In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a rather rude and mannerless society. To be clear, I’m not talking about basic table etiquette (although, that too has suffered over the decades) but the basic social niceties and small courtesies that allow reasonable social interaction. We developed these courtesies over the centuries to make social interaction better for all people and mostly, it worked. Not for everyone, not all the time and not perfectly – but we had a generally polite and functioning society. While I will admit that today’s society is still functioning (for whatever value of function you may hold) we are most definitely not polite to each other and we definitely don’t go out of our way to be so.
Right – so that’s the issue in a nutshell. We know it. We recognize there’s a problem but we haven’t got the faintest idea of how to fix it, let alone knowing how the issue started in the first place. Identifying the how and why may asssist us in figuring out a means of correction. I have to admit though, that after 40 some years of neglect, I am rather pessimistic about any chances of fixing the situation.
So – how did we get here? In a phrase – Baby Boomers. Yep – I’m indeed going to tar an entire generation with this brush, even though there are many who don’t deserve it. The sad fact is that manners started going out the window with the Baby Boomers and it happened for one simple reason…”manners are too hard.” Unfortunately, that’s the battle cry of the entire generation (and I’m included in it – whether I want to be or not). The whining cry of “it’s too hard” has echoed down the corrdiors of time for the last 65 years.
Simple courtesy has been tagged by Boomers as being too hard. Or, in some cases, courtesy was seen as being too Establishment and therefore by necessity be discarded. It wasn’t just the Flower children who made that decision – the ladies who were pushing the Equal Rights (which was needed) also wanted society to discard conventional courtesies. At least the feminists had a point – opening a car door for a lady, offering to carry her books or packages etc. probably was somewhat demeaning. At the very least, it did continue to push the stereotype of the “wealer sex”. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences have struck us all.
Simple courtesies are neither hard nor difficult. It’s merely a matter of thinking of the other person before yourself. And that, friends, is where the Boomers all get tarred with the same brush. Boomers found it hard and still find it hard, to think of anyone but themselves. Hence their whining battle cry. Their willingness to jettison anything that was too hard – manners, literacy, education, societal responsibility has turned us into modern day barbarians. If not barbarians, we’re the next step up from them.
Simple courtesy costs nothing but provides a lot. Pleasantries, smiles and even conversations can happen because of a small courtesy but because this was ‘hard’ much of this has disappeared. Society doesn’t have conventions anymore; it’s everyone for themselves and if someone is in your way, steamroll them. The really funny thing is – it’s harder to move through someone than to go around them. The Boomers, despite their crys of ‘it’s too hard’ took the lazy person’s approach and spent more time and effort to avoid being mannerly than it would have taken to be courteous. So much for it’s too hard…more like, it really didn’t/doesn’t benefit me so I shall do as I please and the rest of the world will just have to conform to me.