“Thus it falls to us to hold the line against this historical trend of decline and fall. The barbarians are already inside the gates. We must fill the sandbags of elegance against the rising tide of vulgarity. We must guide the human race onward and upward lest the graph of evolution dip once more toward the mire and cultural oblivion of a Dark Age. And we know what will happen if we don’t rise to the challenge.
Being a gentleman is really a matter of being sensitive and observant in all situations and not giving offence as one elevates the tone and terms of transactions. A gentlemen is reason personified. He improvises. Nevertheless, a good education in etiquette – even in outmoded and obsolete usages – is a considerable help in musing up a charming personality. Etiquette gives us precedents, and if nothing else, it will help you win over ladies and the aged.
It is an excellent tactic to be unfailingly polite. If you are cheerful, solicitous, and appear kind and attentive, you will be welcomed almost everywhere. Strangers will believe that you like them. Your enemies will be thwarted, even disarmed by the relentless good vibrations you transmit.
One forgotten sin formerly high on the list is acedia, which sounds like a model of Toyota but means discouragement, apathy, or listlessness. Discouragement should be nipped in the bud by the encouragement of one’s fellows, but today it is barely noticed, except as a symptom to be medicated. Undoubtedly there are many among us whose use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors could be replaced quite easily by a few well-placed compliments and an atmosphere of cordial community.
We live in a rude age in which social life has descended from elegant private balls and intimate dinners to hog-wild corporate blowouts with liquor sponsors, invitation by flowchart title, velvet ropes handled by brutes, guest lists enforced by clipboard-wielding hussies, shameless crashers, step-and-repeat sideshows staged for paparazzi, and open bars until 9:00pm only. The social niceties are of a bygone age. But rather than accepting the ways of the wasteland, we must take these endless slaps at human dignity as the challenge they are and strike back, striving to reintroduce at every opportunity the consciousness and sensitivity required by civilization. Or we must die trying. But we’ll fight like the gentlemen of a new age. Our weapons will not be broadsword, mace, and cudgel; they will be wit, satire, mockery, and chiding. Not the longbow but the bon mot. Tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1599.”