Rule 100: Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done with a Pick Tooth.

No, this is not one of the “rules to live by” espoused by Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS. It is taken from the 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation transcribed by George Washington.  Before the age of 16, Washington copied the rules by hand, presumably as part of a penmanship exercise. The origin of the rules is said to be from French Jesuits in 1595.

While Rule 100 above may be anachronistic, many of the 110 rules are still pertinent today in both our everyday lives and certainly in politics. However, it seems that a decrease in civility in politics has become tolerated and, dare I say, accepted. Heckling the President, yelling at legislators after a floor vote and negative campaigning have become the norm. While people may talk about it and shake their head, no-one appears truly shocked anymore at, well, anything in politics.

And now election season is upon us and the arguments for and against Issues 2 and 3 will dominate the media and intrude into our already over-stimulated lives. While Issue 2 pits organized labor interests against government and business interests in collective bargaining reform, Issue 3 has individuals touting freedom of choice in health care squaring off against supporters of health care reform. I have to wonder how many of the 110 rules will be violated during these campaigns. Certainly,Rule 65 which states, “Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion” will be shredded. I can hardly wait for debates to see how Rule 49will be obliterated with its “Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.”

Despite all of our technological advancements over the last 400 plus years, we still struggle with basic rules of civility and even seem to have regressed. Don’t worry, I also include myself in this generalization as I have broken more rules than I care to admit. How refreshing would it be, though, if political parties, issue campaigns and local candidates could adhere this Fall to Rule #1’s simple message that “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” While this is unlikely to occur, perhaps the decision-makers and, quite frankly, all of us could at least pay attention to the most important rule of all: Rule 110: Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.

Care to make an observation about a Rule? Send us your thoughts.

Lisa Rankin, Partner

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