New Nominations for Rules of Civility

As part of my semesterly “tour of classes” routine, I visited a class today that was discussion George Washington’s Rules of Civility. This was a list of 110 different rules that Washington had copied out by hand (probably from a French translation of those rules) by the time he was sixteen years old. They’re generally guidelines to follow when you want to be polite in public, and they contain things like #10: “When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them” and #44: “When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.”

As you might expect, a number of them seem far too proper and stuffy for today’s social scene. (Though a number of them definitely still apply.) I was wondering what such a list would consist of today, and thought we might crowdsource it a little. First, what are some nominees from the list that you feel should still be on it today? One that I saw would be #82: “Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.” I mean, to me that’s just common sense. I always try to under promise and over deliver. I want to make sure people have expectations I can meet or exceed, rather than the other way around. When you lead people to believe you can do more than you’re capable of, it can sour a lot of relationships. And that’s silly, because you’re the one setting yourself up for failure in those conditions. True, someone might be taken in by someone who promises the moon, but sooner or later those promises come due . . .

So that’s my nominee for “rule that should remain.” My nominee for “rule that should be added” would be something that seems pretty obvious to me as well: “Don’t make death threats.”

Seriously, people. I don’t know who’s out there thinking it’s okay to threaten to injure or kill a stranger on the internet, but I do know that people on the left and the right both get these death threats all the time. Has the “anonymous death threat” somehow taken the place of “signal to show I’m really upset and want to make sure you know that”? Because if that’s the case, that needs to stop now.

A bit ago, a movie on Netflix made a big splash for a controversial poster. The film’s about an 11 year old who joins a dance team (or something), and despite it not being about anything really that controversial, Netflix had the “genius” idea to market it as a film about an 11 year old girl twerking competition, with a poster of sexually posed 11 year olds to match. It was a boneheaded marketing stunt, and it caused a large number of people to call for a boycott of Netflix and the movie.

It also, apparently, inspired people to send death threats to the director. Look, this post isn’t defending a movie I’ve never seen and never intend to watch. (Even if it’s not about a twerking dance competition, there’s nothing in that movie that sound remotely like “Bryce would like this.”) But let’s assume it really was a movie about a bunch of tweenagers twerking their hearts out. Definitely not okay, but worthy of a death threat?

Certainly not.

I can’t think of anything that *is* worthy of a death threat, honestly. And yet somehow people are lobbing them around with abandon. No idea how we can get that trend to stop, but I sure do wish it would. Going from “debate” to “death threats” in under 3 seconds isn’t going to do anyone any good.

What would your nominees be?


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