Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Would Confucius Say About America's Young Generations

"Is being polite honest?" asks Christine Whelan — Manners Make the Mannequin. Of course it is, but according to the author, America's "[y]oung adults aren’t quite sure." Her first paragraph:
    Today’s twentysomethings are a generation raised in the therapeutic culture, readily turning inward to analyze their emotions. But they are also a generation known for blunt communication skills and a lack of fidelity to social conventions. Indeed, for many of the college students, being too polite or conscious of the feelings of others is a concerning sign that you are out of touch with your core self....

    These are questions our great-grandparents would have dismissed out of hand. In their world, there was virtue in being polite, and if you didn’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. During the inner-directed 1960s, however — the era of the Human Potential Movement and self-actualization — sincerity and expressions of visceral emotions became our new definition of honesty. And these ideas stuck.
Li, one of the central tenets of Confucianism, whose definition "ranges from politeness and propriety to the understanding of everybody's correct place in society," seems to have been understood by our great-grandparents. Confucius would say that in throwing it aside, as we seem to have done, we have ushered in "moral anarchy or disorder of the most egregious kind."

C.S. Lewis, who, like the Sage "believed that it was possible to train the habits virtue," would agree; the author notes that "he famously encourages readers to live a more virtuous and Christian life simply by 'acting as if' they were Christian," saying, "Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, 'If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?' When you have found the answer, go and do it."

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.