I am old enough to remember when one was expected to dress in a suit and tie in order to fly on an airplane. I was told, by those older than me, “you are not required to do so – but you will surely be treated better if you do”. It went without saying that dressing appropriately would be meaningless if the person did not match his attire with a corresponding civilized attitude, courteous demeaner, refined etiquette and meticulous hygeine. In other words, one was expected to look, and act, like a gentleman in order to be treated like one.
Needless to say, times have changed. Now it doesn’t matter how you dress, how you smell, or even whether you have good manners – those who work in the service industry are expected to treat everyone with equal respect. After all, to treat somebody differently because of his appearance would be “prejudiced” and would constitute “bias”. I’m not saying that people now pay less attention to how they look. On the contrary. People are as superficial as ever. But the emphasis on external appearance today is just that: superficiality. The emphasis on looks, as practised in the past, was because of the value people placed on the more refined aspects of their culture. In other words, it was based on formality.
What has become of formality? The last bastions of formality are codified in the hoary rituals of older institutions such as the military, political entities, some educational institutions, formal religion and some companies. Among rank and file citizens, and in people’s everyday lives, formality is largely absent. In the old days, we were expected to be more formal – but certainly not less friendly. It seems that many people mistakenly equate formality with being less friendly. In my opinion, formality is essentially an embodiment of the finer aspects of our culture. As our culture has been eaten away by multiculturalism, the act of being formal has taken on a new meaning. It now represents a more forceful affirmation of Western civilization. By being formal, we are saying “I am occidental and proud” In a multicultural society, any such statement can be construed as exclusive. By wearing a tie instead of a Kinte cloth, we are excluding African culture. By invoking “God”, we are excluding “Allah”. By using the title “sir” or “ma’am”, we are implying that we are not all equal (though these last titles have now been corrupted to mean almost nothing).
In a multicultural society, any decision to be more formal must be followed up by asking whose “formal” shall we use?” The lazy way out is to discard formality altogether and replace it with universal informality. That way nobody is excluded and many people feel warm and fuzzy inside. I get the impression that, given the choice, leftist politicians (that is, almost all of them) would take the lazy way out.
Any adherence to formality, on their part, is a shallow attempt to fool the rest of us into believing that they still represent some sort of “American culture”. Shame on American citizens for believing them.
Now excuse me while I board my flight – without a suit and tie but still nicely dressed!