Sunday, February 26, 2017

Have good manners gone forever? Tricia McGill

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This morning something happened that made me wonder. Where have good manners gone?

I was given the finger by a fellow motorist as I drove out of the local shopping center. For those of you who are non-Australians that means a finger was pointed at me in a rude gesture by a scowling male driver. And what did I do to deserve this insult? I allowed cars the right of way onto the main highway. But obviously this young person considered that I made him wait too long behind me while I applied my good manners on the road. To show me his displeasure he came around on my outside beeping his horn full blast (bear in mind that we drivers sit on the righthand side of our cars over here in OZ and one of the road rules is that we give way to the right). He then proceeded to come across at speed so that he was in front of me and then he did a sudden jerk to the left while giving me aforementioned hand signal as he turned left into a service station (mouthing apparent obscenities). Now, how urgent was his need for petrol that he had to perform this amazingly bad mannered and ignorant act, putting other drivers at risk, simply because I did what comes naturally to me, I allowed the traffic coming from my right side right of way.

Fellow drivers of my generation will know exactly where I am coming from when I say that in the “good ol’ days” we would not only give way to other drivers but they would then give us a friendly salute to say thanks. Back then we knew what good manners were. I sometimes wonder how some of these younger drivers get their licences. I know we all think that we are the best drivers in the world when we are young and perhaps impatient, but at times they test my patience to the limits with their rudeness, and I wonder if they are taught manners at home.

We were taught to respect our elders, something else that came naturally. We would not think of sitting on a bus or train while an elderly person stood. The men of our era always, without fail, opened doors for us ladies, and walked on the outside of the footpath. Men might use plenty of cussing and swear words while in the company of their mates but never let a swear word pass their lips while in the company of females. And if they did let one slip they would immediately apologize. These days I am becoming sick of seeing movies that are peppered with blasphemies and curses, and by just as many women as men. My mother would be disgusted if she heard some of the language that seems to be the norm nowadays.

That’s not to say I haven’t used the odd swear word in my books, but only when it is appropriate to the character. I make no apologies to those who think me a prude, I have been known to let my tongue get the better of me at times when no other word will suffice, but mostly my dogs are the only ones who will hear.

It seems that nobody can solve the problem of whether manners maketh the man.
According to this writer’s point of view the problem today is that men are frightened of being embarrassed if they perform an act of chivalry. So, perhaps it is the women who are to blame. What man will offer to hold your chair out for you or help you on with your coat ever again if he is ridiculed by his friends or even the woman he is performing this mannerly act for?

Here’s what Sting had to say about good manners. I’m sure he won’t object to me using this brilliant quote:

“If "Manners maketh man," as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself, no matter what they say."

So, there you go, men of today (and sometimes women) have to stop being so self-conscious of doing what is right. Instead of making rude gestures simply because a fellow driver has made you wait a minute or two to be on your way, or a salesperson has held you up at the supermarket, take time to pause and smile. Life is too short to be in such haste to show others how rude and ignorant you are. I’m certain that this young man who was so rude to me has many people in his life who love him dearly—or perhaps he doesn’t and that is the root of his problems.

Remember Brian’s famous quote from Monty Python’s Life of Brian “Always look on the bright side of life.”

And then there’s the scourge of the internet—the troll. Need I say more? Every writer has suffered slanderous words aimed at their work by these faceless people who must surely have very unhappy existences if they take pleasure in sniping at other’s achievements.  

Another of my mother’s memorable words of wisdom was: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then best say nothing at all.”

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