Social Etiquette vs. Civilization

We Kid Ourselves Daily

It's true. We like to think of ourselves as civilized. We have a veneer of civilization and civility; codes of manners and laws to keep order. Aha! Gotcha! We apparently lack the ability within ourselves to maintain that veneer without threat of punishment in one form or another.

We must be told, lest our parents scold us, to say "please," and "thank you." We must be taught to allow the elderly lady the last seat on the bus; we are made to listen patiently to Uncle Bertrand's one-thousandth telling of the same tired old joke. We get into trouble in school for fighting; for pushing and shoving; for bullying; for throwing spitballs.

When we reach adulthood, it does not stop. There are so many laws to enforce behavior that no one person--no, not even those whose job it is to uphold said laws--can possibly remember them all. Actually, when you think about it, most laws are made in an attempt to legislate two traits formerly believed to be common: sense, and decency.

The vicious beast inside rears its head at the thought of saving a few cents
The vicious beast inside rears its head at the thought of saving a few cents | Source

Beauty--and Apparently Manners, Too--Are Only Skin-Deep

Every so often throughout the year, we read of mob scenes in public places, most often in shopping malls. The behavior is shocking and shameful. It goes against every single thing we were ever taught by anyone.

The trigger event is usually a sale of some vastly coveted item, at an insanely reduced price. People line up in tents and lawn chairs overnight to be sure to be the first ones in the door when the store opens.

Unbelievable! There is no item on this planet worth such shenanigans.

Then, when the doors open, all the chatting and camaraderie of the temporary tent city evaporates faster than a drag racer can run the quarter-mile. All of a sudden, it's everyone for themselves as a mad dash is made to be the actual first person through that door.

What's with this "me first" attitude, anyway? What happened to our carefully cultivated "manners?" Out the window of greed, that's what!

Even more ironic and disgusting, is that a good deal of this selfish, rude, callous and outright mean behavior happens around the December holiday season--much touted for its spirit of goodwill and peace and happiness.

How easily we shed our civilized masks.

Fighting Over Poor Values

The most recent such fracas involved some popular brand or style of shoes. I didn't pay attention--I don't care. It does not matter. The point is, these shoes were on sale. Apparently, they "normally" sold for $180. Wow. These are tennis shoes; sneakers we're talking about.

What the heck are they made of? Gold and Platinum? I don't think so. They are ordinary, garden-variety tennis shoes. Or running shoes. Or cross-trainers. Or whatever modern fancy terminology they want to apply in the interest of driving up the price. They are still just tennis shoes/sneakers. You know--a rose by any other name... etc.

Crowds went wild; stores were trashed; people fought; people were trampled and injured; supplies ran out; customers took it out on everyone in sight; customers who had successfully made a purchase were attacked and robbed of the shoes in the parking lot.

What the hell is wrong with everyone??

I don't care what you call them--there is no pair of shoes on the planet worth that kind of money, or worth fighting over. Not one pair. Not even if they have some fancy-shmancy designer's name on them. (Those are probably made for the designer in some overseas factory for pennies on the dollar anyway, while said designer laughs all the way to the bank.)

Peer Pressure At Its Worst

That's all this was about. The latest "Must Have" item. Says whom? These were adults, not children or teenagers acting this way. They were the ones succumbing to peer pressure. The very same peer pressure against which they preach to their kids. (No wonder the little darlings are confused!)

Why that particular shoe? I have no doubt that the store was stocked with hundreds of other shoes. Who told them; who issued a military edict that they had better not arrive home without that specific shoe?

If it was their kids, we as a country are in far worse trouble than I could ever have imagined. Since when do the kids get to rule the roost and make these kinds of decisions? When I was growing up, I wore what my mother told me I could wear; what my parents could afford. There was no arguing about it. If I didn't like it, I didn't have to go out and play with my friends. I could stay inside by myself. That's how it was then. That's how it should still be. Today's kids have far too much power for their ages, and parents have forgotten a very simple word: "No."

Animals, Nothing But Animals

It is so true, we are but animals walking upright, wearing a costume of civilization. Civilized, we are not. We fight, we bicker, we bully and call names.

The least insult, or perceived insult brings out a storm of rage, sometimes verbal, sometimes physical. Attacking others is not civilized behavior. We humans have a major flaw of desiring more than we have. We always want more, and better than the other guy.

Why? So we can gloat? So we can feel superior? On a small scale such as seen in the episode I described above, it is shameful. On a larger scale, folks, we call it war. War comes in many shades and styles. Gang members have "turf wars." Excuse me? Fighting over "turf" they do not even own! How stupid is that? Countries have bigger, "badder" wars--always with the threat of global annihilation hovering.

The other major human flaw lies in self-righteousness. Wanting to feel that our particular set of beliefs is better than anyone else's, be they political or religious or moral. That is bad enough, but the problems really begin when those folks feel they somehow have the right to force everyone else to feel the same way.

Where does it end? When is enough enough? When will we learn to be truly civilized? My husband, who holds a Master's Degree in Social Science puts it succinctly:

"We have created a society with expectations we cannot maintain."

Just think: if everyone simply went about their lives, minded their own business, forgot about trying to 'convert' anyone else, was happy with the property they already had, stopped passing judgement on those who are "different," war would forever end. Civil unrest would cease. Mobs would not fight over sale items.

Although it is frequently scoffed at, treated as a whining piece of nonsense, I still have to agree with Rodney King, asking, "Why can't we all just get along?"

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Comments 8 comments

Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Excellent hub, Dzy ... you put it all in a nutshell. I put the sneakers event on my FaceBook page I was so appalled. What is the matter with these people ... why do they all want to look like one another ... there is hardly originality, creativity or individuality in everyone looking alike.

I put it down to being too dumb to realise they are being manipulated by people who sell things. Unfortunately there seem to be just too many dopey folks about these days.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Angie--

Thanks very much for your added insight.

I know what you mean about the lack of individuality. I am reminded of a statement, "Teenagers are people who want to prove how different they are by all dressing alike." (I forget exactly who said it--possibly Erma Bombeck--perhaps not.)

As parents, we like to condemn this teenage peer pressure, but when it's out on the cutting table, adults are no different. Manipulation by greedy corporations--you nailed it perfectly.


Loi-Renee profile image

Loi-Renee 4 years ago from Jamaica

You have hit the nail on the head! This "me-first" attitude you mentioned has always driven me crazy. Especially when it comes to traveling on the road. People are always pushing, screaming, and trampling each other to get on the buses. I've seen pregnant people, young children and the elderly get pushed down, walked on and practically squished in their efforts to get into vehicles. The sad part is that when you try to help them, people will just trample you too.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Loi-Renee--

Yes, indeed; not only trying to get onto buses, but also drivers--honking horns; impatiently zooming in and out of traffic; passing you with a screech of tires to get in front of you--only to wind up immediately in front of you at the next stop light.

Thanks very much for adding to the discussion. Your comment is much appreciated.


Loi-Renee profile image

Loi-Renee 4 years ago from Jamaica

Oh my goodness, you are so right!

Out here the taxis have a reputation for that type of driving. They will pack the car like a sardine tin and race each other to see who can make the trip the fastest and make more money. Most of the time their passengers are school children.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Loi-Renee--

School kids take taxis??? Wow... school kids of the rich and famous?

Here, we have traffic jams caused by moms who think it is mandatory to drive their little darlings to school every day, while the school buses waste fuel driving only 1 or 2 kids at both ends of the day...why? Because they charge outrageous sums per semester that most parents cannot afford.

Personally, I don't see what's wrong with public transporation, feet, or bicycles. That's how I got to school. (And no, there is NOT some child-abductor hiding behind every bush. That's just media sensationalism, and propaganda fear-mongering....make people afraid, and they will consent much more readily to having their freedoms restricted and removed--it's already happening.)


Loi-Renee profile image

Loi-Renee 4 years ago from Jamaica

Oh yes! Its the other way around in Jamaica. Almost every school kid has had to take a taxi to school at one point. Unless they are the children of the rich and famous. :)

The schools are close to the communities so there is not really a need for a school bus at most schools.

My father used to drive us to school, then we took taxis. When I started High School, I walked to school.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Very interesting, Loi-Renee--thanks for sharing your experience.

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