Practicing Etiquette, Issue II.I
Robert Hayes Kee,
Department of Polite Aesthetic Praxis

I am delighted to write to you once again, dear readers. This marks the anniversary of our regular foregatherings in these pages, and I could not be in greater elysium on this occasion. Anniversaries are often times to mark achievements and to reflect, but I do not wish to look back through a prism of sentiment at our time together. I wish merely to thank you for your continued lucubration to matters of etiquette and to the editorial staff who have continued to tolerate my liberal attitudes to the passage of time in and through deadlines.

This time of year is one that is marked by the regularity of routine, a pressure I feel mostly acutely here today at my desk in the back of the library. The midway point of the spring semester will always create this feeling in all at the university, I suppose. But it has also been a time of reintroduction, of reemergence. I have found myself unwedging improvised bookmarks from the spines of dearly loved but long-shelved volumes and seeing old friends from across the room in the galleries of the city. I have turned these chance encounters into opportunities to once again luxuriate in the feast of reason and flow of soul with my old companions. You too should allow for the emergence of the new from familiar ground. The discarded seeds of previous seasons may have grown into a beautiful garden in your absence. Much of etiquette is wisely balancing our commitments to maximize our time for esthetic praxes, but now is an excellent time to break from our habits and bring new eyes to our old vicinages.

Robert Hayes Kee


Atlanta, GA

I have recently learned that a stipend that I applied for has gone to an esthetic practitioner of greater renown than myself. It seems highly unlikely to me that this figure is in need of this support, nor do does the work need greater exposure. Quite the contrary, this work is atrocious sentiment worthy of the finest suppression. Do I owe this figure any semblance of feigned interest in their work when I am in the unfortunate presence of this interlocutor? Am I allowed to express my disdain for the choice of this funding organization and their taste for empty, digestible sentiment?

Perhaps the saddest fact of capitalism is the smattered competition for funds dedicated to esthetic praxes in stipends. It shows our polity’s disinterest in developed and serious praxes to let the whims of the bourgeois govern funds’ disbursement. I personally believe that funding for praxes should be distributed on the degree of seriousness with which the practitioner responds to the crises of metaphysics, but this view has few adherents.

Some say that administration is required of artists as a ‘professional development,’ and that the transformation of the artist into the artist-administrator is a move of liberation, one that frees us to move in the exchange flows of capitalism. That we can be swept away with scores of Beethoven, sacks of potatoes or any other commodity. These worst humans are philistines of the highest order and the most qualified for cranial severation when my time as a renewed Robespierre comes to pass.

Given this wholly indecent arrangement, anger is a quite natural emotion. I too have recently applied for substantial funding for an action, and, knowing some competing proposals, I could be in a similar situation with startling alacrity. Rarely are emotions themselves rude. Training oneself to act as one without pettiness is not desirable or achievable. Do not seek to make yourself a temple to higher thoughts, free of vanity. We cannot crush the ego or metaphysics. We must, however, project these desires forward in the most constructive way possible.

Given that our ignoble interlocutors produce broad and digestible sentiment, we must seek to make that work less so. It is unfortunately too late to alter the proposal to be of greater interest (or horrendous disinterest), so we must seek to alter the final product. The actions of such a plan must of course be specific to the object d’art one wishes to improve. Slashing a painting, pouring blood on a work or striking a piece with a hammer have all been done recently, so a higher imagination is called for. I would suggest a literal approach to the raising of ambitions of the piece. Attach a sufficient quantity of balloons to your rival’s work so that it floats out of its original context into a new one. Its journey into the sky will vastly improve its potability as a work, and the inevitable crash landing will rearrange it in a way that is bound to be more interesting.

A former paramour has recently reemerged as an occasional interlocutor, and recently these occasions have grown more frequent. I wish to increase this frequency and to develop our dormant mutuality. However, I am unaware of what my interlocutor’s desires are, and I am at a loss for how to enquire about them without shattering the fragile cordiality between us. How may I politely proceed into this unknown yet familiar terrain?

Should one simply follow the caricature of etiquette or glance through a volume of Emily Post, one would see etiquette as a series of practices for showing deference in known social interactions. This information is not entirely without value, but it is not a viable praxis, and that is the state of a strong human and esthetic endeavor.

To develop a praxis of etiquette, one must move past a simple dialectic of new situations and old forms to a genuinely esthetic arrangement of living. Esthetic praxis requires a willingness to fail, and indeed, the expectation of it. If one is not willing to throw the dice again and again and one cannot do so with an iron plan. ‘The heaven contingency, the heaven exuberance.’ We cannot be encumbered by purpose and pursue our desires. We dance on the feet of chance, dear reader, and one cannot seduce with leaden feet, no matter which way we wish to see them in the air.

We must fail, and we must forget. There is no present without forgetfulness. We cannot look forward and backwards at the same time. You and your interlocutor must choose which way to face, and it will be most enjoyable for you two to face each other. A couple is much happier having two backs than two faces.

I have recently been threatened by an interlocutor after a minor disagreement. I am disconcerted by this breech of decorum, and I wish to see this human expelled from our common society. I am not interested in considering my interlocutor’s rationalizations for this action. Do I owe this human some due consideration? Can I simply remove them from my affairs without rudeness?

I appreciate your concern for finding some balance of truth, reader. A broad value for careful action and an appreciation of ambiguity are the hallmarks of a considerate and intelligent human. It can be a striking oddness when one realizes that one is in a situation where the matter is totally unambiguous and one party is wholly wrong. I distrust this impulse myself, but it is sometimes the case.

Threats of physical violence cannot be tolerated from any interlocutor, regardless of context. We as humans cannot carry on without the integrity of our physical bodies, and one so impolite to threaten violence, even as a rhetorical tactic, cannot be trusted in any matter. Etiquette is a boon to human communication and collaborations, and violations of it inhibit this progress.

Your interlocutor has stricken themselves from the registry of decent humans. I advise barring them from darkening the doors of any room you may inhabit. It is not enough to separate yourself from this distasteful human; you should warn others also. Both tasks will be most effectively accomplished by chaining an impediment to the offender’s appendage. One should also take the effort to inscribe the crimes of the offender into the ball (or also the chain if one is a skilled etcher), describing the offense with great detail, repeating as necessary to cover the surface. Bear in mind the example set by die Egge auf Der Strafkolonie. We seek to not match bodily retribution, but to displace it as a sign of our civility and benevolence.