Posts Tagged With: Ptahhotep

Manners and Self Respect


‬Last summer an interaction between of a group of middle-school boys and their school bus monitor,‭ ‬a‭ ‬68‭ ‬year old widow made the news.  She‭ ‬may have been a working elder,‭ ‬perhaps trying to make her way through the now elusive golden years in arguably the worst-ever decade of America‭ ‬History.  Sadder,‭ ‬she may have volunteered for the job to just keep‭ ‬other people’s children‭ ‬safe.  Instead she was subjected to a vicious verbal assault by a group of pre-teen boys.  
It is heartwarming that the public came to her aid and admirable that the thoughtless youngsters actually made their‭ ‬sincere‭ ‬apologies.  I give kudos to the boys for manning up and rectifying such a heartbreaking moment in their young lives.
I will call the boys‭’ ‬behavior‭ “‬Mob Mind‭”‬.  It is something I experienced twice in my young years of the early‭ ‬1960s.  I’m first to admit that the good old days theory is a nice idea, however,‭ ‬they aren’t all that they were cracked up to be.‭
Mob Mind is a crazed condition,‭ ‬and happens most often at sporting events.‭ ‬ It might be related to delayed development of the frontal lobe in young people.  Current research indicates people may be lucky to make it to their‭ ‬26th year when actual judiciousness finally sets in.  
I believe‭ ‬has a lot to do with not having‭ ‬ “manners‭”‬,‭ ‬a word used for respecting and caring for fellow beings,‭ ‬and it needs done long before a child enters school.

1‭)‬  All children need tools in order to successfully navigate their lives.  A household agenda of civility and manners‭; ‬respect and caring needs to be instilled by the time they are walking.   This would be those‭ “‬yes please,‭ ‬thank you,‭ ‬pardon me,‭ ‬may I‭” ‬phrases with which children are received with approval from the rest of the world.  Pre-school children are known for being amiable and cooperative,‭ ‬and professional mimics‭! ‬ They are fixated on mirroring what they see and hear.  Parents,‭ ‬please do walk the walk‭; ‬ and‭ ‬talk the talk.    What your child sees,‭ ‬our world‭ ‬gets.
2‭)‬  Encourage the older child to‭ ‬develop and‭ ‬respect an inner sense of responsibility.  Teach them as they move into elementary school that they need to rely on their sense of respect,‭ ‬of honor,‭ “‬as Our Family always does.‭”‬  Let them take pride in moving positively through their world.  Teach them it is their responsibility to sound the alarm,‭ ‬their duty to alert the school,‭ ‬church,‭ ‬or call‭ ‬911‭ ‬when they see certain acts,‭ ‬like bullying,‭ ‬and physical or sexual violence. 

I find it amusing that although I was reared in a welfare family,‭ ‬my brother and I learned all the above as toddlers.  And by the time we were ready for kindergarten we knew to stand up when a lady enters the room‭; ‬if you are a gentlemen you remove hat on entering a room‭; ‬you give‭ ‬up your chair as a seat for a lady or an elder‭; ‬the gentleman opens the car door for the lady,‭ ‬and seats her in the restaurant,‭ ‬etcetera,‭ ‬etcetera,‭ ‬etcetera‭…‬..‭ ‬   

Mother took things a little further,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬and taught us how to curtsy and bow.  I assume she fancied us being presented to royalty one day.
She may not have been able to provide a lot of real necessities as we grew up,‭ ‬but she was able to give us the most priceless tools for navigating society and the workforce:  how to comfortably give respect,‭ ‬and employ some very Victorian manners‭!‬  Well,‭ ‬it worked for us both,‭ ‬and I have passed along most of what she taught to my own children‭ (‬sans‭ ‬bow and‭ ‬curtsy‭) ‬and‭ ‬to my grandchildren.
All my life I wondered about‭ ‬the ways man civilized himself.  I‭ ‬once hoped to get a degree in archaeology after‭ ‬taking Physical and Cultural Anthropology.  I‭ ‬envisioned myself landing a job in the Olduvai Gorge with Doctors Louis and Mary Leaky,‭ ‬sifting sand in my khaki shorts and pith helmet‭; ‬finding shards of bones,‭ ‬brushing dirt from ancient footprints. ‭
Cultural Anthropology particularly fascinated me.‭ ‬How did they civilize themselves‭?‬  There‭ ‬must have been lots of death.
I envision the cave man coming out of his cave early in the morning to go hunting with his club or‭ ‬his‭ ‬rocks.  He has a mate,‭ ‬and‭ ‬maybe a couple of children still sleeping in their cave,‭ ‬trusting Papa will not be an idiot and get himself killed by annoying‭ ‬other hunters.  

I am certain that on meeting another human,‭ ‬Papa adopted a submissive,‭ ‬or at minimum a respectful posture,‭ ‬hoping to establish some mutually beneficial relationship based on marrying off his female offspring,‭ ‬trading,‭ ‬or just staying alive. 
Inspired by that thought,‭ ‬I searched online for the‭ “‬origins of etiquette‭” ‬and found Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette.  I learned that Miss Emily’s Great-Grandson,‭ ‬Peter Post has written‭ ‬5‭ ‬books on etiquette,‭ ‬so obviously much of the world still acknowledges this social requirement. 
I searched further and found some support for my caveman theory:
1‭) ‬2,600‭ ‬years ago the first‭ “‬book of etiquette‭” ‬was written by Ptahhotep,‭ ‬who was a city administrator under Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi.
2‭) ‬3,300‭ ‬years ago mankind’s first written form of communication,‭ ‬Cuneiform,‭ ‬was developed,‭ ‬probably in Persia and it represents the origin of all written languages.
3‭) ‬5,000‭ ‬years ago,‭ ‬in Mesopotamia,‭ ‬records of stores of grain and other agricultural products were kept by using forms of clay tokens or coins.
It took my‭ ‬imaginary‭ ‬caveman a very long time to get from‭ ‬just trying to feed his family without getting killed,‭ ‬to honing the social posturing‭ ‬that would keep him alive,‭ ‬and eons later keep him out of prisons.

I think it is time to go back to respectful interactions between people,‭ ‬not the short hand,‭ ‬short changing quick hits of‭ “‬social‭” ‬interactions.‭

And,‭ ‬it is especially important to our youngest ones,‭ ‬who hold our future in their hands.‭ ‬We adults are either somewhere on track,‭ ‬or nearing the end of the track of our own lives.‭

Our youngest ones desperately need the tools to do as we have done and are doing and to undo the worst of what we have done.

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