IN TT, to “manners” someone, in the modern vernacular, is to let them know that they are wrong, to reprimand or discipline them for an incursion, a trespass, a tort, a crime, a shoddiness; a wicked or scampish, or impious, or ignoble, or insupportable thing that they have done. A general failure to “manners” our own, in our institutions, large and small, has led to national disarray and fragmentation.
What moral authority do we have to call out the neighbour for those mosquito-laden tyres in his backyard, the overgrown grass, the bottles and tins strewn about, the oil from his engine down his drain, his pothound dog mewling and puking all day long, half-starved, held down by a chain; when our own backyard is filled with discarded butt ends and cigarette packs, mossed over and snake-infested, our garage fuming with spray paint and sandblasting?
What moral authority do we have when we pamper and spoil our children – children who, after becoming sweet and soft pap, weak and petulant and insipid, will not only dig out our own eyes, but their own – to reprimand the teacher, the police, the justice of the bench, tell them how to do their work?
What moral authority do we have to chide, arrest, lock up, break down doors, in search of criminals, when there are criminals living in your own dorm, your unit, working at the same desk, driving the same squad car as you do?
What moral authority do we have to chastise the employer, the proverbial one per cent, the scheming, sadistic or fork-tongued boss, when right there, under your charge, on the union floor, you have freeloaders, procrastinators, malingerers, making eight hours into four, full of fulmination, but short on production?
What moral authority do you have to tax property, cry for fiscal discipline, when your own PM, cabinet, government spends money on wasteful or questionable projects, of second or third priority, and are so tardy in paying for goods and services, VAT returns, salary increments and income tax rebates?
What moral authority do you have to call yourself a guardian of democracy, the fourth estate, an agent of freedom, when you are silent on the crimes of the imperialist status quo, hide a de facto CIA agent in your dark room, ignore the brutal incarcerations against Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, the greatest advocates of truthful information and journalistic freedom, versus secrecy, mass surveillance, illegal and unjust war, terroristic violence and state criminality in the internet age?
What moral authority do you have to criticise and condemn, in the most excoriating terms, fulminating and mouth-frothing, scurrilous and wicked, bordering on the racist, the leader of the current government, when you failed to “manners” your own party leadership, even now, when they were in leadership committing the most savage acts against the public purse, against local leaders in communities, and their followers, trying to squash them like bugs, beetles, bacterial matter.
If we fail to manners those who do wrong, those standing next to us, those in our own offices, those in our own households and families, those in our own neighbourhoods, political parties, unions, cliques, professional circles, what authority do we have to manners those who are not “with” us, “of” us? Those who are not “mannersed” will themselves, when the opportunity arises, never rule well, will never make anything of their own authority. Our general failure on this score has led to a nation lacking sturdiness, girth, discipline, moral authority.
Raise the jack spaniard nest in your own home and backyard first. “Manners” those next to you, in your party, cabinet, union, business or government department, NGO, pressroom, church, Parliament, family, community; if you fail to do so your organisation becomes weak, lacking in fibre, leaving you open to assault by your enemies, foes, counterparts, rivals; leaving you hapless and stranded, as, when push comes to shove, your members cave in, or cut and run, abandon the house which you have worked so hard to build.