Manners have fallen off the radar | Sunday Observer

Manners have fallen off the radar

When we were children teachers often warned us: “Know your manners.” When we grew up, most of us question: “Where are the manners?” In fact, people have invented many reasons for being rude. However, there can be no excuses for being rude. Being nice to others pays in the long run. Being rude to others lead to innumerable problems.

I was in a long queue at a sales outlet to pay for what I had bought. A young man jumped the queue. When others protested, he simply said he was in a hurry. I felt that the world was going to hell in a hand-basket. We see rudeness everywhere such as banks, post offices, buses, trains and on the road. If you ask for the balance, you will get a bellyful from the conductor. If you accidentally knock against someone on the road, the other person turns abusive. Even if you apologize, it will have no effect. All these events lend proof to the hypothesis that people have become ruder than in the past. Patsy Rowe in The Little Book of Etiquette says, “Manners have fallen off the radar; there is simply no time for niceties.”

Reasons for rudeness

Psychologists have come up with various reasons for our rudeness. With easy access to the Internet and mobile phones, people want to do everything in a hurry. Today, you do not have to wait for a passing tuk tuk as you can order a cab using an app on your mobile phone. You do not have to wait for the tea-maker to prepare a nice cup of tea as it is readily available. Some women do not want to deliver babies in the normal but painful way. They go for a caesarian section. People want fast food and snacks as they have no time to eat at leisure. The tendency to have everything in a jiffy has made robots out of humans.

The trouble is that humans cannot compete with machines. Now we have instant coffee and instant babies. When somebody tries to do something manually, we lose patience because the process is slow. We have forgotten the fact that humans cannot work at 4G speeds. The person behind the counter in a bank or post office is not a robot. You have to expect some delay in their performance.

One day I went to the National Library and Documentation Services Board to obtain some of its services. I had to fill a form and pay a small amount for the service. The clerk behind the counter had only to give me a receipt. Every time she tried to obtain a printout the machine did not respond. I had to wait for more than 20 minutes to get a printout. On such occasions people tend to lose their cool. If a machine goes out of order what can the operator do? We must be ready for such technological delays in public and private offices.

Mobile phones

Most of us are so preoccupied with our mobile phones checking emails and texts that we have hardly any time to talk to other people. In most of the government offices certain functions are still being done manually. As a result customers have to wait for a long time to get something done. On such occasions tempers rise and people shout at the service providers quite unnecessarily.

If you dial a wrong telephone number, the person at the other end is bound to flare up. Why cannot such a person say, “Sorry, you’re on the wrong number?” Some people have the bad habit of sending emails and text messages when they get angry. This is something like scraping the bottom of the barrel. When I was working for a Sunday newspaper I used to get many anonymous letters and nuisance calls when somebody’s short story or poem is not published. Upsetting people with anonymous letters and nuisance calls is cruel and cowardly.

Children learn how to be impolite by watching certain third rate television shows. They do not know that reality shows are very much concerned with ratings. Therefore, television programs highlight fights and disagreements which have no intelligent message. People are attracted to television shows because they see a lifestyle that is quite different from their own.

Some of us think we are well mannered and can stand the rude behaviour of others. However, etiquette experts say people who think they do no wrong are the worst because they never learn. One way to overcome this problem is to acknowledge polite behaviour whenever possible. As most people cannot be corrected we have to exercise patience. As one writer put it, “I really do not care what you do with your fork, as long as you don’t stab someone with it.”

Etiquette experts

The celebrated author Sydney Smith said, “Manners are the shadows of virtues; the momentary display of those qualities which our fellow creatures love and respect.If we strive to become, then, what we strive to appear, manners may often be rendered useful guides to the performance of our duties.” In a way, manners are more important than man-made laws. In fact, most of the laws depend on manners. If you break the law, you will be punished. However, bad manners vex other people and they will form an unfavourable opinion about the person concerned.

From an ethical point of view, morals change from time to time. The ethos of a people is partly a set of rules of good conduct. The Ten Commandments formed a very important element in the ethos of the Jews. Similarly, the Five Precepts are an integral part of Buddhist morality. However, such religious codes of conduct have not been accepted by everybody although their influence can be seen in most societies.

The ethos of a people constitutes the atmosphere in which the best members of a community habitually live. In other words, it constitutes the universe of their moral activities. The man who conforms to the morality of that universe is considered civilized and the man who violates it becomes an uncivilized person.

In the modern world we find people who belong to these two extremes. Bad people commit crimes and good people punish them. You will not find 100 per cent good people in any part of the world. Similarly, you will not find 100 per cent bad people in any country. As it is, despite religious education some people are bound to indulge in crimes, but the only redeeming factor is that they belong to a minority.

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