Saturday, 31 December 2016

Dignity or disgrace

Funny how some people are really hot on dignity and won't do anything remotely embarrassing or controversial, while others happily disgrace themselves and find the whole idea of dignity laughable.

The dignified faction would never be seen drinking too much, making a fuss in a restaurant, or complaining about ticket prices, while the other lot drink themselves senseless, throw up and pass out on a regular basis. And complain about everything under the sun.

Of course dignity means different things to different people. If it means feeling respected and taken seriously, fine, I'm sure we all want that. Too many people don't get the respect they deserve. But if being "dignified" is just an excuse to be haughty and condescending and sneer at other people's excesses and indulgences, that's "dignity" we could do without.

If dignity only means respectability, or looking good in the eyes of other people, then you can keep that too. I'd rather do what I think is right, and what I'm comfortable with, than look good. Many a monstrous attitude lurks behind respectability.

Likewise, if dignity only means pomp and ceremony, like lawyers' wigs, graduates' gowns, fancy honours and awards, and rows of medals, I think we could live without all that. Respect for others shouldn't depend on what they're wearing or what grand title they've acquired.

And if dignity just means bottling up your thoughts and feelings to appear "in control", that's a big mistake. Why do people praise mourners at a funeral for being "dignified" and not showing their grief and shock? What's wrong with letting it all out?

Like most people, I guess, I want my thoughts and feelings to be taken seriously, and that kind of dignity is welcome. At other times I couldn't care less about dignity and just want to do my own thing, however silly or weird or truculent. I'll hug the nearest tree, recite bad limericks, talk to the neighbour's cat and do my dying seal impression.

I don't drink myself senseless though. Indignity has its limits.

21 comments:

tammy j said...

love your last paragraph and last line.
when I want dignity I find a well mannered old dog.
we could all take lessons from them.
happy new year nick and jenny!

Secret Agent Woman said...

I wouldn't count making a fuss in a restaurant or complaining as "undignified" but as rude. I make a distinction between a willingness to be silly and a willingness to be a jerk. I don't judge people for silliness - if they want to come into a restaurant wearing a tiara on their birthday or dance in the park or whatever - good for them. If they are openly rude to other people or disrespectful, then I judge like hell.

Nick said...

Tammy: Dogs can be rather ill-mannered when they're greeting a visitor. They sniff and lick quite eagerly unless restrained! But they do usually give their owner due respect.

And a happy new year to you!

Agent: A useful distinction between being silly and being a jerk. Birthday parties are a great excuse for silliness of all kinds. Dignity is quickly forgotten!

helen devries said...

I have often envied my tutor whom I encountered after a wine and cheese (in the day when tutors had an entertainment allowance)in a highly inebriated condition trying to go up the down escalator at Holborn tube station...with no loss of dignity whatsoever.
I could not have carried that off.

Nick said...

Helen: I'm always amazed at those people who can absorb vast quantities of alcohol and still appear sober and alert. How do they do that? Nothing very sober and alert about confusing the up and down escalators though....

Dave Martin said...

I need a few drinks and to be with people I know before I can relax enough to let it all hang out.
The rest of the time I assume a quiet, respectful demeanour.

Nick said...

Dave: I'm good at the quiet, respectful demeanour as well! I'm always ready to let it all hang out, my only concern is whether others are prepared for the craziness!

Rummuser said...

I was in a job which came with the condition that I had to wear a tie and a jacket at all times, except within my cabin where I could take off the jacket. I thought that this was a silly requirement but that was the dress code for that level of seniority. I suppose that the board thought that it dignified the position. I left that and moved on to another position in another company where the board came with open collars and insisted that all of us do the same! No explaining human frailty.

I don't drink at all so the question of drinking myself silly does not arise, but I can be silly without booze inside me and I enjoy those moments, particularly with children. If some prudes saw me then I am sure that I behave in an undignified way, but that is their problem, not mine.

Nick said...

Ramana: The obsession with ties and jackets is absurd. The idea that you'll take someone in a tie and jacket more seriously than someone in a shirt is quite irrational.

I'm also capable of daft behaviour when I'm completely sober. As you say, if other people think it's "inappropriate", they need to loosen up a bit - or catch themselves on, as we put it in Belfast.

Ms Scarlet said...

Keeping my dignity means not tucking my skirt in my knickers, and if I was a cat it would mean not falling off the radiator when half asleep.
Sx

HAPPY NEW YEAR, NICK!!!!?

Nick said...

Scarlet: The female dress code can cause a lot of indignities - tucked-in skirt, running mascara, laddered tights, frizzy hair. Quite a job to keep everything looking right! Cats are remarkably dignified creatures, they very seldom make a complete tit of themselves. Except when they go too far up a tree and the fire brigade has to rescue them!

A very happy new year to to you too, Scarlet.

Hattie said...

Happy New Year, Nick!
If dignity or the lack of it bother you, try hanging out with kids. They will set you straight.

Nick said...

Hattie: Good idea! I don't have much opportunity to talk to kids, but I do notice some kids who're very serious and very dignified. You can't imagine them doing anything visibly silly - they probably think it's their parents who act silly and embarrass their kids!

Bijoux said...

I'm wondering if concern for dignity is more of a European thing? I've never come across anyone worried too much about it here.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Really? That surprises me. Dignity is certainly a big issue here - preserving the dignity of old people, the disabled, the mentally ill etc. Maybe that's because these groups tend to be more badly treated over here?

Jenny Woolf said...

I think overblown dignity is sometimes a cover up for fear, don't you? Fear of not being as good as we would like to be. That's not actually what I call dignity though, even though it has the same word as that quality in which one is quietly and with self respect doing what one thinks is right.

Have a good New Year Nick and I look forward to your posts in 2017.

Nick said...

Jenny: Yes, I agree it can be a cover-up for fear. And I like the idea of dignity as just quietly doing what you think is right. Dignity as a kind of personal morality.

And a happy new year to you too!

CheerfulMonk said...

About dress codes --- yes, jackets and ties for fellows and high heels, makeup, etc. for women --- yuck! I was lucky enough to work in more casual environments and was grateful for it.

Nick said...

Jean: Dress codes are so irrational. Who really believes that a man with a tie or a woman in heels is "more "professional" and better at their job? And how can a woman concentrate properly on her job if her heels are agonisingly painful?

Keith Smith said...

You hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned. I was educated at at Winchester School for young gentlemen of the 'upper classes' (only a day pupil though,thank goodness) where we were taught good manners, to be dignified at all times,and to help others whenever we could. Prior to that I was brought during WWII and afterwards by my Grandparents who were Orthodox Quakers.

The point is all that has affected my adult life insofar that I don't tolerate fools lightly. I don't go to my local pub, or indeed any pub now, because of the younger generation that use it. They behave like animals when they have had a few drinks. Starting fights, constantly using foul language, even in front of the women. The young girls are no better either. The older generation are constantly verbally abused, you know the thing "Coffin dodgers", "Why aren't you in the ground?". I would love to meet some young men who have a sense of dignity and good manners, but I fear those days have long gone.

Nick said...

Keith: It's bad that you can't go to the pub for a drink because of the anti-social behaviour of the young. I never go to the pub myself, I prefer coffee shops, where the customers aren't full of booze and are better behaved. The young people I meet in Belfast are generally polite and not at all abusive. But yes, some people behave with wild abandon and think nothing of it. It baffles me.