THE LOST ART OF BEING CIVIL
Ever wonder what it is like to rub elbows, cybernatically speaking, with celebrities? I can tell you that it is not an unalloyed pleasure. The good thing is that pleasant or not, one never fails to learn a lesson whenever a very rich person whose much ballyhooed work got global attention treats every day folks disrespectfully. Uncouthness for the hell of it is a powerful tool as attention getter. No one uses it more effectively than a two year-old. In anyone above that age, gratuitous rudeness is less than enchanting. Some rich celebrities, however, seem to have trouble addressing ordinary people. They seem to need to remind those who do not breathe the same rarefied air they do that they are superior intellectually, morally, artistically, what have you.
In my last post I mentioned The Younger Pliny, whose letters are filled with real charm, delightful wit, a wealth of kindness and generosity. More importantly, they are masterfully written. Pliny was a lawyer who constantly sought to share his superior status with younger, less known lawyers. He freed his slaves and he cared enormously for his freedmen. He was gentle, kind, generous and he was supremely elegant in the way he addressed all and sundry.
It was not Pliny's good qualities that made his writing immortal. It was the quality of his mind. It is possible for a damned rude writer to write like an angel and it is possible for a gentle writer to write like a pig. The worst possible combination in the world, however, is a a poor writer who behaves badly. Pliny was a mensch. I would have liked to have met him in person.