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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Manners

"Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone--a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. ... Eating on the street--even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat--displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. ... Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. ... This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior." - attributed to Leon Kass by Wikipedia.
People are funny. Some people are repulsed by the littlest things (ice cream licking, you're kidding, right?), others by almost nothing. ("I never let the little things bother me", said by Nikita after the cleaner shoots her hysterical partner.) I think that's how the Victorians developed their ridiculously stringent standards for public behavior. I mean you can never tell when some unconscious  habitual action of yours is going to turn someone else's stomach and queer a business deal or even start a war.

There's something similar going on with sexual attraction. Haruki Murakami in Sputnik Sweetheart:
"Sexual desire's not something you understand," I said, giving my usual middle-of-the-road opinion. "It's just there."
 It's common knowledge that men are attracted to young women and there is a good biological, evolutionary reason for that. What I find odd is that some men are attracted to very young women, typically under the age of consent. Women's faces change as they mature and what some men call attractive I call children, because their faces have not grown up. Basically we call it a perversion and forbid any such relationships.

Prompted by a post from Marcel.

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