This deficiency cannot be blamed on the Left or the Right - we are all to blame for letting politics ruin our manners and damage our capacity for friendship. Aristotle would call this situation a reduction of all friendships to that of "mutual use" rather than pleasure or, much less, the pursuit of the same good. Mutual use serves to bolster us in our opinions, corroborate whatever it is we believe is right, justify our hatreds, and insure we never change our minds about anything. Thoughtlessness is the chief characteristic of such society; conversations become regurgitations of the pundits we praise for the purpose of publicly confirming our tribal allegiance. Social occasions have become so boring they usually descend into recalling the most horrific story from the day's Drudge Report, or its equivalent.
It occurred to me only recently that one of the reasons I wear plus-fours on the golf course is directly related to the crassness I have described above - there's hardly an occasion when someone comments on my offbeat garb who does not turn out to be interesting as well as affable. - Deal W. Hudson on the golf course
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/8/2014 (1 year ago)
Published in U.S.
Keywords: Jack Paar, Judy Garland, talk shows, T.S. Eliot, entertainment culture, crassness, Deal W.Hudsonurbanity, William F Buckley, urbanity, manners, dignity, beauty, Liturgy, culture, enthsuiasm, renewal, reform, respect, Catholic Culture, Deal W. Hudson
WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - There were nights as a boy I was allowed to stay up late and watch Jack Paar on the Tonight Show which he hosted from 1957-1962. What I re-member most about Paar's style was his warm wit and sly charm but especially his gift for conversation, for creating a rapport and audience with his guests based upon humor, good will, taste, intelligence, and, a word I didn't know at the time, urbanity.
If you aren't old enough, or are too old, to remember Jack Paar take a look at this clip from his famous 1962 interview with Judy Garland. His ability to bring the best out of the fragile and brittle Garland attests to his ability to make anyone comfortable in his presence. (See also this compilation of Paar monologues hosted by Hugh Downs.)
As a high school senior, I started watching William F. Buckley's Firing Line, which started airing in 1966, for similar reasons. Although the conversations were about ideas and politics, Buckley would converse with guests diametrically opposed to his conservatism without the atmosphere being poisoned by rancor - with the exception of Gore Vidal! Buckley's capacity for friendship across ideological lines, such as with John Kenneth Galbraith, was grounded, I believe, in the respect his showed them, while often cutting their arguments to ribbons.
Urbanity is a good word for both Paar and Buckley, because their type of detachment was of the urban kind, shared by men and women who have grown accustomed to living, and making friends, at an intersection where many cultures, classes, and ideologies meet. This is not to say that urbanity cannot be found in the suburbs or on the farm, but the need to engage a diversity of viewpoints, ethnicities, and social classes is a necessity of city life. If urbanity can be called a virtue, then it's the kind of detachment from one's own taste and values that allows respect to be shown to, and relationships to be formed with, virtually anyone.
There's little urbanity in American culture at the present moment - relationships like media, the arts, education, and much entertainment have become politicized, or even worse, made purveyors of ideology. It's liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, pro-abortion vs. anti-abortion, pro-gay marriage vs. anti-gay marriage, pro-immigration vs. anti-immigration, Fox TV fans vs. MSNBC fans, and so forth. Within minutes of conversation with someone met for the first time, those polarities inevitably are mentioned in order to determine just "whose side you are on." If mutual delights were previously mentioned - music, movies, golf - they are promptly forgotten if a divide is revealed. There are exceptions, but they are becoming, to my eye and ear, fewer and fewer.
Whereas in the 80s, conversations took on the appearance of the Phil Donohue show - with its insipid exploration of feeling states - the paradigm of social interaction nowadays is political talk radio. If T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" was re-written the refrain would be, "In the room the women come and go talking of Obama's birth certificate."
This deficiency cannot be blamed on the Left or the Right - we are all to blame for letting politics ruin our manners and damage our capacity for friendship. Aristotle would call this situation a reduction of all friendships to that of "mutual use" rather than pleasure or, much less, the pursuit of the same good. Mutual use serves to bolster us in our opinions, corroborate whatever it is we believe is right, justify our hatreds, and insure we never change our minds about anything.
Thoughtlessness is the chief characteristic of such society; conversations become regurgitations of the pundits we praise for the purpose of publicly confirming our tribal allegiance. Social occasions have become so boring they usually descend into recalling the most horrific story from the day's Drudge Report, or its equivalent. I was saved from such a scene recently when I was introduced to an elderly Texas oil magnate who was marvelously articulate on the subject of Stetson hats, about which we formed an immediate bond.
It occurred to me only recently that one of the reasons I wear plus-fours on the golf course is directly related to the crassness I have described above - there's hardly an occasion when someone comments on my offbeat garb who does not turn out to be interesting as well as affable. My 20's golf dress appeals to those whose fields of vision have not been narrowed to the "headline news" or morning stories on Fox & Friends. Only yesterday I exchanged cards with a Mr. Smith, no kidding, from Greenville, SC with a marvelous smile and a few more years than I on his frame, who I will soon be visiting at his home. I have no idea of his politics or political affiliation - it won't matter.
© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.
By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Some samples negligently sent by the U.S. Military contained live anthrax. Four lab workers from the United States and about 22 overseas, who come in contact with the shipment, are placed into post-exposure treatment, according to a defense official. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading
By Keith A Fournier
There is something which many in the main stream U.S. media do not know, here it is - not many people are listening to them anymore. However, they will listen to this song. And, they will understand it. The sentiment it captures will encourage the heart of a ... continue reading
By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May has proved to be the most dangerous and deadliest month Baltimore has witnessed in more than 50 years. There were more than two dozen shootings over the Memorial Day weekend alone; city police have never been busier. Community leaders hope the members will come ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
While it's "doable," few people in California are actually voicing any enthusiasm. Stricken by a crippling drought, water officials are going through some highly popular alternatives - and repurposing sewage water into drinking water is one of them. LOS ... continue reading
By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
As Gay rights movements continue to disrupt society and political life, poll reveals that gay and lesbians are not as common in the United States as previously perceived. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A new Gallup poll conducted in early May has revealed that ... continue reading
By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
World's oldest woman, Jeralean Talley has added another year to her life - the world declared she turned 116 last weekend. Talley and her family, friends, the Inkster mayor and Congressman Conyers, delivered a message from President Barack Obama, celebrating her ... continue reading
By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
How would you react if you unexpectedly and inexplicably found nine brains on the side of the road while on your early morning run? Like most people, you may find yourself shocked and completely clueless on the origins of the brains. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
I am always drawn to these words of Jesus on Memorial Day weekend, - No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:13) Military service which leads to laying one's life down is certainly an expression of this kind of heroic ... continue reading
By Fr. Randy Sly
The work of our chaplains extends much farther than the post chapel. They labor on land, at sea and in the air. There are 1.4 million Catholics in the military; wherever they are stationed, the chaplain is there. These chaplains can be found bringing Jesus Christ to ... continue reading
By Jennifer Hartline
Thank you, to every man and woman who has fought and is currently fighting for our homeland. Thank you for doing everything within your power to make sure I and my children can sleep safely tonight. I love and appreciate you and I pray God's blessing on you ... continue reading