President of the United States while he is addressing the House of Representatives
- Interrupting an acceptance speech to let everyone know that you think someone else should have won
- Threatening to shove a tennis ball down a line judges throat when you don't agree with her call
It really makes no difference who said these things; this isn't about politics, popularity or even who is right or wrong in their opinion. It is rather about the civility and respect for the boundaries of polite behavior that is, shall we say, slowly and sadly disappearing from society.
These are glaring and very public examples of how an individual in a high profile position is unable to control his or her actions when it comes to "the conventions or requirements of polite behavior". On top of that, notice which articles are getting all the attention in the media, on the internet and in general conversation.
Please understand that there is no need for people to surrender their right to speak publicly. There is very much the need for people to voice their opinions for and against any given issue. It is, however, important to follow conventional guidelines with regards to communication in order to be heard, but more importantly to listen to the other person. Communication is not just talking, and it isn't accepting what the other person says either. It is a give and take sharing of ideas as well as clarification of the information that provides a good conversation.
Down To Basics
It's not just the public figures that have a problem as decorum doesn't exist in day to day life much anymore either. People don't follow decorum or customs, everything is up to what the individual thinks, believes or "feels" is right for them. People show up in court, in church and in business meetings in clothing that I wouldn't muck out my barn in let alone attend these types of situations. Their behavior isn't much better than you would expect to see at a night club, let alone a place of business, worship or public gathering.
There is no doubt that lack of decorum started long before the events mentioned above; it has been building over generations. However, there are some things that people, just regular people like us, can do to get this back on track.
We All Have Work To Do
The first starts with teaching our children about what the
"appropriate" and respectful way is to interact with others. That includes
how children talk to their parents, grandparents and family members and
friends. I see nothing wrong with children respecting a more senior person by
addressing them as "Sir" or "Ma'am", or even as Mr. or Mrs.
until they are told, by that person, to call them by their first name. Now that
isn't everything, just one small example of how simple this may be to get back
on track. Adults also have to practice what they preach and speak with civility about others, even if they have a different opinion, political affiliation or are different in some other aspect.
But above all that, parents and those in public roles have to model the right way to do things. It may not be the coolest, the most controversial or even the most attention getting, but it is the most civil and respectful way. Let's face it, when was the last time that any news story focused on how civil someone was or how they followed the rules of decorum? Shouting, yelling, name calling and even sensationalizing and twisting everything has become the more popular option, after all that is what it takes to get recognition and a video on YouTube.
For everyone's sake, decorum needs to come back into the world. Maybe not in the exact same old, traditional ways but certainly not in the current "let it all fly" way that seems to be the trend. Perhaps, with just a little effort, decorum can be resuscitated and civility and politeness to others restored, making this a more pleasant world in which to work, live and interact with others.