Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/8/2014 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

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.

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

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

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/8/2014 (2 years 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.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2016
Universal:
Small Farmers: That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor.
Evangelization: African Christians: That Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.



Comments


More U.S.

No Phony Truces in the Battle to Block Most Anti-Life, Liberal Court in a Generation

Image of The United States Supreme Court

By J. Kenneth Blackwell

While much of our attention is on the Presidential race, the looming battle over a Supreme Court nomination merits no less attention.  The battle lines are clear in this nomination and the future of the Court and our Constitutional principles are at ... continue reading


Fr Frank Pavone - Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis' Encouraging Roadmap for Families Watch

Image of Fr Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

By Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

Amoris Laetitia is a timely and loving exhortation for families towards genuine charity that begins within the nuclear family. It can be described as a new road-map for a culture that has taken a sad and tragic detour. The Joy of Love recognizes women's ... continue reading


Catherine of Siena: We Need Saints for this Missionary Age Watch

Image of Today, in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar, we commemorate one of the greatest women saints of Christian history, Catherine of Siena.  While praying at Peter's tomb, she experienced the great weight of the Church fall on her shoulders.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Father, raise up women like Catherine of Siena for this new missionary age of your Church. Women who are so in love with you, and so conformed to the Image of your Son, they can do for your Church in this hour, what she did in her own. Saints are a gift for the ... continue reading


Christian student shockingly dropped from master's program for practicing religious rights Watch

Image of Andrew Cash was discriminated against for practicing his religious rights (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Andrew Cash practiced his religious rights at Missouri State University - and was dismissed from the master's program in counseling as a result. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the Catholic News Agency, Cash was referring same-sex couples to another ... continue reading


Not a newsflash, U.S. government authorized use of propaganda on American people...in 2013. Here's who to blame Watch

Image of Obama signed the amendment into law in 2013.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Does the news seem a little too pro-American to you? Does it seem reporters pull punches and that the real issues are ignored? Perhaps that's the result of a quiet change to the law that took place in 2013. A law banning the use of government propaganda on the American ... continue reading


The cost of incarceration: What can we do? Watch

Image of What can we do about overpopulated prisons and ex-cons' ability to find work (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)?

By Matt Hadro (CNA)

Experts from across the political spectrum are calling for criminal justice reform, as a new White House report shows the human and economic costs of the current justice system. Washington D.C. (CNA) - "This is a singular moment in one of the most challenging issues ... continue reading


Sickening portrayal of Jesus pinned to a dartboard presented as art in university library Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

An appalling portrayal of Jesus plastered to a dartboard was posted up as artwork inside the Art Library at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The "art piece," titled "Vitruvian Man," shows Jesus nailed to the dartboard ... continue reading


Which bathroom should you use? And why is this a question? Watch

Image of Figuring out which restroom to use isn't supposed to be a dilemma.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The American people are seemingly obsessed with public restrooms these days and precisely how people use the potty. The fear is being stoked by concerns that individuals who "self-identify" as the opposite sex, will take advantage of liberal policies and assault ... continue reading


Prayer Is the Path to Real Freedom Watch

Image of Prayer is the lifeline of a Christian

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Jesus said to his disciples: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. CHESAPEAKE, VA. ... continue reading


Why is Obama now sending 250 MORE troops to Syria? Watch

Image of U.S. President Barack Obama will be sending more troops to the Middle East.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

U.S. President Barack Obama announced 250 more special operations forces are to be deployed to Syria within the next few weeks. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -  Obama stated: "Just as I approved additional support for Iraqi forces against ISIL, I've decided to ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 16:1-10
1 From there he went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra, where there was a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,2 ... Read More

Gospel, John 15:18-21
18 If the world hates you, you must realise that it hated me before it ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 30th, 2016 Image

St. Pius V, Pope
April 30: Pope from 1566-1572 and one of the foremost ... Read More