Monday, August 16, 2004

Where Have Good Manners and Common Sense Gone?

OK, I admit it. I'm a hermit at heart and don't get out much. Friends and relatives have hinted that I might be just a tad misanthropic, but I don't believe that to be true. It's not people that I hate. I can't be bothered. What a colossal waste of time and energy that would be. No, I don't hate people. I do, sometimes, hate their behaviour.

I've been around for a while. Maybe I have a few too many dead brain cells to remember the past accurately. Maybe not. I seem to remember a time when common courtesy was, er... common. Good manners were the rule, rather than the exception. Please and thank you. Excuse me. That was then. Now, even here in Canada, where we are known worldwide for our politeness, bad manners are epidemic.

What has happened? Go to a shopping mall and try to get by a family or a bunch of friends walking six abreast towards you. It's either stare them down and refuse to move over (and be like them) or be polite and step aside to let them by. Drive on a multi-lane highway lately? Everyone drives in the left lanes, making it impossible to pass them legally. The right lane is virtually empty. Pass on the right? Sure. Then the constabulary will ticket you instead of the morons who are hogging the passing lanes.

Usually, when I hear someone else complain about these things, the blame is placed on the 'me, me' phenomenon. Selfishness is to blame, it is said. Individualism is the cause.

Well, colour me stupefied. As usual, I am way out of step with the oxymoronic 'common wisdom.' I think the blame falls squarely on collectivistic philosophy and the notion that everyone owns everything. In case you've been visiting Cassiopeia for the last century or so, while otherwise intelligent people embraced communism and its not-so-distant cousin socialism, the argument goes something like this: The government is the people. The government owns the roads. I am one of the people. Therefore I own the roads. Corollary: Because I own the roads, I will drive in whichever lane I damn well please, thank you very much.

But we don't own the roads. We don't own the sewers either. Nor the parks. We don't own a damn thing unless our name is on the deed. And even then, ownership rights are interfered with constantly as various levels of government try their best to control us and tell us what we can or cannot do with our property. I'd like to tell them what they can do. I'm sure you can imagine what that might be.

Individualists know that their rights extend only as far as others' similar rights. They walk on one side of the sidewalk so that others can pass on the other side. Why? Because they expect similar consideration from others. When driving, they stay in the right lane unless they wish to pass slower traffic. Why? Because just as they don't want to be trapped behind some troglodyte as he hogs the left lane all the way from Bowling Green to Marietta, they themselves don't wish to cause that same inconvenience to others. In conversation, individualists are polite because they expect similar civility from others.

Things will someday get better again. They always do. Until then, expect them to get worse first.


  1. Fortunately, most of the people here in Okinawa are very polite. Even when they drive, they are polite!! Yeah, they do have the occasional car accidents.. mostly when the road is wet, but I've never seen such polite drivers anywhere else. When you go to a convenience store, they said, "Good morning/afternoon/evening." When you leave they say, "Thank you.. come again." Yeah, some people (I mean westerners) think it's fake. But it's better than your typical store clerk in the USA who acts as if he is doing you a favor just by showing up for work!

    It will be a big shock when I go back to San Diego for a week and a half to do my final outprocessing from the Navy.

  2. I've dealt with many rude customers as well.