Since I started blogging a year ago, I've been reading a lot of blogs on a variety of different topics. I'm pretty amazed at the number of bloggers out there and their writing runs the gamut from absolutely excellent all the way down to complete dreck. The variety is eye-opening. At times, equally as interesting as the blog entries are the comments that they generate.
Recently I read a blog about "British Dining Etiquette" written by a Brit who is currently living here in the States. It was primarily a list of appropriate dining behaviors from the British perspective and reflected the rules the writer was taught while growing up. She didn't offer a lot of commentary on the list, other than to note that she's aware of the British reputation as being a bit serious and formal and, in some people's minds, even a little stuffy. But these were simply the rules they were taught as being “good manners” and she hoped that we would enjoy learning a little bit about another culture. It was a fun little list - and something I'm always interested in given the nature of what I teach.
The comments that this little blog generated were fascinating. Many people remarked that these were many of the rules they grew up with also and just considered them basic good manners as well. Others asked questions. The knife in the right hand and fork in the left hand habit seemed to create difficulties for many brought up in the US with the cut-with- the-knife-then-put-it-down-and-switch-the-fork upbringing. Most people were open-minded and expressed an appreciation for the new knowledge.
Then there were others. A couple of people used the comment section to get into a flaming match regarding whether the one appreciated her Grandfather as much as she should because she couldn't stand that he chewed food with his mouth open. They were a pair! Hard to imagine why either one felt it necessary to make the comments they did and to get into it with each other in a public forum.
Some people clearly took offense at the list. One person immediately defended his way of eating and took a shot at the author and Brits in general by saying "I take issue with eating chicken and pizza with a fork. It is perfectly good etiquette in the Southern United States to eat fried chicken with your hands. And pizza with a fork? please...Some of these are common sense some are really a little stuffy and silly. I DO believe that good manners are an indication of class but not a separation of classes which the British are famous for..."
Another used the opportunity to defend against an implication that the author did NOT make - that people should be judged only on their manners by commenting "...as long as people don't judge others by their different forms of etiquette, or lack there of...etiquette and class do NOT make the person."
Yet another person piped in to take a pot shot at British cuisine and assert her 'right' to act however she wants wherever she is with a complete disregard for those around her and their cultural practices. "... I'm thankful though that I live in SoCal where things are a bit (or alot) more casual. Too much fussiness for me! Besides, last time in England the food was barely edible! But I would go again. I will just eat the way I do at home (not a slob-some manners always apply!) but I am an American and I will eat that way like it or not!"
Defensiveness is an interesting thing. The author of this blog was simply writing a piece in tune with the other entries in her blog - comments about the connection between British food and its customs/culture. Had the author stated or implied that other cultures were backward or inferior, I could understand a little defensiveness, though I would still be inclined to simply read that as one person's opinion which wouldn't make it automatically true. Yet she did none of that. She simply provided a recitation of what she had been raised with and an explanation of how it impacts her perceptions and her raising of her own children.
Rather than simply read the entry in that spirit, these people chose to read into her comments a criticism of other cultures and manners, specifically their own. I wonder at that reaction. Perhaps it stems from a basic insecurity in one's own behaviors or beliefs. Perhaps these people respond defensively to all things, as a matter of habit, always imagining a slight or insult where none exists. I wonder at what life must be like for someone with those tendencies and it's not a pleasant thought. It seems to be a way of, as my mother would have put it, borrowing trouble - making life far more difficult and unpleasant than it has to be.
Watching this free-for-all causes me to check my own responses. Am I guilty of being too sensitive – attributing an ill motive to someone when none exists? Occasionally, I might be, which is something, then, to be aware of. And this blog exchange was a reminder of the importance of checking my own sense of righteousness or superiority at the door – listening to another perspective with an open mind and a heart that assumes good intention in the other.
If you're interested in reading the etiquette blog, here's the address: http://allrecipes.com/Cook/13494664/BlogEntry.aspx?postid=178893
Today's cartoon from: http://public-domain.zorger.com
14 hours ago