Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Civility Undone

Yvonne and I went back and forth on this. I felt we had to address this tragedy, Yvonne thought what Madoff did was beyond poor manners and to link this story to etiquette would minimize the irreparable damage he has wreaked on people’s lives. She has nothing to do with this week’s post.

I called my friend Barry (he knows someone who lost with Madoff) to discuss where he felt etiquette and Madoff’s actions intersect. Barry said what he did was wrong-headed; Madoff had no respect for anyone. “Civility is the basis of good manners,” said my friend.

What prompted me to bring this up were the reactions from people Madoff swindled. “How could he do this to one of his own?” some asked, “He was one of us.” Well no, he wasn’t one of anyone; he just happened to be Jewish. If he moved as comfortably in another circle even as a man of Jewish faith, say among Catholics or Episcopalians, he would have done the same thing -- and he obviously did; the man Madoff did this, not his affiliation with any organized religion.

I cried watching the damage he did to people while watching a “60 Minutes” segment on Madoff. Not once did I think “I’m glad he did it to them and not us.” Many people felt anger and sadness for those who lost; they saw another human being suffering regardless of their faith or race. Did some cheer and say “good for those people.” I’m sure some did. Being good to one another, respecting one another and being an authentic person, having compassion and empathy for others has everything to do with etiquette.

Madoff demonstrated unbearably bad manners when it came to dealing with his fellow man; what he lacked in civility he made up for in an egregious display of greed. He definitely shattered the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Y & Y,

According to Webster's, etiquette is ascribed to "the forms reequired by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life." Clearly Mr. Madoff broke many laws when he decided to take clients' money and use it for purposes other than those promised. However, I think your discussion addresses both etiquette offenses, his behavior was contrary to good breeding and prescribed authority. Our reponse to his dishonesty should not speak to him but to his offenses. We can abhor the behavior but we do not have to hate the person!