“Etiquette and ethics, rightly understood, are in fact continuous, partly because character is often revealed in outward display; moreover, the principles of self-command and consideration for others shown in ‘small manners’ are of a piece with virtue and justice. Indeed civility may very well be the heart of the ethics of everyday life.”
Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfection of Human Nature
The Way of combat has involved ample ethical considerations since the days of Cain and Able. Various codes across the world and throughout time have been developed in an attempt to sort through issues of justified force and all that surrounds it. The Europeans are famous for chivalry, while the Japanese developed Bushido, and the Chinese had Wude (“woo-duh”). Today some of these ideas continue on in traditional martial arts classes, in addition to modernized equivalencies of private invention.
Virtue formation, ethical adherence, and etiquette are all necessary for a true warrior to develop himself, and yet it is commonly observed that the spirit of our age is predominantly informal, casual, and even crass. How then ought we to recover our manners?
We need to first recognize that a recovery of manners will require prudence to recognize what manners to adopt/renew, and how. We will also have to be courageous and humble as we face a society that will mock and criticize us for our abnormal practices.
Next we need to recognize that manners are an outward expression of an interior disposition. So if you don’t actually feel any respect toward the elderly, it will do you little good if your manners display otherwise. The most important things will always be found in the heart, but out of the heart springs the issues of life, and therefore a truly changed heart must be able to express itself in actions, ie: manners.
Finally, though developing and adopting a way of manners can be difficult, it is necessary if the heart is to be able to both learn to be virtuous. For not only do we express authentic attitudes through manners, we also learn to have a virtuous heart through practicing the form.