The curious case of the absconding manners
I watched a social interaction take place on the bus this afternoon that got me thinking. And extended thinking eventually got me annoyed about what I had witnessed. The irony though, is that the social interaction wasn’t a once off occurrence, nor was it shocking. I’ve seen it a thousand times. But as I reflect on the week that has been, I have to ask the question – does anyone know what happened to manners?
The event that prompted this post was nondescript, yet in a way it was incredibly poignant – I was sitting up the back of the bus, watching the world go by when we stopped to pick up a mother with her toddler and an infant in a stroller. She struggled to get onto the bus and when she did, stood with a despondent look on her face when she realised that the six fold up seats normally used to accommodate prams and wheelchairs were occupied by an elderly gentleman with his groceries and two young guys, one of whom was expressing his individuality with denim shorts, knee-high socks and a blue singlet, the latter normally only seen in shearing sheds and on my late grandfather. One can only assume the socks were providing enough warmth from the Brisbane winter weather to negate the need for something with sleeves. It was an interesting social experiment to watch, with the mother looking hopefully at the two guys. They didn’t move. They looked at her, looked at each other with an almost non discernible nod and went back to talking. One even spread his arm out over to the seat between him and his friend, as some sort of non verbal, possibly subconscious confirmation that there was no way he was moving. ”Grocery man” saw this and ended up moving so the woman could use the seats on the other side of the bus, but it made me think. And here we are.
It would be too easy to put what transpired down to age, as seems common place with society today. It’s so effortless to sit back and point fingers at Generation Y. But the apparent demise in manners and common courtesy today isn’t just restricted to people born since that time when Knight Rider was cool. The “What’s in it for me?” mentality is prevalent across all demographics. Can anyone tell me at which stage in our evolution as a society we stopped thinking about others? When did we decide it wouldn’t be worth helping someone or being polite if there was nothing to be personally gained by doing so? Call me cynical, but it seems like a backward step in cultural development.
I was raised to show respect, tolerance and consideration for others, as were my two younger brothers. It’s something I will be eternally grateful to my parents for. I never gave it much thought growing up, as I had more important things on my mind (as teenagers tend to do) and I assumed that everyone was being taught the same thing. But everyone isn’t taught the same thing. Some unfortunately have no exposure to it at all through varying extenuating factors, while some were taught common courtesy but somewhere along the line decided “Fuck it, if I have nothing to gain by doing it why bother?”
It’s a sad reflection on how we are progressing as a society when we are getting less respectful to others, and essentially ourselves by association. The main offenders seem to have a huge chip on their shoulders and assume that the general public owes them something for nothing. They go through life under the perception that everyone should treat them like the sun shines out of their rear facing orifice, but can’t fathom why this respect should be reciprocated. Certainly some of the offenders are Gen Y. Some are Gen X. I have seen Baby Boomers guilty of the “WIIFM?” approach too. Can you see what I am getting at? People from all age brackets and walks of life are blameworthy of this seemingly felonious social faux pas. The question that begs to be answered though is this: how long will it be until a total disregard for others and an absence of manners isn’t any longer a faux pas, but a socially accepted norm?