Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Politics of Politeness

Politeness means the atmosphere and ritual of the city, the symbol of human civilisation...Politeness is not really even a thing merely suave and deprecating. Politeness is an armed guard, stern and splendid and vigilant, watching over all the ways of men; in other words, politeness is a policeman. (G.K. Chesterton)

Yet another member of PPC who was not aware, even by the simple courtesy of a cc. , that Deputy Juliette Gallichan had written on behalf of the Committee. Montfort, on Facebook, says:

Monty Tadier: Many of you will be aware that I am a member of PPC (Privileges and Procedures Committee), but this letter is news to me. Like Senator Le Marquand, I have never seen this letter either (I find it hard to believe that the Home Affairs Minister would not be aware of such a letter - but hey, in Jersey stranger things do happen). It is strange that the first sight of a letter addressed to PPC (and to me) should only come to my attention a few weeks later via the blogsite of Citizen's Journalist.

Now as I've said, it may well be well within the prerogative of the Chairman of PPC to write on behalf of the Committee without consulting them. I don't know the protocols under which the Committee operates. But I do consider it exceedingly impolite to do so, and to not inform other members of the Committee that she had done so.

Senator Syvret, as is well known, thinks that politeness is something which can and should be discarded in a greater cause, but it is obvious that even among other States members that standards of courtesy are slipping as well. Such standards, such as copying in other members of a Committee, are important, I believe, because without them there will be a fertile soil for all kinds of conspiracy theories, and this in turn will lead to mess and muddle. There have been complaints about States debates being taken up by trivia. By not showing mindfullness, and consideration for other Committee members, in my opinion, Deputy Gallichan has simply added to the trivia, because now the mess and muddle needs clarification.

Of course it might well be that other Committee members might have regarded such unilateral action as high-handed, and would have disagreed with her arguments, but if she thought that she might avoid having to seek consensus, it is plain that was misguided.

Lastly, politeness, consideration do have one more important place in the States. If you - as a member of the public - need to go to a States member for advice or help, would you go to one who has shown consideration for others, or one who did not? Someone who was mindful that they need to consider other people, or someone who simply goes off on their own bat? Would you go to a politician who was inattentive to others, or one who was attentive? If I had a New Year's wish, it would be to see a little less presumption, a little more humility in politicians today, who never seem able to admit they make mistakes, as if that was somehow a sign of weakness.

I'd like to finish with a quotation from Ghandi which sums up the positive aspects of politeness, and why it is so important, not just as some kind of act, a hypocrite wearing a mask, feigned politeness - but true politeness, which comes from within, becomes part of the character of the whole person.

Civility, good manners and humility-these virtues are at such discount these days that they seem to have no place at all in the building of our character... It may be safely asserted that a person deficient in good manners lacks discrimination and that, lacking discrimination, he lacks every thing else. Vishvamitra's tapascharya was considered incomplete till he had learnt civility.
Civility and humility are expressions of the spirit of nonviolence while incivility and insolence indicate the spirit of violence. A non-co-operator, therefore, ought never to be uncivil. However, the most persistent charge levelled against non-co-operators is that they lack manners and are insolent, and the charge has much substance in it. We are apt to believe that in becoming non-co- operators we have done something very great, as if a person who had done no more than pay his debt had thereby become entitled to get an address.

I trust no one will understand politeness to mean flattery. Nor does it mean hiding our regard for our dharma. To be polite means to show respect towards others while clinging to our own dharma

Where there is egotism, we shall find incivility and arrogance. Where it is absent, we shall find a sense of self-respect together with civility. The egotist thinks too much of his body. The man of self-respect recognizes the atman, is ever thinking about it and, in order to realize it, is always ready to sacrifice his body. He who holds his self-respect dear acts towards everyone in a spirit of friendship, for he values others' self-respect as much as he values his own. He sees himself in all and everyone else in himself, puts himself in line with others. The egotist keeps aloof from others and, believing himself superior to the rest of the world, he takes upon himself to judge everyone and in the result enables the world to have the measure of his smallness.

Hence, the non-violent non-co-operator should regard civility as a distinct virtue and try to cultivate it. The importance attached to it provides the measure of an individual's or a nation's culture. A non-co-operator should realize very clearly that incivility is another name for brutishness and eschew it completely. (Ghandi)



Anonymous said...

'If I had a New Year's wish, it would be to see a little less presumption, a little more humility in politicians today, who never seem able to admit they make mistakes, as if that was somehow a sign of weakness.'

I could not agree more.

voiceforchildren said...


This further demonstrates the importance of Citizens Media.

Deputy Tadier (member of PPC) knew nothing about this letter 'til he read it on VFC. As I believe is the case with ALL PPC members and others.