4.4.2 Socially-Acceptable Behaviour

People can only live together peaceably if they accept constraints – which are referred to here as exhibiting the ‘Socially-Acceptable Behaviour’ that is widely practised day by day in peaceful societies.  It applies to every personal interaction, including people with whom one feels no affinity.

It is hard to define precisely what is socially-acceptable – so it is not appropriate to apply the coercion of the law to enforce it.  The requirements are rarely articulated and are taken for granted by most well-meaning people, so it might be argued that they are self-evident and not worth enunciating – but socially-acceptable behaviour is so important to society that it needs to be consistently taught ( and people should put moral pressure upon anyone who doesn’t comply, as discussed in the next section (4.4.3).

The central requirement is to comply with the Golden Rule (, which asks each person to “do not do to others what you would not have done to you”.  It is what people naturally expect from others in that society.

Societies will vary enormously, so it isn’t possible to define all aspects of socially-acceptable behaviour on a universal basis.  It is worth considering, though, what sort of characteristics would need to be taken into account; the following list is a suggestion:

  • People need to identify what they have in common, despite the variations in their individual views (
  • Each society has a conception of human rights (
  • People need to show each other respect, despite their differences (
  • Societies develop conventions of courtesy which, if complied with, make everyone feel better (
  • Last but not least, people should show integrity so that others can trust them (



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