ramblings

On Manners, Expectations and Love

Is there a relationship between manners, our expectations of others and love?

Weaving together three articles from several years ago, I think there may be. This post is really me trying to see if this works. So you may disagree and I’m open to discussion.

First of all let’s think briefly about manners: those actions we try to instil into our children to help them survive in polite society.

According to an article in New Scientist in September 2013, “Manners maketh man: how disgust shaped human evolution” by Valerie Curtis [paywall] …

We need to better understand manners for two reasons: first, because they are a principal weapon in the war on disease, and second, because manners underpin our ability to function as a cooperative species … [M]anners are so important that they should be up there with fire and the invention of language as a prime candidate for what makes us human.
The first, and most ancient, function of manners is to solve the problem of how to be social without getting sick.

Those who master manners are set to reap the many benefits that come from living in a highly cooperative ultra-society. Manners are therefore a sort of proto-morality, a set of behaviours that we make “second nature” early in life so that we can avoid disgusting others with our parasites and our antisocial behaviour.

It’s the “cooperative society” part which interests me here as this seems to mesh with the idea (Business Insider; 25 March 2013) that

What one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This was tested on teachers and children. Teachers were told (randomly) a child was a star or a dunce; the children didn’t know how they’d been allocated. A while later when the child’s subsequent achievement was independently tested the stars had done significantly better than the dunces.

Thus we have a situation which reflects what I always say:

If you treat people as you would like them to be, you give then the space and incentive to grow and develop. If you treat them as they are, then they stay as they are.

If you expect manners, you’ll (hopefully) get manners; if you expect no manners, you’ll get no manners. And like it or not, manners oil the wheels of society.

So where does love come into all this?

Reflect on this comment from Candice Chung in an article “Why Chinese parents don’t say I love you” from the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2016.

From a sociological perspective, studies have also found that the phrase ‘I love you’ tends to be used less in a high context culture [eg. Asia] where “expectations are high and well documented”. While in the West (low context society), relationships are often managed with ‘I love you reminders’ to reassure someone of their importance [whereas], in high context culture, “intensely personal and intimate declarations can seem out of place and overly forceful”.

What this is saying seems to be that the Asian way, covert love, is thought to be less intense than the Western, more overt, way. In fact it seems to me the opposite is true and that the Asian way puts far more pressure on families and relationships than we do in the West. There seem to be far greater expectations of family connection, responsibility, loyalty etc. amongst Asians than amongst Westerners, and that the Western way appears to me to be more balanced and permissive of personal freedom.

And that amounts to essentially a difference of manners and expectations between cultures, so it is no real wonder that the cultures work differently.

Ten Things

It’s just over 500 years since Sir Thomas More first described what he called Utopia in 1516. So this month’s Ten Things celebrates More’s fabled island nation.

Ten Essential Elements of My Utopia

  1. Always a perfectly sunny warm early summer weather
  2. No death or life-threatening illness; all illness cured by love
  3. A perfect ethical code that everyone follows, hence a world without greed, hunger, thirst, violence or war
  4. No rat race and no oppressive employment
  5. No fossil fuels and hence no polluting transport or power generation
  6. Magic carpets for transport
  7. Good, free education for all; higher education which everyone wants to attend for the sake of learning
  8. No religion or politics; no political parties
  9. A universal respect for Nature and the environment, hence a green and pleasant land
  10. Everyone is open-minded with a universal acceptance of nudity, sex & sexuality, freedom of speech.

Unfortunately we all know that Utopia is, by definition, unattainable, for if we ever got there there’d be another Utopia just beyond reach. The grass is always greener, and all that!

Bidet

Michele Hanson in yesterday’s Guardian bemoans the fact that “prudish Brits” don’t have a bidet in their bathroom, and most (especially the blokes) wouldn’t know what to do with one if they did.

I agree. We don’t have bidets. And most Brits wouldn’t be seen dead using one. Why not?

I’ll tell Hanson why not. Because most of us have pathetically small bathrooms that you struggle to get a bath, loo and handbasin in. That’s why.

When we had our bathroom rebuilt a few years ago we struggled for a long time with how best to use the tiny space. Out went the bath and in went a shower cubicle. The handbasin was moved and a towel rail installed. Loo and radiator stayed in position. This made a tiny extra amount of space, but not enough room for a bidet. Despite trying hard there just is no way, short of removing a wall, to accommodate a bidet. And there is still almost no room as the space is about half the size of the average box room – cats cannot be swung.

To the majority of Brits, a bidet is like Europe: it’s either for the poncey well-to-do or its foreign. And God forfend we have either of those! Thank you, we’ll remain insular and isolated in out tiny little island/bathroom space.

The solution? Maybe these all-singing-all-washing-all-drying Japanese-style toilets are the way to go, but at the moment they’re way, way too expensive.

But that raises the question of whether a quick wash and dry is more environmentally friendly than 8-10-12 sheets of bog paper. Interesting one that.

Taxing Meat

Could a tax on meat help us save the planet?

That’s the interesting question posed by Simon Fairlie in a Guardian article a few days ago.

It is, I think, now becoming widely accepted that fattening livestock for human consumption is a very inefficient use of feed and water – and thus environmentally unsound. One way to reduce consumption of meat would be to tax it, perhaps treating it as a luxury item.

As usual here’s the tl;dr summary of quotes from the article.

Feeding cereals and beans to animals is an inefficient and extravagant way to produce human food … there is a limited amount of grazing land … the world will be hard-pressed to supply a predicted population of 9 billion people with a diet as rich in meat as the industrialised world currently enjoys, and … it’s not a very healthy diet anyway. [Additionally] … livestock [generate] 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions.
… … …
Meat taxes have been proposed … the ideal solution might be not to tax meat itself, but to tax fossil fuels … meat production would decline as a consequence – partly because nitrogen fertilisers … for growing animal feed would become more expensive, and partly because there would be increased competition for grazing land.
… … …
Most proposals [for meat taxes] foresee different rates of tax applied to different animals … a pig fed on food waste and crop residues has a tiny fraction of the environmental impact of a pig fed on soya and grains.

If we were to have a meat tax, it would … be simpler to have a flat rate for all meat; and in the UK and the rest of the EU there is an oven-ready way of doing that … VAT … It is hard to think of a more seamless way of introducing consumers to the concept that meat … is a luxury item they will have to pay more for.
… … …
[Another] aspect of applying VAT to meat [is that] small livestock farms with an annual turnover of less than the £85,000 threshold could be exempt. They would benefit from an advantage of up to 20% over supermarkets for any meat they sell direct to consumers … [this] might help reverse the drastic decline in the number of small family farms, and give a boost to new entrants into farming. It would also provide a fillip to local economies, with farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture schemes, urban food co-ops, small farms in the green belt, conservation graziers … likely to benefit.

It’s an intriguing idea, but one which I don’t see happening. The consumer in the developed world is far too wedded to meat as a staple food to accept what will be seen as an arbitrary price hike for no gain. But then again why not scrap income tax and charge VAT (or equivalent) on everything?

The Ancestors’ Commandments

I came across these a few days ago in a family history society magazine. I’ve tidied them up a bit.

The Ancestors’ Commandments

  1. Thou shalt use the same forenames for at least one person for every generation, preferably at least once in every family, just to cause confusion.
  2. Thou shalt wait the maximum amount of time before registering births and deaths, or better still somehow forget to get them registered at all.
  3. Thou shalt have two forenames, and use them both separately on official documents, but never together.
  4. Thou shalt change your forename at least once during your lifetime.
  5. Thou shalt use every conceivable spelling for your surname, and make up a few others as well.
  6. Thou shalt never use the same year of birth or birth date and always vary it adding a couple of years here and taking away a couple of years there.
  7. Thou shalt use the house name and country as your place of birth and not the village or town.
  8. Thou shalt completely disappear without trace for at least 15 years of your life and suddenly turn up again.
  9. Thou shalt use at least two different versions of your father’s name.
  10. Thou shalt not use family members as witnesses at your wedding(s).
  11. Thou shalt get married somewhere where neither of you live.
  12. Thou shalt not have all of your children baptised and shalt not always use the same church.
  13. Thou shalt move between counties at least once every ten years.
  14. Thou shalt move hundreds of miles from your home at least once.

Brilliant, aren’t they. And so, so true. I think Noreen and I each have a full house in our family trees.

Sprunging

Suddenly it’s Spring. Everything in our garden is growing, and green, and flowering. From the bright shocking pink of our “Ballerina” crab apple tree to …

… our small pendant ornamental crab apple …

Apple Blossom

… the cherry tree …

Cherry Blossom

… and the tulips.

Tulips

Our edible apple tree is just beginning to break into flower, so it should be full out in the next couple of days, and the lilac won’t be very far behind.

And just to top it all, the sun is shining!

Money, Money, Money!

Noreen and I had a fun time this afternoon: we played at the King in his counting house.

We have a gallon whisky bottle into which we put our small change when we come in – basically the shrapnel that weighs down the pocket. The rule is if it is less than a £1 coin and it fits in the bottle, it goes in; basically that is everything except £1, £2 and old 50p coins.

We’ve been doing this for many years, and used to collect about half a bottle a year (usually around £150-£200) which we used as holiday spending money. But now that we’re not working there hasn’t been as much small change to go in the bottle, and we’ve been lazy, so it hasn’t been emptied for quite some years. The bottle has overflowed into a plastic jar, which has overflowed into a tin.

Today we decided to count our loot. In days of old sorting and counting the coins was a horrible job (one reason we kept putting it off!); it used to occupy us all afternoon. But I knew the job was looming so I acquired, for a few quid on eBay, a nifty little machine which sorts the coins (basically by size). It’s battery driven and a devilishly clever sorting mechanism based on two disks and sized slots.

The sorted coins are output into small tubes which are calibrated so you get the value of each full pot, whereupon it is relatively easy to bag the coins in amounts acceptable to the bank. Well almost – the calibrations aren’t exact so the bags still have to be weight-checked (and as a double check we counted a few random bags).

We counted and bagged an amazing total of exactly £500 – yes a monkey! – with a couple of bags of odds and sods left over. And in just a couple of hours the job’s a good ‘un. Doing the job entirely by hand would have taken the two of us at least all afternoon, and probably all evening as well.

If you think in terms of pennies and 5p coins, you need a lot to make up even £100. But do you know what makes the real difference? 20p coins. It’s hard to believe but over half the £500 total was in 20p coins. We’ve noticed over the years that you get about 50% more 20p coins than 10p or 5p coins, and of course they’re worth more. That soon ratchets up the extra value. So if you want to collect just one coin, then 20p is the one to pick.

All we have to do now is stagger the incredible weight to the bank and hope we’ve weighed everything correctly. Wish us luck!

And then we have to decide what to spend it on!

Most Important People

I came across the attached article from the Naples Daily News (Florida) at the beginning of the year.

I don’t know I 100% agree with the author – well it is American! – as I think he has tilted the balance too far from the current norm and I think there is a balance to be struck. However from what I see around me the best adjusted children are those where the family apparently adheres, more or less, to his tenets.

Here’s an image of the article, and in case you can’t read it easily I reproduce the text below.


Click the image for a larger view


Naples Daily News, Sunday 1 January 2017

Your kids should not be the most important in the family

John Rosemond, Family Psychologist

I recently asked a married couple who have three kids, none of whom are yet teens, “Who are the most important people in your family?”

Like all good moms and dads of this brave new millennium, they answered, “Our kids!”

“Why?” I then asked. “What is it about your kids that gives them that status?” And like all good moms and dads of this brave new millennium, they couldn’t answer the question other than to fumble with appeals to emotion.

So, I answered the question for them: “There is no reasonable thing that gives your children that status.”

I went on to point out that many if not most of the problems they’re having with their kids – typical stuff, these days – are the result of treating their children as if they, their marriage, and their family exist because of the kids when it is, in fact, the other way around. Their kids exist because of them and their marriage and thrive because they have created a stable family.

Furthermore, without them. their kids wouldn’t eat well, have the nice clothing they wear, live in the nice home in which they live, enjoy the great vacations they enjoy, and so on. Instead of lives that are relatively carefree (despite the drama to the contrary that they occasionally manufacture), their children would be living lives full of worry and want.

This issue is really the heart of the matter. People my age know it’s the heart of the matter because when we were kids it was clear to us that our parents were the most important people in our families. And that, right there, is why we respected our parents and that, right there, is why we looked up to adults in general. Yes, Virginia, once upon a time in the United States of America, children were second-class citizens, to their advantage.

It was also clear to us – I speak, of course, in general terms, albeit accurate – that our parents marriages were more important to them than their relationships with us. Therefore, we did not sleep in their beds or interrupt their conversations. The family meal, at home, was regarded as more important than after-school activities. Mom and Dad talked more – a lot more – with one another than they talked with you. For lack of pedestals, we emancipated earlier and much more successfully than have children since.

The most important person in an army is the general. The most important person in a corporation is the CEO. The most important person in a classroom is the teacher. And the most important person in a family are the parents.

The most important thing about children is the need to prepare them properly for responsible citizenship. The primary objective should not be raising a straight-A student who excels at three sports, earns a spot on the Olympic swim team, goes to an A-list university and becomes a prominent brain surgeon. The primary objective is to raise a child such that community and culture are strengthened.

“Our child is the most important person in our family” is the first step toward raising a child who feels entitled.

You don’t want that. Unbeknownst to your child he doesn’t need that. And neither does America.


Book of Gloria

I posted about this on Facebook earlier, but it’s so brilliant I have to say more here.

Earlier today on the intertubes I came across the Bible in Polari. Those who know Polari, or are old enough to remember Julian and Sandy from the radio show Round the Horne, will guess how much of a hoot it is. Here, for example, are the first five verses of Genesis …

1 In the beginning Gloria created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was nanti form, and void; and munge was upon the eke of the deep. And the Fairy of Gloria trolled upon the eke of the aquas.
3 And Gloria cackled, Let there be sparkle: and there was sparkle.
4 And Gloria vardad the sparkle, that it was bona: and Gloria medzered the sparkle from the munge.
5 And Gloria screeched the sparkle journo, and the munge she screeched nochy. And the bijou nochy and the morning were the first journo.

And here, the Immaculate Conception from Luke 1:26-35 …

26 And in the seyth month the fairy Gabriel was laued from Gloria unto a smoke of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a nanti charver espoused to a homie whose name was Josephine, of the lattie of Davina; and the nanti charver‘s name was Mary.
28 And the fairy trolled in unto her, and cackled, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Duchess is with thee: fabed art thou among palones.
29 And when she vardad her, she was troubled at her cackling, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the fairy cackled unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with Gloria.
31 And, varda, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and parker forth a homie chavvie, and shalt screech her name Josie.
32 She shall be dowry, and shall be screeched the homie chavvie of the Highest: and the Duchess Gloria shall parker unto her the throne of her Auntie Davina:
33 And she shall reign over the lattie of Jacob for ever; and of her kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then cackled Mary unto the fairy, How shall this be, vardaing I know not a homie?
35 And the fairy answered and cackled unto her, The Fantabulosa Fairy shall troll upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that fabulosa fakement which shall be born of thee shall be screeched the homie chavvie of Gloria.

Brilliant isn’t it?!

Incidentally it’s worth downloading the PDF version, even though it is big, as it contains some wonderfully captioned “old style” images (“Gethsemane had always been a notorious cruising ground”) and a huge dictionary of Polari.

What I find interesting is how much Polari has passed into modern parlance (possibly as some was stolen from existing dialect like Cockney and entered the modern English from there). Just in writing this I’ve noticed acdc, troll, barney, butch, drag … the list goes on!

This is what I find so entrancing about language: not just the fun but the interplay between language, dialect, argot and idiolect. And I love it when something in one form is translated into another, but remains amusingly intelligible to speakers of the original – as here and as with the Pidgin of Papua New Guinea for Prince Charles: nambawan pikinini bilong Mises Kwin.

Just excellent!