Rituals of Rudeness

April 29, 2007

by Ronan

I have a suspicion that I was asked to write about “courtesy” because
I’m British. Apparently, being a Brit means that manners, politeness
and etiquette are part of my DNA. This is rubbish, of course. Britain
is as much the country of the football hooligan as it is Jane Austen
and Her Majesty the Queen. Has anyone ever watched Prime Minister’s
Questions in full swing? The House of Commons is a den of
contradiction. Members call each other the “Honourable Gentleman” or
the “Right Honourable Lady” whilst simultaneously screaming insults
and abuse.

In general I believe in being courteous and having good manners,
disagreeing without being disagreeable, and all that. But there are
exceptions to this rule, times when rudeness is imperative. Rosa Parks
was being rude when she refused to give up her seat. Ghandi’s Salt
March to Dandi was rude. Tipping tea in Boston Harbour was rude.

Too often, it seems, calls to courtesy in politics are calls to
sugarcoat difficult issues and stifle dissent. If there is a
deficiency in the American system of government it is that the head of
state is also the leader of a political party and chief of the
executive branch. Most countries get around this by having a
figurehead president or constitutional monarch, thereby taking the
patriotic sheen from chancellors and prime ministers. When Tony Blair
enters the room no “Hail to the PM” greets him. Instead, pomp and
reverence is reserved for the Queen who remains aloof from partisan

Cue BYU and the Cheney “controversy.” I find it unfortunate that some
people feel obligated to “do honor to the office” regardless of the
character of the man inhabiting it. When a partisan figure like Mr.
Cheney comes to a university campus, he ought to be fair game for
protest. I’m not necessarily talking about egg-pelting here and
certainly in person there would be little gained by screaming in a
politician’s face, but organised rituals of rudeness serve democracy
well. Our leaders should be wary of the people they govern and silence
in the name of courtesy is “rude” both to our nations and the
principles they hold dear. It instead only stokes the egos of the
rulers. This is both stupid and dangerous.



  1. Mormons are a hierarchal, power-hungry bunch; they such up to power. They love it. I am Mormon and I am also a BYU student. Although I could not join in the protests because of other engagements, I’ve heard that protestors were shouted at with epithets by drivers-by and called all sorts of names. Imagine, the anti-protestors were rude and the protestors weren’t

  2. I very much enjoy this post. I respect that you are able to put Jane Austen and football hooligans in the same sentence . . . and I thought of your post last night when watching the PBS special on Mormons when they were talking about the printing press being destroyed. I’m not sure you would consider this a necessary rudeness, however, I did think of your post.

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