Where did all the good people go?

To quote Jack Johnson “Where did all the good people go?”

An attitude of “It’s all about me” is becoming more and more evident in society, and no example is stronger than the slow death of general politeness. Recently I’ve been noticing an increasing level of bad manners and general rudeness whilst out and about. I now found myself wondering ‘is it just me?’, and then I noticed a trend in the  evening news. Every week there was at least one or two news stories popping up about someone being abused on public transport, or some rude self-absorbed person refusing to offer their seat to an elderly or pregnant women.

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/racist-rant-not-the-first-time-ive-been-abused-says-victim-20130403-2h6oh.html
http://theantibogan.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/asian-tourists-abused-on-public-transport/
http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/commuters-take-to-social-media-to-shame-passengers-after-video-shows-a-pregnant-woman-being-abused-on-a-perth-train/story-fnhocxo3-1226665886997

If the news and my experiences were true than were has all the politeness gone? I asked my friends their opinions, to see if it really was just me imagining it. And whilst all my friends had varying opinions the one thing I did verify is that I have surrounded myself with lovely, polite, women who were shining examples of the manners and politeness I had been searching for. And though it would have been interesting to hear the opinion of a rude person I’d realised they’d all been stripped from my life as much as possible. In doing so I am lucky enough to experience manners and general politeness in my everyday life.

My work life is a shining example. I work in a small office of men, gentlemen in fact. All of which open the door for me when we are leaving the office together.  Also I frequently go to lunch with a family friend that has admitted to being traditional. Opening the door, pulling out a chair, taking a person’s jacket and paying for lunch are all things he believes are essential, and things that have been engraved into him from an early age. The one thing all of these people have in common is they are, men, gentleman who are all quite older than me.

This personal experience first led me to think it might be the age of a person that plays a role in their level of politeness. However, my friend Chloe experiences general politeness from someone in their 20s on a regular basis. “he always opens doors for me or lets me go in first (and this applies to other girls too); he is considerate, not only of me but of others; if he has a phone conversation he does it in private; ‘thank-you’s and ‘please’s go without saying; he is in general a beautiful example of a gentleman”. – Chloé. In saying that Chloé also stated that her ex was the complete opposite of her current polite boyfriend.

She believe that “it’s not particularly Gen Y or X or whatever they’re all called. I’ve seen some very rude older people contrasted by some very affable younger people”.

I remember when I was younger I spent some time in a small town in Poland. It was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone by name. Everyone lived in blocks of buildings and my friends where all boys. They were brought up traditionally, with strong values, manners and politeness ingrained in them. At first it was a real shock to me. It was something I hadn’t experienced at this level before.

I was hanging out with my friends out the front of one of these buildings between where we all lived. We’d bought a pack or two of sunflower seeds in their shells and went to sit down on the benches to start cracking into the delicious, salty morsels of joy. There was only one bench; it was enough to sit 4 of us, maybe 5 if we really squished up. For some reason on this particular day there were at least 7 of us hanging about. A few of my friends sat on the bench whilst I out of habit without a though proceeded to sit on the floor. Immediately everyone glared in my direction and began to beg for me to stand up. They kept offering me their seat on the bench and grew angry and anxious when I refused. After several toing and throwing I asked them why they were being so insistent when I was so happy staying where I was and they began to explain to me something I simply could not comprehend at the time. They told me that it was the way they were brought up, that being a girl I must sit at the bench. I told them that where I come from that doesn’t matter and that I really don’t mind. They then explained to me that they really need to me get off the floor because if someone sees me sitting on the floor the word would spread and that they would all cop it big time when they got home. And I knew what that meant… Beltings for the lot of them.

This memory led me to question that with this situation occurred with people between the ages of 12 to 18 maybe it’s parents and a traditional upbringing that instils our general politeness and manners in us as something to value. Megan tends to agree stating that it comes down to, where and when we were raised”… my school enforced it and my mother was like that”.

She also says that “small towns in the states tend to be more polite, bend over backwards for you and all that jazz where are cities, I have noticed it’s few and far between”. Back in Australia, in the city where I currently live, this is where I’ve experienced a large amount of rudeness on public transport, particularly over seating. Whilst it might sound funny the idea of an 80 year old women, granny knickers showing with her legs up in the air, the hip-replacement your tax payers’ dollars are about to pay for isn’t. There have been many videos recently going viral of teenagers, and in general rude commuters refusing to give us there seats for the elderly, women carrying babies and groceries etc. I ask ‘If it was your grandma – wouldn’t you stand?’ Unlike me my friend Chloé has had a very opposing experience on public transport, “I’ve actually seen many polite people on public transport ”.

Even though my experiences of rudeness have been more evident to me in Australia, could this be simply put down to when I am travelling people see me as a tourist and them someone that should be treated with respect as I am ‘different’, my friend Laura from Germany believes that “in australia people tend to be more Polite to Strange[r]s than in other Countries. I believe that is due to the British influence And their Strong Focus on manners.”

This makes me wonder whether demographics might have something to do with this? Does coming from a lower socio-economic background give someone the excuse to be rude?

My favourite example of this is a story and one that I tell my friends on a regular basis still nerves me to the core. One afternoon I was on my drive way when I heard the most incredible thing. A group of children that live down the street and come from what I believe to be a lower socio-economic background, with an upbringing that would rival that of monkeys butt were playing in the park. Suddenly a boy from this family –he could not be more than 5 or 6 years of age – proceeded to yell across the street to his 3 or 4 year old sister playing on the swings something along the lines of “get back in the f*cking house you f*cking c*nt. Get back in the f*cking house you f*cking c*nt or I’m going to bash you you b*tch”. I was honestly mortified and I found myself wondering what has been happening in that house that has led this child -who should still have been reasonably innocent- to say something remotely like that.

Could society and social media is to blame for our poor attitudes?  My favourite example of this is the RSVP and the increasing perception and attitude of But I’m only one person’. Let me be the first to say that whilst we are all individual in this situation this is no excuse. If you are significant enough to receive an invitation to an event you should be respectful enough to take the 10 seconds to RSVP. Maybe Facebook and invitations via text message are to blame, but in saying that is a simple text message reply really too much to ask for?

These days I’ve noticed three trends in RSVP responses:
-The ‘no response’
-The ‘accept but doesn’t attend’
-The ‘no response yet attends’

With this attitude spread amongst so many people these days, you might think you’re ‘just one person’ and that your flaky RSVP attitude will have no effect, but it’s time you realised your RSVP matters –or you wouldn’t be asked for one. This wide-spread disrespectful laziness means that dinner parties of 20 become dinner parties of 6 and weddings of 60 turn into weddings on 70.

So if you are one of these flaky respondents –and you know if you are- here’s a fun fact for you that may have no crossed you mind, people actually make plans –such as catering and seating- according to their guests RSVPs. So it’s not hard to imagine that when RSVPs don’t correspond to actual attendee numbers the fun can be easily sucked out of an event as the host –the person who’s gone to the effort to create a lovely event tries to scramble together last minute changes to accommodate the rude and inconsiderate.

Maybe it’s my upbringing but I honestly believe that it’s the little things that matter. Saying please and thank-you is the simplest of courtesies, yet it can make all the difference and best of all it’s free! Think of your mum coming home for a hard day’s work and still slaving over a hot stove to cook the family a meal. After you enjoy your delicious meal you get up and walk away leaving the dirty dishes on the table. How unappreciated would your mum feel?

And dare I say it, what ever happened to the thank-you letter?  When you give someone a generous gift you feel your gift is appreciated when you receive a simple thank-you letter, because you know that person has taken the time to send you that note, and that your money and time was greatly appreciated, not just cast aside. When you don’t receive a thank-you you wonder if you should have ever bothered if the person doesn’t even appreciate the gift. Yet many of us can’t be bothered to send them, even though it bothers us when we don’t receive them.

This is a perfect example of the ‘I can’t be bothered’ attitude plaguing our society. So how to counteract this and make is a simple as possible… E-mails are a perfectly acceptable way to show gratitude, though for those extra special moment and people you simple can’t go past a handwritten note, a 60c stamp for that super special heart-felt touch.

P1010298(A Thank-you note left for me on my bed by my friend Chloe after one of our numerous dinner parties. I was hosting.)

So why don’t we do these little things any more? Why are they no longer important to us when once they were the corner stones that defined our character? Chloe believes that “it’s all due to selfishness” and that “Rudeness is not best dealt with by returning it, in my opinion”. I tend to agree with this. Lowering yourself to the level of a person to that of a person  “with bad manners… unable to see the true value of anything” only makes you as bad –if not worse- that the rude person. So remember your Ps and Qs, don’t be obnoxiously foul mouthed in public and remember there’s no good excuse for impoliteness.

Thank-you to all my lovely friends who have contributed to this blog. And thank-you for being the respectful, well-mannered and all around lovely people you are in life.

But most importantly, I’d like to thank my father for instilling these great values in my throughout my life. Dad, if you ever read this blog please know that you have always been nothing but a perfect gentleman to not only me, but everyone around you. It is because of you that I know what a gentleman is, and the reason I have been able to surround myself with such wonderful friends with such wonderful values. I love you.

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