I do not consider myself to be a paragon of virtue, but I AM a trained (and interested) cultural observer. Today has been a microcosm for me of where I think our culture is in terms of what I guess used to be called “manners”. In the afternoon I was walking to teach a class and a worker came by, yelling at the top of his lungs, to a student,”It’s a beautiful f*$)*$ day” several times over. (At hearing him, what indeed has been a pretty afternoon turned dark for me.) Later I got on the public bus, always an interesting laboratory for anthropological studies. As I entered and went to take my seat, the driver pulled out with a jerk before I was down, causing my fingers to ram into the pole I was holding onto. This caused a stinging pain and at first I thought I had broken bones. I was fine soon and the driver did say,”Sorry about that,” but that was it. Nothing new. I used to see those guys dump seniors into the aisle in Europe. Still. After hitting the main station some teens got on. One proceeded to violently push another as they were going down the aisle. It was a close affair that another passenger was not injured. Our driver ignored the whole thing. When we came to their stop, one of them yelled like a megaphone “BACK DOOR” (close to my ear). The driver had not opened it. Another passenger went to get off a couple stops later. Again, this adult passenger in frustration said “Back door.” It opened. (At this point I began to wonder if our driver was drunk or on drugs.)
Then we turned, and as we did another passenger flashed his middle finger out the window to a passing car, obviously a greeting to a “friend.”
I once heard a story whereby a new warden instituted a “no profanity” policy in his prison. Apparently it worked wonders for overall social comportment there. I think it is high time our society get back to “manners” before we get a law and order dictator who will force it upon us on pain of punishment.