Raging Against the World

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Tag Archives: politeness

Let’s Have Some Civility, Please?

I’m beginning to feel like a prude.

I think I should state that I grew up on a council estate. “We were poor but we were happy”. If you had pudding with your tea (dinner for you middle-class people) some nights then that was considered a luxury. There was a neighbour just down the road who had a car with no wheels up on those little ramp things under each axle. Stray dogs and yellow dog poo. Yes, yellow. Front lawns that looked as though they hadn’t ever been watered. Playing football using the trees as goalposts. Get the picture?

A modern car, with wheels.

Yes, we were poor, some of our friends had rough families and we’d often tease each other with references to fleas. We were crude, we were not couth. If we were round someone else’s house we’d say Please and Thank You to their parents. Think Kevin and Perry. “yes, Mrs Patterson.” We had manners.

But what none of us dared ever do was swear in front of our parents. Such swearing we did was sporadic and infrequent. And what we very very very rarely said was the C-word. It was just one of those unspoken taboos. We knew it was very bad, we knew there was no need for it. The F-word was fine, who needed a nuclear option?

Nowadays things are very different. You can’t go a day on Twitter or Youtube without hearing it. It’s on all TV channels after the watershed, everyone on the internet seems to be OK with it. I’ve heard people on the street who pepper just about every f**king sentence with a f**king expletive as though it’s f**king impossible not to f**king swear at all. People with pushchairs are happy to say this stuff in front of their children.

When did this become ok? Why is this acceptable behaviour? It seems as though everyone on Twitter thinks it’s fine to use the C-word and F-word at every possibility. Calling someone a c*** has become the norm. I once said to someone that he was going to get a name as “The man who always calls people a c**t”. He later called me a c**t. But then he calls everyone a c**t. It’s his thing and his friends think it’s so funny.

As standards continue to slip it’s undeniable that this country has become much more violent, much less polite. You may think it’s just words, but I believe it does affect people’s behaviour. I always avoid people’s gaze in public as I fear that people are an inch away from “YOU LOOKING AT ME?”. I feel guilty if I look at a passer-by in case they may feel I’m challenging them. It used to be ok to keep from having downcast eyes when walking.

I was brought up to be polite, to not get in peoples’ way, to hold doors open.

But you can’t walk ten paces these days without having to swerve to avoid people who are not looking where they’re going. I can’t walk around a supermarket without people standing in the way of things, standing right in the centre of aisles or even worse right at an intersection of aisles. These people don’t care that others need to shop. They don’t care that other people can’t get past them. If you try to squeeze past you get glared at as if it’s somehow your fault and you should take a massive detour around another lengthy aisle.

I’m still old-fashioned enough to stand to the side and minimise the area I take up. As a fairly monumental chap I keep meaning to stand my ground when someone deliberately walks straight at me. They mean me to move out of their way because… well, just because. “Let ’em bounce off me then,” i say to myself. But I always move aside. I can’t help it, I’m too polite. Sometimes I get (silently) angry at the bad behaviour of others and glower at someone who’s just done something unspeakably rude. They may occasionally say afterwards, insincerely “Sorry” as though that makes it ok. Under my breath I say “No you’re not or you wouldn’t have done that in the first place”. Loud enough for me to hear, loud enough for them to hear that i’m muttering something. But I’m still too polite to call them out on it. Besides, if I did, I’d just get a mouthful of abuse. I would then become the one in the wrong.

Since when did everyone have to be so selfish? I know in London I have to adjust my behaviour because that’s just how London is. There you have to be pushy and strident to get anywhere. But outside London I expect better. And I seem to be alone in that.