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Consider the custom, in American society, of constantly saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ To do so is often treated as basic morality: we are constantly chiding children for forgetting to do it, just as the moral guardians of our society – teachers and ministers, for instance – do to everybody else. We often assume that the habit is universal, but… it is not. Like so many of our everyday courtesies, it is a kind of democratization of what was once a habit of feudal deference: the insistence on treating absolutely everyone the way that one used only to have to treat a lord or similar hierarchical superior…
All of this is a relatively recent innovation. The habit of always saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ first began to take hold during the commercial revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – among those very middle classes who were largely responsible for it. It is the language of bureaus, shops, and offices, and over the course of the last five hundred years it has spread across the world along with them. It is also merely one token of a much larger philosophy, a set of assumptions of what humans are and what they owe one another, that have by now become so deeply ingrained that we cannot see them. -David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story set in a society where no one says “please” or “thank you.”
Journaling Prompt: What are you grateful for today? To whom do you need to express your gratitude?
Art Prompt: Please and Thank You
Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Discuss courtesy and its role in society.
Photo Credit: rustiqueart on Flickr
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