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The Test of Good Manners Is How You Handle Those With None

This morning I was copied on an email sent from a disgruntled concert goer to the concert organizer. The concert goer complained about a fellow concert attendee who held her camera phone in front of her during the show, blocking other people’s view. He wrote, “These people don’t have a clue how rude they’re being.”

The concert organizer wrote back and commiserated although she disagreed that the rude people don’t have a clue. She wrote, “While some may not have a clue — being oblivious has become an epidemic in today’s society — far too many people just simply think it’s all about them, regardless of who else and how many other people have their night made less enjoyable due to the self-centeredness of the inconsiderate few (or, it seems, not all that few anymore).

I hear such comments frequently, that common courtesy, common sense, and common decency have all disappeared; that people are increasingly exhibiting a lack of civility; that being polite is passe; young people these days; blah blah. While I am struck by the hostility that emerges online, I was struck by one thing in the exchange above.

The irate concert goer wrote, “The silly woman in front of me… I could have slapped her upside the head.” I am sympathetic to his fuming; I myself attended a graduation ceremony this spring at which the woman in front of me opened a parasol, blocking my view of the stage for most of the ceremony. Fortunately, when I asked, she kindly lowered it when my son came across, so I could see him and take a photo. Nevertheless, I think we have to re-consider the resort to criticism (and in this case, the threat of outright violence) of those who demonstrate poor manners. In my view, good manners means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and attempting to understand who drove their apparent lack of consideration. We have turned into a nation of hall monitors, a bunch of busybodies telling other people how to behave, especially online, and I feel that we have to re-think that. Otherwise, there’s no such thing as manners at all.

© 2017 Jennifer K. Crittenden

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