Social Issues: In Search of Common Decency
Credit Where Credit Is Due
I have been meaning to write this for quite some time, but as always, life tends to change my plans without even notifying me. Did you get the memo? What memo, you sent me a memo? Yes, dummy, the memo that said you have other fish to fry before you tackle this issue. Oh, that memo!
And so it goes inside my head.
The genesis for this article comes from an article a friend of mine, Paul, wrote.
She wrote an article awhile back about manners and social decency, and because I have few original ideas, I thought I would piggyback on her article and toss out my own thoughts on this subject. Having said all that, I invite you to get yourself comfortable and prepare for a rant.
In a Place so Very Long Ago
Can it really be fifty years ago? Well, this story begins, actually, more like sixty years ago, when my training began at the hands of Dale and Evelyn Holland, my parents.
My parents were old-school, and they believed strongly in respect and common decency. I was expected to have manners. This was not a point for discussion in our household, and when I failed to live up to their expectations I heard about it. I was expected to say please and I was expected to say thank you! I was expected to hold doors open for strangers and I was expected to help others when they needed assistance.
Most of all, though, I was expected to respect other people. I was told early on that we are all human beings and by that sole common denominator we were all worthy of respect. I was told that if I expected respect from others then I needed to give respect to others.
Now, lest you think I lived in some cruel household that was an anomaly, I can tell you that all of my friends grew up that way too. We were polite kids! Yes, we could be smartasses at times, and yes, we got into our share of minor trouble, but at our core we were good kids who understood the importance of certain principles of decency.
We were that way because we were raised that way by our parents and extended families.
My ebook on Kindle about lifestyle choices
- Lifestyle Choices: William D. Holland: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
Lifestyle Choices: William D. Holland: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
Fast Forward to Today
Bev and I were recently at the grocery store doing our thing. As we were leaving an aisle of the parking lot, a car turned left in front of us without yielding as they were supposed to do. The car was driven by a mother, and in the passenger seat was her teenage son. I slammed on the brakes and spread my arms in bewilderment (no, I did not make any obscene gestures) and the teenage boy leaned out his window and screamed F*%K YOU at us!
I put our car in park and started to get out to have a little chat with the young man, but Bev grabbed my arm and asked me to just let it go. The last sight I saw was the mother and son laughing as they drove off.
The mother and son were laughing as they drove off!
I’m sorry, but I can’t let it go!
If that had been an isolated incident, I could probably just pass it off as one kid having a bad day. Unfortunately, it is by no means an isolated incident. As the years have progressed I have watched a disintegration of common decency in this country that I love, and I am tired of it.
I can pick any day of any week and I can give you an example of rude behavior that I have witnessed while being out among my fellow man (and woman). Quite frankly, I need someone to give me an explanation for this, an explanation that makes sense and is not some watered-down excuse.
When did it become acceptable to be rude? When did it become acceptable to be belligerent? When did it become acceptable to be anti-social and when did it become acceptable to be inhumane?
Yes, I am tired of it!
A Short List of Polite Behaviors
I will try to make this as simple and uncomplicated as possible, in hopes that others might learn. I’m going to highlight a few basic rules of social behavior that seem to have been forgotten over the years.
· Say please and thank you when asking for something or receiving something
· Help others when they obviously need help
· Speak in a manner that is not degrading
· Hold doors open for others
· Smile and laugh often
· Do not make fun of people who are less fortunate than you are
· Shake hands when meeting someone and make pleasant conversation
· Dial down your ego and dial up your humility
· Try to act like you are a member of society and not the ruler of society
Now, if that list is too long or too complicated, I am going to take it a step further and boil it all down into one simple sentence. Are you ready?
Treat others the way you would like to be treated!
Where Does Rudeness Come From?
Well, I’m sorry if this offends someone, but common decency begins at home. It is the job of parents to make sure these simple principles are taught at home. The lady who was driving her son in the store parking lot obviously found the whole profanity-laced incident quite funny. I personally find it quite sad, because the lesson learned by that young man is that rudeness is acceptable, and the lesson was taught to him by his mother.
Is it possible that rudeness can be practiced even though a person is raised in a caring, loving home? Most definitely! These are tough times; I don’t need my degree in Economics to know that simple truth. People are scrambling just to stay afloat; there is fear in the streets, and distrust, and people are living lives of “quiet desperation.” Those factors mean there is ample opportunity and motivation to strike out at others, and to act in a way that may not have been taught during childhood.
Let me repeat: I am tired of it!
Being Polite Is a Sign of Strength and Not Weakness
It is time to turn this trend around, and I may be the bearer of bad news when I tell you, my reader, that the responsibility for that turnaround is yours and yours alone.
It is ridiculous to expect others to treat you with respect if you are not willing to do the same.
It is ridiculous to expect others to be polite if you are not willing to be the same.
It is ridiculous to moan about the lack of humanness in this world if you are not willing to be a shining example of that humanness.
I will repeat something I learned long ago; it seemed like a riddle to me then, but over the years I have seen the truth in it. If you want respect then respect more. If you want love then love more.
I strongly believe that acts of kindness have a power of their own; I believe they send a signal that will never grow weak, that each act of kindness is a beacon of hope, and a lasting tribute to all that is good about mankind.
So what will it be? Will we continue this trend of rudeness, or will we be the instruments of change, one act of common decency at a time?
Looking back, I am glad that Bev stopped me from confronting that mother and her son. It would have only escalated an already hopeless situation. Sure, it would have fed my ego and satisfied my need for retribution, but in so doing I would have diminished myself.
The only way for me to change this world is to be a living example of that which I desire to see.
Today I will be kind! Today I will show common decency towards others! Today I will be….more human!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)