The Difference Between Politeness and Tact

In west on 04/03/2011 at 9:47 pm

In the film Baisers volés, Delphine Seyrig explains to her young lover the difference between politeness and tact: “A visiting gentleman accidentally opens a bathroom door and discovers a woman completely nude. He quickly takes a step back, closes the door, and says, ‘Pardon, Madame!’ That is politeness. The same gentleman, pushing the same door, discovering the same completely naked woman, then says, ‘Pardon, Monsieur!’ That is tact.” It is only in the second case, by pretending not to have seen enough even to make out the sex of the person in the shower, that one displays true tact.

–from Slavoj Zizek’s essay in the January 20 issue of the London Review of Books, via April issue of Harper’s

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