September 3, 2006

Etiquette and Morality

Posted in church, culture, politics, psychology, religion at 3:45 am by Jerry

If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer?

– Steven Wright

Major faux pas about to happen here. I’m gonna analyze comedy. I know, I know, it’s just not done. It’s bad etiquette. But that’s exactly what I want to talk about — ETIQUETTE. Especially when breaking etiquette is considered more reprehensible than immoral behaviour.

What is so great about etiquette? Could it be considered another form of morality? Or is there a difference between the two? Sometimes it seems the line between morality and etiquette has blurred. And that’s fine if morality becomes etiquette. But when etiquette becomes morality, to me, this is a big mistake.

There is only one kind of morality, but there are many kinds of etiquette. Practices of etiquette are not universal where as practices of morality are. What can be etiquette for one culture is foolishness or offensive to another. Morality is never foolish, but it can be offensive. For instance, challenging the morality of someone’s actions. I’ve seen people get upset because they thought the challenge was more reprehensible than the immoral behaviour in question.

Etiquette reveals itself when people consider what clothes you should wear, what kind of music you should play, or how you should conduct yourself at a meal. And language is a big one. No matter what you say (or write), there’s always a proper and/or improper tone you’ve taken. Even words themselves can be considered bad etiquette. The burning question in my mind is — You may find all of these matters of concern in your nearest religious sanctuary, but are any of these matters a moral issue?

Where does etiquette come from? I happen to think it’s a matter of personal preferences that became tradition. Etiquette reveals the personality of people in their homes and the personality of past leaders venerated in our society. A standard of etiquette, yours or mine, reveals what we’re attached to and what we personally feel to be repelling. And we want others to respect our personal feelings about these things. So much so, we may make it a moral issue (Fundamentalists take the next step by claiming it as God’s will. Then it’s only a matter of time before their followers record it and canonize it).

And this is when etiquette merely feeds on morality’s reputation rather than its substance.


1 Comment »

  1. becky said,

    Hey honey, I meant to tell you, in my Communication book for Engineers, in the Ethics section, there is a link of ethics to etiqutte. Remind me to show you this sometime!

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