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Hats, Manners, and Laws

by Dear Jon
February 15, 2002

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Sort 117_Dear Jon-Hats, Manners, and Laws ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,
I have noticed that more and more people are starting to wear hats in public: in restaurants, in stores and even in worship services. Are these people cultural rebels or has this become acceptable behavior? If it has not, how or should I approach such rebels?
Culturally Correct

Dear Cult,

The question is not "has this become acceptable behavior?" The question is now, "Is any behavior unacceptable anymore?"

The low-brow person will shrug the question off. The high-brow person will get philosophical about culture and meaning. It is up to the middle brow person to draw the line in the sand and say, "Guess what. There are behaviors that make it more difficult for us to get along. We will call these behaviors "rude behaviors." We aspire to use as few rude behaviors as possible."

Somewhere between motorists talking on cell-phones when they drive, and concerned citizens thinking it is appropriate to pass a new law banning this, is a measure of appropriate behavior: Motorists should not divide their attention with cell-phones, so it should never become an issue, so laws should stay off the books.

The problem is that people are stupid, or clueless, or obnoxious, or all three. Before we can address stupid, clueless, obnoxious behaviors, we have to agree on a simple principle: That the citizens who want laws that ban cell phones while driving are just as stupid, clueless, and obnoxious, as the people who use cell phones while they drive. If we cannot agree to this simple principle, nothing is going to change.

Laws might dissuade some people from talking on their cell phones while they drive, but laws never make stupid people smart, clueless people wise, or obnoxious people gracious. Instead, laws invite loopholes. Does THIS really meet the definition of a "cell phone?"

The legal profession thrives in a land where people have forgotten their manners and are relying on legislation to define their limits.

You asked about hats. Men should remove their hats indoors. For women it is optional. If public schools really cared about manners, they would allow girls to wear their hats indoors if they wanted to. Boys need to remove them. The rule is different if you are in a cafe in a small town surrounded by farms. The farmers up on the stools don't have to take off their hats while they have coffee. They should take off their hats if they are meeting their wives for pie and are sitting in a booth. She can keep her hat on if she wants.

And men should open doors for women. And the person with free hands should offer assistance to the person whose hands are full. Profanity is only appropriate in locker rooms, same-sex golf pairs, and smoke-filled pool-halls. Profanity really is not appropriate at wharves or loading docks: save it for happy hour at the pool hall after work. And if anyone asks you not to use those words in their presence, stop.

Television is a cancer on popular culture. Limit viewing to ninety minutes a day, which is the news plus one drama or two situation comedies. The internet is not a viable instrument for socialization. Stop surfing when you have found what you need. Useless web-surfing is like sitting on a hill watching cars pass on the freeway. The freeway is their for you to drive, not to stare at. Besides, by doing that, you are taking up network space and slowing me down.

It is occasionally appropriate to burn the flag of the United States. Measures for the destruction of tattered or faded flags have been articulated. Spitting on any flag is obnoxious; while requiring an amendment to protect old flags from destruction is just plain clueless.

We live in a sick, stupid, clueless, obnoxious culture right now. The best way to cope is to be snidely, arrogantly, proudly, and defiantly middle brow. Disdain the stupid, clueless, and obnoxious, until they come to you seeking to learn from your taste and manners. Remember, just because we are snobs does not make us elitists. If we were elitists, we would be demanding that congress make our mannerly preferences into a whole new set of constitutional amendments.

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