Friday, February 27, 2009

Manners Maketh Man....And Mashine

Perhaps I am a little old fashioned, but one of the most attractive person is their manners. It's not that I'm starting to think like my mother in old age but I've found that one is always more likely to accept a person with decent manners than one who does not. 

When one has manners, one is more inclined to be forgiven when one ers. Everytime I go back to Germany, my mother constantly reminds me about the "Beautiful Manners," of my good friends, Corvin and Vincent Roman. Both the Roman brothers were very concious of the small things in life that make one look as if they were well brought up - things like:

1 - Standing Up and Shaking Hands whenever someone entered a room

2 - Making it a point to say goodbye to my mother whenever she was town and there was a function at my place.

3 - Offering to cover their cost of the meal whenever my mother took us out. 

I did get upto allot of mischief with the Roman boys - including a few drunken nights. However, their manners were such that it's left a positive impression on my mother, nearly 10-years on. 

Say what you like about the British Public School system but it does place allot of emphasis on manners and decorum. Yes, it's elietist when only those who can pay fees get an education. However, the system produces an elite that actually gives the impression of being elite - it is an elite that does not need to go onto the internet to talk about it's "Uncaring ELITE Face," to show that is elite nor does it need to talk about "Fixing" people in public to show it is strong. 

One of the ironies in the UK remains the fact that its most tradition bound institutions are its biggest guardians of democracy and civil liberties. Until Blair tried to "reform" the House of Lords, it was an unelected chamber that protected civil liberties in the UK from a sometimes unweldy elected House of Commons by standing up against torture and protecting due process of the law - ie a bunch of heriditary peers (concept of I'm born better), were at times better at protecting the rights of the people than the elected MPs. 

Well brought-up people are appealing because, strangely they can be human. Uncle Andy who was an army officer, remembers how an instructor he disagreed with came up to him and told him, "As your supperior, I am right, but as a man you are right," and shook his hand by way of appology. Respect is not something my Uncle,( who I know reads this )  my Uncle gives easily but that officer got it from him. That happened to him because he trained in Derra Dunn Military Academy in India - where they still train like how the British did back in the days when the British still had an empire. 

A well mannered elite that can communicate respectfuly with other levels of society is a real elite. You don't need to be told or bribed into aknowledging them as an elite when they behave like how one would expect supperior people to behave. 

Americans by reputation often appear crass to the British Public. Perhaps it's snootiness on my part but one tends to think of Americans as being loud and crass while the their British cousins are always percieved as being gracious. 

To be fair to Americans, they are a kind people. I remember strangers coming to help me find my way when I was lost in San Francisco. You don't get that anywhere else in the world. 

More interestingly, Americans have come up with polite mashines. After six months of not using my Citibank account, I'm fixated by ATMs that sound human - I mean I can't think of any other bank, definately not the local ones, where an ATM tells you that it was a pleasure to serve you.

Once again, Public School upbringing makes me cringe when shop keepers insist on telling you to have a "Nice Day." Come on, do you really mean it or hey, it's an invasion of privacy - what happens if I want to be miserable? Then again, when you leave the States where all shop keepers are trained to greet you nicely and step into shops where shop assistants treat you like an inconvenience, you miss it.

Well, that feeling is now taken to ATMs. Why the heck didn't I move money into my Citi account earlier. I'd deal with ATMs which are more polite and knowledgeable about what its doing than the human staff of other banks. The ATMs at Citi are desgined (supported by Indian IT) to make life for you, the customer convenient - they don't talk to you like you are obliged to bank with them.

Manners obviously makes men. Now, I realise that even mashines with the ability to be polite make the world of difference when you deal with them. 

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