L. Neil Smith's
Number 294, October 24, 2004

"Scare the crap out of the statists!"

The Kaptain’s Log
The Need for Manners

[Yet another installment of Kaptain Kanada’s Helpful Household Hints]
by Manuel Miles, aka Kapt Kanada

Exclusive to TLE

Dear Loyal Readers,

Well, it finally happened; something made me angry enough to write another column. Actually, it's an accumulation of years of anger about the lack of manners in 21st Century Canada (and probably the rest of "the Western world" as well). And when a mean, nasty chap like me is inspired to lecture about manners, you know for sure that things have reached a desperate state.

Well, it obviously isn't tact that I'm concerned about; tact is just another word for dishonesty and trickery. (These traits are combined in the word we borrowed from the French, ruse.) You see, one can have manners without having any tact at all.

For example: on occasion, I mention the rather obvious fact that I am ugly. It isn't a character defect and, short of plastic surgery, there isn't much I can do about it. I've learned to live with it, and I have dated some remarkably good-looking women in spite of it, but it's a fact as plain as the huge, twisted nose on my face. I have a mug that frightens babies and horses. Yet, when I refer to this fact, most women will automatically and reflexively say, "Oh, no, you're not ugly at all."

That is tactful, but it's bad manners. In fact, it's downright rude, because it's a lie that's as plain as, oh, say... the schnozz on my face. I have to shave this ugly mug every morning, and you think I don't know what I'm talking about? That's like saying that Bush and Kerry don't know how to tell lies—hell, they're professionals. And if ugliness were a profession, then Jamie Farr and I would be the chairmen of the association, and a portrait of Our Founder, Jimmy Durante, would hang on the clubhouse wall. It's insulting to contradict people when they comment on a subject in which they are expert.

So, a tactful lie is bad manners, campers. You don't have to publicly agree with statements which embarrass you, but don't go on record with a damned lie, either.

[Manners forbid the telling of lies except to those who are trying to harm you in some way. The gummint wants to know if you made any income "on the side"? Why be truthful to the thieves? It ain't like they told you the truth about them evil Serbs and them I-rakky WMDs. To hell with those who serve Satan.]

So what, therefor, constitutes good manners? It's real easy; good manners are those habits which respect the rights of others, whether said habits make you feel comfortable or not. It's a Libertarian concept.

Bombing peoples' homes, for example, is rude, no matter how nicely and tactfully one goes about it. In polite society, it simply isn't done. Robbing people of their income is poor manners also, even if one smiles like a New York shyster while doing it. And yapping on your cell phone in a public place is an offence against man, if not even God and Nature.

That's right, you irresponsible, narcissistic fools; you don't need to inflict your idiotic "conversations" on everyone within fifty yards of your verbal meanderings ("So she's like, 'As if,' and I'm like, 'Whatever...'"). It's in the same league as walking around with a ghetto blaster spewing rap, heavy metal, et cetera into the common atmosphere, or spitting your chewing gum onto the sidewalk. Duck into a broom closet or sit in some quiet spot to have those vital communications. And get rid of the damned 'blaster' and buy a Walkman if you have to fill your head with asynchronous, shrieking. [You'll notice that I wasn't tactful there... Hang on, there's more.]

While we're at it, why don't you disconnect that stupid car alarm? Yes, we're all impressed that you have wasted enough money to buy a small house on the purchase of a medium-sized car, but we would like to be able to sleep at night. The excuse that these automotive banshees protect your "ride" is disingenuous in the extreme; heck, I'm likely to vandalise your vehicle if it starts yowling, honking, wailing and screeching in my neighbourhood, and I for sure wouldn't stop anyone from stealing it. "Take it, and take it really far away!" I yell out my window to the boys from Midnite Auto. Sadly, however, the alarms are almost always false ones; all it takes is for a passing bird to fart and every Yuppie-mobile within a hundred yards goes off. Oh, why is it you never seem to be carrying an RPG-7 when you really need one!?

Finally, learn to write a proper letter. While it may be true that given enough monkeys at enough keyboards, they will eventually write A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's surprising that there aren't enough humans banging away at their word pros to properly compose a simple email letter. In the interest of promoting the theory that man is descended from the monkey, and not vice-versa, allow me to issue the following instructions:

First; every letter, whether email or snail-style, abso-freaking-lutely must start with a salutation/greeting (I often honour the addressee by putting the salutation in boldface type and italics). That means something like the following:

Dear Sir: [business]
Dear Fred, [personal]
To Whom It May Concern [formal anonymous]
Hey, dummy, [personal informal]
Your Imperial Excellency [formal, archaic—suitable for memos to GW Bush and/or Bobby Kerry]

Don't just start in ranting before making it clear to whom your mots de sagesse are addressed. And don't bother to ask why, either; civilised people just do those things which show a minimum of respect for other people.

You may then go on, in the body of the missive, to denounce the addressee's views, looks, and body odour, but that will be merely tactless, not bad manners. Even if you are wishing to shoot or stab a chap to death, it is best to slap him with a gauntlet first. Some warmonger or other (was it Churchill?) said that there was no need to be rude to a man whom one was going to kill. On the other hand, a good case can be made for killing those who are gratuitously rude.

Every letter should also close with, not surprisingly, a closing; to wit:

Sincerely, [all-purpose]
Yours truly, [personal]
Your pal, [personal, informal]
Your most humble and obedient servant, [archaic]
Peace and Liberty, [libertarian chic]

We hear a lot of yapping about "closure" these days (and I wish that some of you would closure yaps), but some people cannot be bothered to even type one word of closing in their letters.

Finally, sign your stinkin' name, dummy! Oh, sure, I can look at the email's return address, but why should I be held in suspense? I would like to know the identity of the semiliterate author of the incoherent diatribe currently defacing my monitor no later than by the bottom of the page. If this part is difficult for you, look in your wallet; some of those rectangular pieces of paper will have your name on them, right next to a photo of your ugly mug (how tactless of me to use the "u" word, eh).

I realise that in quick communications with personal friends, the above guidelines are not de rigueur, but any letter over two paragraphs in length ought to merit the minimal effort required to make a salutation, closing, and signature.

I once received an email from a reader who wished to inform me that I was an opinionated idiot. I wrote him back to say that he could bother to begin his epistle with a greeting if he wished to have a reply from me. To my surprise, he apologised in his subsequent, properly written email letter, and we entered into a brief but informative correspondence. Neither man changed his views, perhaps, but we were better able to berate one another once the suitable format was established.

Of course, these guidelines are not universally appreciated; I once wrote a formal letter to a certain Internet nabob (whose name I won't mention—I'll just say "LRC" and whistle tunelessly), and he never forgave me for it. He wrote a mocking reply which fairly oozed disdain. This doesn't disqualify his good work at his most excellent site, of course, and The Cause must be bigger than the details, but wouldn't it be a plus if manners were not scorned by those few who are educated enough to (theoretically, potentially) recognise their worth?

That's your kindly old Kaptain for you—ever the dreamer.

Yours for Peace and Liberty,


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