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Monday, 29 November 2010

Are Folk More Ill-Mannered These Days?

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We all come across instances of poor manners; those who live in cities must suffer this most, whilst those in towns encounter more inconsiderate behaviour than those who live in rural areas. I believe it's density of population, sheer numbers, that is responsible for the fall in good manners. The larger the local population, the more difficult it is to feel part of a community and therefore to feel that sense of mutual obligation that makes for a more considerate mode of living.

We live cheek by jowl in cities and towns yet know few of those we pass in the street; possibly even being ignorant of the names of those who live next door or across the road. In villages and rural areas this sort of alienation is rare because all residents know each other and only unknown people are classified and treated as strangers. The fact that individuals are generally known tends to make for better behaviour, and rudeness, ignorance and antisocial habits are less frequent. The incidence of juvenile crime in such areas is lower because the children know that their parents will invariably get to hear about any wrong-doing.

But general good manners have been in decline for decades, more or less regardless of location. I can recall always stepping to the side to allow an older pedestrian to pass me in the street, always holding open a shop door to permit the entrance of those following me, regardless of gender or age, and many other small acts of good manners. And I was brought up first in a city and later in a town. But I note that bad manners appear to have nothing to do with either age or gender; people of all generations and both sexes seem equally incapable of applying the lubrication that allows life to run more smoothly.

I recall travelling on the Tube in London some years ago. A young pregnant woman entered the crowded compartment. Without a thought, I rose and offered her my seat; it was a simple natural action. She sneered at me and said something like, 'I can f**king stand as well as you, you condescending twat.' I put down her behaviour as an isolated case of extreme feminism and continue to offer my seat to the frail, disabled or elderly. A more timid man might have never dared make such an offer again.

Driving, I frequently come across situations where one party is required to give way to another and never fail to be surprised by how few acknowledge the action, simply driving through as though they owned the road.

I cannot be alone in decrying such behaviour. Let me know whether you agree or not and let me know why you feel it is important or trivial, please. Tell me about the sort of rudeness that really makes you angry, disappointed or frustrated. I'm interested in how others feel about this topic. 

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