Times of crisis call for sacrifice. The national rudeness level has reached dangerous proportions. Each citizen has to commit himself or herself to behaving himself or herself, or we will all soon have to be committed. The situation, as Miss Manners sees it, arose from just the spirit of improvement that leads people to the excellent resolves associated with the beginning of a fresh year. There is a mistaken notion abroad that if one does one's best, one may be intolerant of those who do less.
Say you have given up smoking. Naturally, you will take the occasion to be grumpy and irritable in the bosom of your family. If you have stored up some personal credit there, through years of cheerful smoking, they may accept this good-naturedly for a short while. If it ends there, Miss Manners has no objection. The successful nonsmoker will then go on to attack perfect strangers, or rather, imperfect strangers, who smoke. If this were done politely, Miss Manners would still have no objection. The confinement of smoky air to the immediate and private vicinity of smoke producers is a valid goal. But what Miss Manners sees is an atmosphere polluted with self-righteous insults. Nonsmokers, joggers, food purists, and other such improved products feel they have a license to chastise the world.
Worse are the people who have had general self-overhauls, rather than specific repair jobs. Those who have newly discove