My book club recently read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. (We all liked it. Six thumbs up.)
This book alludes to Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation—a list of rules of for civil behaviour that George Washington transcribed from a 16th Century French etiquette manual. You can read the list of rules here. They are quite extensive and include some good advice that stands the test of time:
22d Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
50th Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.
56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
Some, I can only assume, would have caused some confused distress:
57th In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Company if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.
The rules started our book club to thinking: What would be our rules of civility for 2012? We came up with one or two, which I have taken the liberty of transcribing into 16th Century(ish) language:
1st Pepper not thy language with the F-word; for ’tis better not to Speak at all than to display thy Low intelligence.
2nd Talk not on thy cell phone nor play Angry Birds when Sharing food or Company with others.
3rd Display not on Facebook thy every thought nor what thou ate for dinner.
4th In driving up and Down the Highway with Others in Company, thou art not Greater than others, hence shew Patience and Kindness and present not thy third digit.
5th Speak not injurious Words when thoust partipates in reality TV, on Twitter, or in Comments. Speak not Evil for evil words doth harm thine own soul.
6th When thou art Sick remain in thine home and Share not thy Coughs, nor Sneezes, nor Unpleasantness with Others, and wash thine hands often.
What are your rules of civility for our modern society?
110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.