Why Etiquette Matters

Why Etiquette Matters is performance art project exploring the idea that good manners can lead to a more civilized society and eventually world peace. It was born out of riding the commuter train into Chicago each week. During my commute I was surprised and disturbed by cell phone usage on the train. There seemed to be a complete disregard by many cell phone users for those fellow commuters who were quietly working and reading. I began noticing the way people treat each other in other places. I’ve noticed shoppers at the grocery store, cutting lines and chatting on cell phones while being checked out. I’ve been around people cracking gum, letting their underwear or worse show. I’ve been exposed to people using foul language in public. I’ve watched people not pick up after their dogs. These behaviors make the rest of us feel angry, uncomfortable and often powerless to do anything but put up with these behaviors.

At the same time, I began reading Emily Post by Laura Claridge along with Mrs. Post’s Etiquette. I was prompted to read it because I have used her Etiquette book as a bible over the years, referring to it to settle differences between my husband and I starting with the planning of our wedding. I discovered that good etiquette is not just for the well-to-do or just about setting the table properly but about making those around us feel comfortable. Good manners are practiced by all socioeconomic groups. Good Etiquette is about recognition and acceptance of our differences. It’s about common courtesy and human decency. As I stated earlier, I feel that there are serious breaches of etiquette going on daily, which I think are contributing to the breakdown of society. This idea made me think that if people in the United States can’t treat fellow Americans with respect and courtesy, how can we as a country, treat other countries with respect and courtesy? And furthermore, could this be a worldwide problem?

What I gathered from the biography, is that Mrs. Post felt that as society goes through many socio-political changes, wars, economic downturns, economic upturns, changing morals and values, and I’ll throw technological advances into the pot, the only thing that keeps us civilized is polite behavior. With common respect and decency we can move through all these changes in harmony.

Several pieces were created in conduction with this project. I published an article in the Doings Hinsdale, wrote a blog at Just a Gentle Reminder, a video – Cell Phone Etiquette as well as printable etiquette cards.

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