Last week on Lesa's Book Critiques, Lesa Holstine reviewed Whoopi Goldburg's new book Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There? which deals with the lack of common courtesy and respect in our society. The review sparked a discussion on common courtesy and good manners (or the lack thereof) and I'd like to continue that discussion here today.
It has been said that one of the first signs of the decline of a society or civilization is the loss of common courtesy. If that's true, we're in big trouble. Now, I'll admit, I may have a different perspective on this than some of you because of my age. I'm a little old gray haired grandmother, a card carrying senior citizen. So I've seen a lot of changes in what constitutes good manners. I remember when swearing in public was actually against the law. I remember when children addressed adults as Mr. or Mrs. (etc.), when men's hats were removed indoors, when a younger person would yield their seat to an elder (I started to do this recently and realized the person I was offering my seat to was probably younger than I am - oops), and when everyone stood (gasp) when the American flag went by.
But what difference does it make? Really. Is anyone hurt if we all sit down to dinner in ball caps, probably worn backward? If my neighbor's children called me Linda instead of Mrs. Leszczuk? If teenage girls want to walk through the mall using language that would make a sailor blush? What's the harm?
I think it has to do with where we draw the line. For example, when I went to school, back in the dark ages, it was a punishable offense not to address our teachers as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am'. So if a young man felt the need to show off, to show his disdain for school rules or his indifference to punishment, all he had to do was fail to use the proper form of address. Bingo - he was a rebel. A tough guy. A hero to his peers. But what about now? With even the most basic levels of courtesy gone from our schools, with foul language the unofficially accepted norm, if that young man wants to make his point, what are his options? Vandalism? Physical violence?
The problem is if we set the line of what's acceptable too far out there, or if we set the bar so low, we have no buffer. If we've already abandoned all forms common courtesy, what goes next?
What do you think?
Special guest alert! Don't miss my blog this Wednesday when I'll be hosting Mary Kennedy, author of the Talk Radio mysteries. And holding my first giveaway!
And don't forget to enter Maria Zannini's great contest for a chance to win a free manuscript critique.
I'm currently enjoying: Liberty Falling by Nevada Barr
Groaner of the Day: A couple lived near the ocean and used to walk the beach a lot. One summer they noticed a girl who was at the beach pretty much every day. She wasn't unusual, nor was the travel bag she carried, except for one thing; she would approach people who were sitting on the beach, glance around furtively, then speak to them. Generally the people would respond negatively and she would wander off, but occasionally someone would nod and there would be a quick exchange of money for something she carried in her bag.
The couple assumed she was selling drugs and debated calling the cops, but since they didn't know for sure they just continued to watch her. After a couple of weeks, the wife said, "Honey, have you ever noticed that she only goes up to people with boom boxes and other electronic devices?" He hadn't, and said so.
Then she said "Tomorrow I want you to get a towel and our big radio and go lie out on the beach. Then we can find out what she's really doing." Well, the plan went off without a hitch and the wife was almost hopping up and down with anticipation when she saw the girl talk to her husband and then leave. The man walked up the beach and met his wife at the road. "Well? Is she selling drugs?" she asked, excitement pouring out with her voice.
"No, she's not." he said, enjoying this probably more than he should have.
"Well? What is it, then? What does she do?" his wife fairly shrieked.
The man grinned and said, "She's a battery salesperson."
"A battery salesperson?" cried the wife.
"Yes," he replied, "She sells 'C' cells by the sea shore."
(I'm sorry, Maria.)