When I created this blog over 5 years ago, I chose the title “A Gentleman’s Relish” with a distinct nod to the English gentleman. This now endangered, if not extinct, sub-species has always had a certain cachet with me. As a busy professional I have found it intriguing to contemplate a life where money was no object, and one could fill ones days with leisure pursuits, reading, rambling, dabbling in art, spending time at “the club” and enjoying a never ending round of dinner parties, punctuated with extended first class travel to exotic lands,
I rather expect my attraction to the legal profession was, at lest in part, an off-shoot of that affection. Lawyers, you see pride themselves upon being members of a profession,rather than mere businessmen. In their conduct towards one another, and towards the public at large, lawyers are expected to maintain a certain courtly demeanor. One’s opponent is invariably referred to as ” my learned friend”, and all others with whom one comes into contact are to be treated with respect. There is a strict etiquette to be followed in a lawyers dealings with opposing parties, opposing counsel, and the court. In short, lawyer are expected to conduct themselves as gentlemen.
Now, as we enter the “Trump era” the values and manners associated with the English gentleman no longer seem quaint, but rather, essential, if we are to maintain any form of civil society in the midst of loutish behaviour both from those in public office, and from those emboldened by them.
It is, I submit, more important than ever to conduct ourselves (whatever our actual gender ) as “gentlemen” as a counterfoil to such behaviour. It is really only a matter of discipline. It takes effort to be unfailingly civil, and it isn’t easy, or convenient, to always tell the truth. It is truly hard to eschew victory in favour of sportsmanship, and requires fortitude to extend protection, always, to those more vulnerable, yet those traits are the essence of being a gentleman.
The discipline that was once thrashed into young minds on the playing fields of Eton must now come from within, since nowhere, it seems are these values taught, nor standards of behaviour even insisted upon. It accordingly falls to those of us who aspire to the title of gentleman, to enforce our own standards. True character, they say , is what you do when nobody is watching, so we need to strive always to raise the bar; practicing courtesy, charity, and plain dealing, always.
On the bright side, in a world of “alternative facts” , and “no shirt, no shoes, no service” the bar we must surpass isn’t set very high!