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The difference between manners and civility

One of the promises the new Prime Minister made during the election campaign was to create or recreate a more civil parliament and, for that matter, a more tolerant and reasoned society. Most would all agree that we want our politicians to put their better minds to the problems confronting us. We want the screaming and disrespect to end.

This can only come about if we show each other consideration. Respect is an admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities and achievements. Some say that we earn it by way of our behaviour toward others. I think we would all agree with that.

To quote Roy Jenkins (from 2003):

“Civilised conduct, mainly: courtesy or politeness, lamented the decline of civility in our politics. It lacked a polite act or expression of the little formalities of political society.”

However, other words come into play if Anthony Albanese is to achieve a more civil parliament.

Manners are associated with a person’s outward bearing. Manners are often described as either good or bad to indicate to others whether or not their behaviour is acceptable.

In sociology, manners can indicate a display of social status and a means of differentiation between classes. This is less so in Australia, where class matters less.

Manners are integral to the function of the social norms and conventions enforced through personal practice and upbringing and are self-regulated in public and private life. They also apply equally to both men and women.

Other words such as etiquette, politeness, charm, values and demeanour also come into play.

All these niceties, of course, don’t only apply to politics. I believe erratic behaviour in sports comes about because of a lack of respect for the games they play by the players.

Respect for the sport you play and provides you with a living is the first criteria for being a success at it. The best are usually hard-working, humble, show respect for their opponent, and are gracious when they lose. However, some seem to think the sport they play owes them something.

The same can be said of politics, where politicians generally enjoy privileges that far outweigh other areas of society. In our politics, Question Time is often seen as the showcase of our parliament. It is here that Albanese wants to start his crusade against bad behaviour.

No one could seriously challenge the thought that it has descended into a bear pit of savagery.

Some think they can win a debate by being loud and crass. Others believe they can win with a perceived superior intellect. Few realise how necessary civility is to produce reasoned outcomes.

A debate is not necessarily about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, views, ideas and principles. At its best, it is simply the art of persuasion.

The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a hate forum. A sideshow where respect for the other’s view is seen as a weakness. Where light frivolity and wit have been replaced with smut and sarcasm. And in so doing, they have debased the parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals.

There is no doubt in my mind that at the beginning of Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership, we entered an American period of our politics. A term I use to describe the Trump form of lying, bad manners and vile politics that became the norm in the US. It had a rotten smell that has hung around for a decade.

Those on the right fostered these behaviours until they became legitimate tools in the armoury of political tactics. And so, over the decade, the Australian politic fell into disrepair.

We abused free speech when what it required was respect. In a democracy, the right to free speech is given by the people through the parliament. Therefore, it should be incumbent on people to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view. Nobody has ownership of righteousness.

In the American period, all that mattered was that you created a picture of a man or woman you wouldn’t trust. If you dragged others in, so much the better.

With that said, how will the Prime Minister create more respect than disrespect at Question Time? From what I understand, the manager of the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, doesn’t plan many changes to the standing orders. Much to the chagrin of many, Dorothy Dixers will still be allowed. Burke reckons they fill a function of informing the parliament about government progress. Some questions usually allocated to the opposition will now go to the teal members. Dutton is said to be unhappy with this arrangement.

Without any formal statement, it is challenging to predict opposition behaviour, and given Dutton’s foul-mouthed past, one cannot imagine any change. Although now that parliamentary behaviour is front and centre, I would expect Peter Dutton to make some sort of effort or carry the consequences.

My thought for the day

Do you show respect to those trying to mould you into fine young men and women who will relish what confronts you in the future?

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  1. Kathryn

    Considering that the appalling Peter Dutton bragged that, in his view, his job was to “destroy the Opposition”, it is no surprise that so many people are terrified that this frothing-at-the-mouth, vindictive political psychopath may become our next PM! Dutton is a sadistic, callously inhumane sociopath who’s callous disregard for the lives of desperate asylum seekers (seeking refuge from the wars that the LNP helped to create) and malevolent mistreatment of the Tamil family from Biloela who, together with their two little girls, were locked up (for three long years) in one of the LNP’s off-shore concentration camps on Christmas Island! Dutton crows about being a “family” man with self-promoting, politically-motivated photos showing him cuddling his children but when it comes to the children of asylum seekers, this heartless, thoroughly malevolent creature doesn’t hesitate to lock them up in an off-shore detention centre mercilessly supervised by his “attack dogs” in Serco and dragged off to school in a police van (see link to article below)!

    There is nothing good one can find to say about the sadistic psychopath, Peter Dutton! He is an appalling, totally vindictive ex-Queensland backwater cop who, as a bullying thug in the police force, is reported to have taken perverted pleasure in mistreating vulnerable little aboriginal children by forcing them to take off their shoes, driving them for miles away from their home, dumping them on the street and making them walk back! Dutton was so unpopular and so disliked by his police colleagues that it was rumoured that when he resigned, they left a can of dog food on his table as a parting gift! What a despicable creature this weak excuse for a human being is – the fact that he was so despised by his own colleagues says SO MUCH about Dutton’s total lack of character: NONE of it good!

    There can be no doubt that the LNP has proven themselves to be a callous, totally inept, corrupt and inhumane political party overflowing with cruel, smirking sociopaths, totally corrupt and self-serving miscreants and skirt-lifting misogynists. The LNP can be compared to an open sewer where the worst, most appalling and polluted matter keeps floating to the top! The four most obnoxious, totally corrupt, racist, misogynistic, war mongering deviants in living memory all quickly rose through the ranks of the LNP to become the worst political psychopaths in our history: John Howard, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and now, worst of them all, this mediocre, inhumane, non-achieving sociopath: Peter Dutton!

    God help us all if this monstrous aberration becomes PM! This is a man who has a long, notorious history of brutal inhumanity, misogyny, blatant homophobia and xenophobic racism. This is a truly nasty, born-to-rule, vicious and vengeful creature who will stoop to ANY level in his quest to make the lives of anyone he sees as inferior – which is just about 99% of the population – an abject misery!

    We must NEVER EVER allow Dutton to rise, like a demon from hell, to become PM! Dutton is an uncompromising fascist, a sadistic autocrat who poses a REAL and sinister danger to EVERYTHING Australians value – including our democracy and Australia’s international reputation as a nation that is fair, egalitarian and compassionate – three virtues that are TOTALLY ALIEN to someone as malignant, brutal and stratospherically arrogant as the notorious and thoroughly depraved Peter Dutton.

  2. wam

    A lovely old man stroked me on the head and sadly said ‘they are such a good boy in latin why are they not in french? The class was terrible to him and he was in Daws road by easter.
    Your words today reminded me of him because his favourite saying was ‘manners maketh man’.
    66 years later, I can still see the fear in his eyes as he turned and crossed the street to avoid the only boy who had respect for him both as a teacher and a man of manners.
    This site
    will show you where women fit in the British society where ‘manners make men’ and where your ‘mould’ is no longer respected. Roe and wade show us where women stand in america. The experiences of Grace and Britanny for us.
    When they have read the comments on this site would you expect the like of dutton, cash, hughes and joyce to have any respect for people like us?

  3. margcal

    We need to revisit what it “should” mean to be a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
    I doubt it includes tearing the party in government to shreds and blocking legislation as a matter of routine practice.

  4. Henry Rodrigues

    Its time Dreyfus cleaned up the AAT. Starting with Sophie Mirabella and then all the ex-coalition appointments. None of these have the requisite qualifications except one, they are all looking for a safe, well paid sinecure, with no accountability. Nothing so corrupt as an ex-coalition pollie.

  5. Kathryn

    WAM, there can be no doubt that the malevolent, misogynistic political psychopaths and hard-lined racists in the LNP or One Nation have neither the intestinal fortitude, courage nor intelligence to read ANYTHING outside of the despicable right-wing propaganda pushed out in the discredited Murdoch rags.

  6. Canguro

    wam @ June 29, 2022, speaking of synchronicity ( I know we weren’t but still…), your comment that your teacher was wont to say that ‘manners maketh man” rang a bell, inasmuch as my old man, my abuser…. ah, such irony.. would also say the same, along with such nonsensible utterances to a young child as ‘speak through your teeth’ and ‘hell’s bells’, and ‘damn your eyes,’ all delivered with a certain kind of malevolence that just scared the bejesus out of that small child who’d more than once or twice been subjected to a kind of inquisition patterned on a Japanese military process inflicted upon an inmate prior to his execution. Madness, of course, and of the sort that is such an unfortunate consequence of being caught up in phenomena being one’s capacity to comprehend and that actualises in death, disease and despair maximised and evidenced in a uber-fashion every waking moment. And then, consequentially and as a function of unconsciousness and incapacity to empathise as to the potential results of such expression, passed on to the next generation, all under the illusion of ‘good & responsible parenting.’ (which understandably I now call bullshit upon).

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