Updated: Manners As Virtue



George Will once wrote that “manners are the practice of a virtue. The virtue is called civility, a word related—as a foundation is related to a house—to the word civilization.”

Will’s column, “Manners and virtue in a modern world, suggests that the ability to be courteous, kind, and mindful of etiquette in dealing with others is a reflection of something far more meaningful: one’s mettle.

Maybe this is why, other than hate mail, I respond to all letters I receive—to each and every one. Due to time constraints, my replies are laconic. But if someone bothers to read and comment on what I have to say, then it’s only decent to acknowledge the gesture. I haven’t always been firm in this resolve, but I try my best. If colleagues write, I always reply, whether I like them and their stuff or not.

Most pundits, however, don’t reply to their mail. That smacks of hubris and pride, almost always unwarranted. The younger sorts are plain punks. Since most are so uninspiring and mediocre, one wonders what they’re playing at, and why they’re not more modest.

Golda Meir’s zinger, “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great,” is a relic from a time when false humility was at least still practiced. We’ll have to settle for something less clever. Can’t be bothered to answer your mail? “Don’t be so arrogant, you suck.”

P.S. The very popular and busy Dr. Daniel Pipes is polite. If you write to him, he’ll find the time to answer your questions. If I think of anyone else who rates a mention, I’ll update the post.

P.P.S. Pipes, ever the gentleman, sent this note: “What a nice refuge from the usual vulgarity! I completely agree with you that correspondents deserve a reply, even if a short one. And the quote from Golda Meir is beautifully apt.”

Update: I promised above to remind myself, as a “refuge from the usual vulgarity,” to use Dr. Pipes’s words, of the fine—and refined—individuals I do encounter along the way. Television ensures that the brainless, loud, airheads, whose intellectual output is as significant as a foghorn’s, loom large. They should not. So here’s a low-key shout-out to the brilliant and nice people I’ve had the pleasure to e-meet since I penned this post: Robert Spencer, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades),” Andrew Bostom, author of the Legacy of Jihad, and historian Bat Y’eor of the Eurabia fame. And yes, on the entertainment side, the irrepressible Michael Musto of the Village Voice. Nice people all.

2 thoughts on “Updated: Manners As Virtue

  1. james huggins

    Ilana Mercer getting hate maIl? What a shock. As far as being diligent and courteous and answering all serious communications, you are one of the few. I get fired up and dash off my fevered rants to many writers. I seldom get a reply but continue to do so to let them know what I think. It may not be important to them but it’s important to me.

    You always answer which is appreciated.

  2. Jim

    Ms. Mercer, I agree with your comments on manners and responding to correspondence received, even if it is just a short note. On several occasions I have written to “big” name pundits and have never received so much as a thank you. And then there are others, not “big” or that well-known, who have taken the time to write back. I may be old fashioned, but I was raised to say “please” and “thank you”. After every birthday and Christmas, we would write thank you notes (way before computers), and that was also the way my daughters were raised, to be polite, to be respectfull. I think too many people take themselves and what they do too seriously. I was taught long ago, to take what I do seriously, but never myself. And people should remember not to confuse politness with weakness. I would also like to say that I have purchased a copy of your book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

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