Is it just me, or are manners an outdated concept? Has the civil society gone the way of the dinosaur? I was actually surprised the other day when I was thanked by a restaurant employee. The surprising thing is that it seemed like such a unique event that I was actually taken aback! Has our society really gotten to the point where courtesy surprises us?
Maybe it’s my parents’ fault; I was actually raised to say “Please” and “Thank you! As a Boy Scout, I had to memorize the Boy Scout Oath that contained the phrase, “To help other people at all times,” and the Boy Scout Law that stated that a scout was “Trustworthy, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, etc.” Are these concepts outdated and unnecessary?
In school I was taught to say, “Joe and I are –” Now it seems that every statement involving one’s self and someone else begins with a personal pronoun associated with the speaker, “me and her are –.” Besides being poor grammar, I believe it reflects the sad truth that we have become of society of “Me first!” My needs are the most important, and as long as they are always met, you won’t have a problem with “ME!” I think we see this phenomenon at all levels of American society, beginning at the top. We have a government that has almost ground to a halt because no one can compromise. It’s a philosophy of “My way or the highway.” This was certainly reflected in last summer’s battle over raising the debt ceiling that ultimately led to America’s credit rating reduction.
We demand respect rather than living a life that is deserving of respect. We bully others into acknowledging our positions rather than taking the time and effort to prove our point. We are self-righteous about our positions or lifestyle or looks and publicly mock anyone who doesn’t look like us, speak like us, or fawn on us. Witness the TV and radio talk show hosts that constantly mock and ridicule public figures. Shows like Saturday Night Live and cartoons like The Simpsons are based on the premise of mockery and protected by the mantra, “It’s only humor.” People post hateful things about others on Facebook, and kids are driven to suicide by digital hate campaigns. The TV is awash with ads featuring half-truths about political rivals and rules and regulations political action groups dislike.
Are we doomed to a presidential ticket featuring Bart Simpson and Snooki? Is it too much to ask for oncoming drivers to use turn signals so we know whether or not we can proceed at an intersection? Do we need to “flip off” or honk at other drivers because they aren’t going the speed we want them to go? Do we have to be on our cell phones as we shop, drive or sit in a theater? Rather than building communication bridges, has technology really built walls of isolation?
Our kids are schooled each day by the people they see on the street, TV, and Internet and listen to on the radio. An anonymous author once wrote, “Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners.” It’s not what we tell them to do that sticks; it’s what they see us do the molds their behavior.
Maybe I am overreacting, and if so, I apologize! However, I think we would be a happier, more productive society if we learned to consider the feelings of others when making decisions about what we say or do. So back to the restaurant employee. As a businessman and as a consumer, I learned something from her simple application of courtesy – I will do business with that restaurant in the future, and I will support businesses that are respectful of their customers. Every customer deserves a personal, courteous response from a real person, not computerized voices suggesting which buttons to push in order that you might reach the right digitized response to your question. That’s not customer service!
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