The fascination of this place
is not about what there is
but about what is missing.

This is not a cliché.

February 2018

01 February 2018

When good manners seem to be anti-conformist

Education is a value worth regaining, for it represents a way to open up towards others, a way of demonstrating respect, a way to push back uncivilized behaviour.
I guess education is not for everybody but I feel it is an essential to live a better life. It is not an infringement of liberty, it is not a conformity enforced. At times it seems that educated manner is some sort of revolutionary activity, this in a world where it seems that a sort of ‘non-education’ prevails and lays down the law of the land.
I think it goes without saying that when a guest, and I use that term loosely, calls one of our staff a ‘s***head’ the concept of suitable education seems to come into play. And if the insult is accompanied by certain unmistakable gestures and terrible reviews on the relevant tourist platforms, then I am very well certain that it is a relevant discussion point. Education in itself is a concept very much tied to the intellectual personality and social behaviour of persons. As such, it has a universal value and is not dependent exclusively on which country or other an individual comes from. And the fool rises to the occasion when there is a deficit in educational input and might even consider education or any sense of manner as an irrelevant commodity.
Education has many forms. Of course, one asks pardon after sneezing for the absence of would be frowned upon. Less rigid in our ways are we when it comes to things considered to be fashionable, or dare I say when things are considered of little importance. We males tend to think we are more appealing when we leave or jackets open when we wear a tie, and we think we are acting in courteous manner when we let our ladies enter a restaurant before us. And it is right out of fashion nowadays to stand and hold the chair for a lady when she returns from the bathroom. Some times our non-actions go further and we tend to think of disregard for established rules of education as some non-conformist trendy mode. Often it is arrogant behaviour dressed up as a sort of self-importance or playing to the impoverished rules of sexual equality. However, my contention is that there is a precise and precious link between stylish good manner and education.
Trends are passing and education is always of importance. Maybe because I have a Ladin speaking father and a German speaking mother that I reflect a lot on the significance of words. If we leave each other with a farewell of ‘salve’ it is because we are meaning ‘vale atque salve’ – goodbye and keep well (the Latin was used when bidding farewell to the deceased!). Similarly, ‘buon appetito’ would literally be an invitation to the seated to eat as much as possible! Perhaps this is not what we intend when we use it nowadays, although once the master of the house would use it with the servants to make them aware how generous he was being! As it stands in our restaurant, we refrain from wishing guests ‘buon appetito’.
I am not saying that an educated person is better than an other, but certainly education is a way of interacting with others and demonstrating a form of respect. I find that an educated person is also an attractive one. To educate others who have never been educated or who have erred in their ways should be a mission for us all. My mother still speaks to us about the importance of a ‘Kinderstube’ – a place in the house where the kids can gather with the adults and learn all that is good about ways and manners and the good life generally. The ‘Ca’ Zoiosa’ of Vittorino da Feltre also comes to mind, he creating it to educate the seven children of Gianfrancesco Gonzaga, and which the teacher transformed in a school so as to educate the children of the aristocracy and the children of the poor farmers together in one place.
What memories of those times as a youngster. Mother always reprimanding us for speaking with our mouths full, to not play with the cutlery, to not cut the dumplings with a knife, and so on and so forth. You might laugh, but I remember that we had to sit up straight on the chair and trouble was it if we touched the backrest! And you can’t imagine what would happen if we did not finish all that was on the plate. Still today my father goes crazy if we throw bread away. Joking apart, I am eternally grateful to my parents for educating us as they did and for teaching us the importance of good manners – not only at the table but also in life in general. I know a few essential things for good table manners – not to start before the ladies at the table do so, to wait for the host to give the nod to begin eating, and crucially not to finish my dish before the ladies or the host! Gallant behaviour has its place even in this world of today, and especially so at the table.
What really gets on my nerves is when someone answers their mobile phone when a speaker is presenting a topic, or even worse, if that is possible, shows total disinterest. To just sit and listen to a person seems an impossible task nowadays. And to go just back to the dinner table for a moment, imagine my ire when someone answers the dammed mobile whilst eating. God knows why they have it switched on in the first place. I guess education is not for everybody but I feel it is an essential to live a better life. It is not an infringement of liberty, it is not a conformity enforced. At times it seems that educated manner is some sort of revolutionary activity, this in a world where it seems that a sort of ‘non-education’ or ‘ineducation’ (if the word exists!) prevails and lays down the law of the land.
The process of education has all to do with the inculcation of good habits. The invitation to follow what would seem unknown ways, to express curiosity, to demand to know, is an interesting one to follow. We are the fortunate ones who have the chance to be educated, whereas for many it is a point over the horizon just too far away. It remains for us who are conscious of the fact to evaluate it and make its presence weigh whenever possible, be it at the dinner table or in other circumstances. As Nelson Mandela wrote and said, education is the most powerful arm we possess to change the world.
P.S: speaking of education and of changing the world we are happy to inform that the book celebrating ten years of the Costa Family Foundation has been published. It is the story of two continents, five countries, and very important steps taken towards giving a hope of life and education in some less fortunate parts of the world.