The display of common courtesies has become quite uncommon these days. We wade through our lives oscillating between the obvious and the oblivious. Most of the things that we practice or want to practice have little to do with beliefs and values but rather form a circumference around success and achievement. The want to work and work alone as the primal force that guides all our interactions and associations is the sad state of affairs existing today. With professional behaviourism closely observed and addressed, the good old courtesies have become an act of second grade, almost without value.
The art of displaying a courtesy rests in its spontaneity and the intention that governs it. Throughout history, we have been subjected to the warmth of the common courtesy -reading and mulling over the gentlemanly or ladylike behaviours. To see all that much wither away into insignificance perhaps is a loss whose depth we have still to understand. In a class in sociology, when we talked about cultures and how they vary across societies, a student offered a blatant observation – “Lucknow mein toh gaali bhi aap laga kar di jaati hai”. In that innocuous looking statement lies the bereavement that I am talking about and that we should all be concerned with.
Zen Buddhism, among other teaching philosophies motivates an individual to separate the act (of derision or contempt) from the actor himself/herself. It is essential to create this dichotomy because this separation between the act and the actor is crucial to stand in the actor’s shoes and see the world through his/her eyes. More often today, we have illegitimately assigned a parasitic relationship between the act and the actor, often misconstruing them as one. And in doing so, we forget to separate ourselves as well into a role and a person. A role, in sociology is a set of behaviours, tasks that one is expected to perform in relation to the status that an individual holds in the society. In the postmodern society, we are constantly being exposed to normative behaviours that tell us that an individual is nothing more than the roles that he/she is playing. So, in sickness or in health, one is expected to perform those roles but also perform them in a manner that set quite the standard within that social dimension.
Perhaps we are too fast and forward thinking to think back. And, perhaps the movement of the society is guided by alternative thoughts to the a priori. Most of the things that I am known to speak about are those things which can be called a priori. It has become more of a living condition. But, I do stand by common courtesies knowing well that the death of a society is guided as much by absence of roles as by immersion in roles. After everything has been said and done, welcoming a neighbour who has just moved in next door or enquiring an employee’s health before letting them know of the inconvenience their sick leave has caused still are moral science stories that are waiting to happen.
In these times, I hope we choose common courtesies over flagged associations. If at all we survive to live post-Armageddon, we would all want a nicer society.