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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Rudeness and courtesy

It struck me again this morning how rude we as a society have become. A car raced passed me while I was walking Bonny this morning. We were on a narrow country road but he didn’t slow as he passed – instead he drove straight through a puddle as he swerved round us, soaking both Bonny and I. Then, instead of a wave of apology, I got a gesture involving a single finger as he raced off.

On my way to work, I pulled over to let a car pass me on a single track road. I looked at her as she passed, waiting for the lifted hand or nod of thanks, but no, nose in the air, she swept past me in her huge, intimidating 4x4 as if it were her right.

Once in work, it is my custom to say hello or smile at customers as they enter the shop. I would estimate that a good 70% ignore the greeting and don’t even look in my direction. Listening to the radio or watching TV, I notice how rude interviewers have become. They invite a person to come and speak on a subject and then spend most of the interview interrupting, speaking over the person or sneering at what they say.

The government, of course, are supremely rude; both to each other and to us. They scream at each other over the ballot box or TV studio. They lie to us and then interfere in a dreadfully discourteous way in all our lives. Not content with being rude to their own citizens, they then export incivility abroad by interfering in other countries and sometimes even by killing their occupants.

Banks and other robber barons are rude by treating us as if we were idiots – trying to persuade us that they exist to serve us, almost as if they were charities – rather than usurers bound for hell with profit as their top, bottom and middle line.

Examples of discourtesy are everywhere and seem to infect every part of our society, from the school gate to the work place and even in the sports we watch and take part in.

I have heard this rudeness blamed on our ‘individualistic society’. it is said as if all this is inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it. Well I believe we can – one person at a time. Let us bring back courtesy and civility to our world. let’s doff our hats at those we pass on the street, let us open doors and say “Oh no, after you”. Let’s occasionally let that car into the moving line of traffic who has been waiting for several years at the side road.

Why don’t we refuse to give in to the prevailing attitude of fear and suspicion towards a stranger and instead see them as a fellow human being with the same joys and fears, worries and ambitions that we have? Let’s look at each other in the eye again. Let’s smile and say “good morning”. If somebody is speaking, lets try to hear them out without interrupting. Let’s make an effort to see things from their point of view rather than rushing to argue.

If, one by one, we bring back gentility, politeness and courtesy in the way we treat others, perhaps we can shame people into responding accordingly. Then, as citizens we can influence our institutions and government, by refusing to put up with rudeness.

So come on… doff a cap today!

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