I enjoy a good political debate.
But, in recent years, irritating politicians refusing to answer questions – and the rudeness of interviewers trying to make a name for themselves by talking over each other and constantly interrupting the replies – have spoiled this. I remember being told as a child that it was rude and showed you weren’t listening if you talk over people.
This prompted me to ask if poor manners have led to a lowering of our standards.
Simple things which annoy me, and others, are things like how few people entering or leaving shopping arcades hold the doors open for others.
“Does the milk of human kindness shine through all adversity?”
In fact, people today seldom look at all. I’ve found doors slammed in my face on many occasions. It’s not life or death but it does make living and working in the city a little bit more pleasant if people show a little more courtesy towards each other.
Shopping itself can be difficult. When browsing through the magazine rack or looking at the latest DVDs on sale it’s incredible how many rude people simply walk in front of you without even acknowledging they are blocking your view. Where are these people’s manners? Can’t they say “excuse me”?
Although that phrase is now often used more commonly as an aggressive response – an import from American TV programmes.
Remember the old advertisements which used to say “coughs and sneezes spread diseases”? Well perhaps it should be revived as so many people now cough and sneeze without putting a hand in front of their mouths to prevent others catching what they have.
And don’t start me on public toilets. It’s incredible how many people use public toilets and don’t even wash their hands. No wonder germs are rife in our society.
A very contemporary problem today is people of all ages texting whilst walking down the street. It never seems to occur to them that others might be walking down that same high street and are watching where they are going.
Perhaps these things are just a symptom of a bygone era. People don’t seem to have the same caring approach we used to have, when we knew our neighbours well and tried to help them whenever we could.
Very often people don’t know what’s happening in their neighbourhoods and people seem to be keen on just shutting their doors when they get home after a busy day. Hence the reason people don’t get involved in their local communities as before.
The selfish society is often best seen on public transport when some people get on the bus, park their bags on the window seat and sit in the aisle seat, preventing anyone else sitting beside them.
And how often have I seen people occupy the front bus seats specifically set aside for those with disabilities or older people with mobility problems?
Is it that we simply don’t care about others any more? Whatever happened to the old NHS adage that we look after our people from the cradle to the grave?
The affluent society also has problems with manners, which gives way to the idea that rules are for others – they don’t apply to me! Hence the number of educated parents who still park their cars outside schools where there are clearly yellow lines prohibiting this. They can read the signs and they do understand the rules but they refuse to follow them. If parents behave like that then no doubt they will bring their youngsters up along the same lines. Rules and good manners don’t apply to us!
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Surely our communities are better served by good citizenship. People who respect the rights of others and are determined to set good examples for the next generation. People who can help make our lives in the north-east a bit friendlier than in some other places. Quality of life is important.
Whenever I get frustrated by the attitude “I’m all right mate, to hell with others,” I remember the number of volunteers we have in this city. So many things would just not happen without these people’s personal generosity of spirit.
Celebrate Aberdeen was originally set up to remind a non-listening council how many thousands of people generously give up their time for no cash reward but simply to bring a better quality of life to those who are less fortunate than themselves.
Significantly, that parade of generous spirit is growing. It’s an interesting fact that the voluntary sector brings in more cash to the north-east than tourism.
So, does it start with good manners? Or does the milk of human kindness shine through all adversity?
Len Ironside is the former leader of the Aberdeen City Council.