The charge is often made against etiquette that it is artificial. Yes, indeed, it is. Civilization is artificial. When people extoll the virtues of naturalness, honesty, informality, intimacy, and creativity — watch out. Honesty has come to mean the privilege of insulting you to your face without expecting redress, and creativity that it is wrong to interfere with a child who is destroying your possessions. It is apparently natural behavior to treat the sick, the disabled, and the bereaved with curiosity and distaste, but it is also highly uncivilized.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “In the Quest for Equality, Civilization Itself Is Maligned” (1985)

Originally published in The New Republic in 1984.

Added on 29-Apr-24 | Last updated 29-Apr-24
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