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Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen Paperback – November 12, 2007
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Samuel Johnson once wrote something like this: "One says to a friend I am sorry you got wet (that is, caught in the rain). Actually, one does not really care if he got wet." Johnson then went on to explain why the expression of regret was polite and proper and necessary for people to get along although not necessarily truly felt. Johnson did not think such sentiments were totally dishonest. Although you were not sorry that he got wet, you feel that you must express sorrow. The need to express sorrow brings about the feeling, that, yes, I am sorry for my friend. The author does not discuss Johnson but she gets into the difference between what is said and what is really felt.
Civility became an issue in the western world when deference died. For most of history and still today in most places, deference is a way of life. There is deference to governments and to rulers, to religious authorities, to parents, to one's social superiors. At one time, in the west, when the system of authority was considered legitimate and proper and the ruled and rulers shared a common ideology, deference was not an issue. It was not resented as a concept, although individual rulers might be resented. There might be rebellions but the rebellion was to displace the ruler and rule in his place.Read more ›