In a Word ... Polite

Polite, meaning to be courteous, just like those nice middle-class children

 

One of the greater drawbacks of getting older is an acceptance that there are things about oneself which cannot be changed. For instance, I learned at school that the poor were God’s chosen people. This translated in later life into the working class under the guidance of more secular preachers, but meaning more or less the same thing.

After all, didn’t even Karl Marx resort to the Acts of the Apostles with his demand of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”? (There were no women in those days.) All in the best Judeo-Christian tradition.

In those more innocent times when complexity was seen as, like detail, the lair of the devil or his secular equivalent, and not to be bothered with, to be rich was evil and to be middle class was as bad.

Weren’t there all those parables there to prove it and Jesus saying it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven? And, Karl, God bless the marks, was never short of a few condemnations for the filthy rich.

Then they go and tell us that the needle Jesus referred to was a gateway into Jerusalem through which the most corpulent rich person could easily pass, not the eye through which thread might be passed. And, during Celtic Tiger years, didn’t most of us decide we wouldn’t mind being rich despite the eternal risks and which we soon discovered could be as costly in this life as well.

As I get older I find I like middle-class people more and more. I no longer see them as would-be rich people but rather as the solid squeezed sector who have carried us through the recession as robust and reliable as Boxer the cart horse in Orwell’s Animal Farm. I have also grown to like their politeness and good manners, particularly of their kids. That discreet charm.

It was difficult to accept this initially. I hadn’t been as disappointed in myself since first realising that my favourite cheese gave me heartburn. I’m over that now.

Polite, meaning to show regard for others in manners, speech, behaviour, being courteous. From the Latin politus, meaning refined, elegant, accomplished or, literally, polished. Thought to have originated in English during the late 13th century.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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