Was it il Duce who said that whenever he heard the word ‘culture’ he reached for his revolver? What is the meaning of culture? Is it “that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.”? (a definition gleaned from

Excellence is hard to achieve and requires work. Manners, on the other hand, requires very little instruction but demands that the learner continues to embrace those values.

Patience and empathy are prerequisites for the well-mannered. To insist on one’s manners is unmannerly. Other conventions or none have to be respected, or at least anticipated, so that one is not outraged by behaviour that differs from one’s own impeccable manners.

The Mitford sisters represented that echelon of English upper class society that could tell the world what was U and non-U. Possibly cosying up to Nazis in 1930s Germany was U. It was certainly something a Mitford and a royal had no qualms about. But then politics was rarely discussed at U dinner parties.

Sympatico is a better word for empathy and a concept that Europeans seem to grasp and practice in their daily lives. Being sympatico has connotations of humanity and an understanding of what makes us all human.

Dog eat dog, devil take the hindmost, snooze and you lose are not the mantras of sympatico people. Kindness, kindred spirit and a desire to understand your fellow human being are attributes that sympatico people aspire to.


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