"Manners maketh man," agent Harry Hart said.
Last week, I watched the movie "Kingsman." The Secret Service and agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth, code-named Galahad, spoke those very words which continue to cling to the base of my mind alongside images of spaghetti alle vongole and spicy tuna rolls (yes, I'm always thinking about food).
You normally wouldn't expect to encounter such a profound statement in an R-rated film, especially a spy thriller chock-full of a colorful range of violence, sexual content and perverse language. However, this one statement calls into question—at least in my young adult mind—the importance of manners and the role of etiquette in today's society.
First of all, what is etiquette? Etiquette, in the modern sense, is a code of behavior that outlines the conduct acceptable within a society, social class and group, according to the cultural norms of the age. Basically, etiquette is the observance of good manners and the outward manifestation of respect for the feelings of other people. It's all about not being a selfish jerk which can be hard for, let's say, your typical New York City subway passenger.
When you shake someone's hand as a greeting, hold open a door for a mother pushing a stroller, bring a gift of wine to your friend's dinner party, or step to the side when an elderly person with a cane walks down the street, you exhibit remarkable decorum in accordance with good etiquette. All such actions may seem ordinary or unnecessary, but these little actions demonstrate a natural and careful consideration of the feelings and well-being of other human beings. Life, at least in my experience, is a mix of good and bad occurrences, so the simple act of caring can provide a tremendous relief for your average man or woman.
Also, the attainment of good manners is not so arduous an endeavor. Etiquette is not an art requiring a lifetime of study; in fact, its principles are simple, as their use only requires care, sensitivity and sagacity. You don't have to be of "high birth" or "superior breeding" to be a modern gentleman or gentlewoman. If you behave in a way that invites good opinion, smiling faces, respect and polite speech, you are already a practitioner of fine etiquette.
As I write this article, I make sure to follow good manners. If I submitted my work late without notifying my editor then I would be ignoring the reality that she probably has other responsibilities to manage. The proper etiquette in the workplace, as well as in the home, is to be considerate of the feelings, effort and time everyone invests in their designated role. It boils down to being thoughtful of our actions.
If we all practice good manners, then daily life will be all the more delightful. There is nobody worse than a dishonest and selfish human being, so strive to be like agent Harry Hart—minus the violent tendencies of a secret agent.