Friday, August 19, 2011

Where is Miss Manners?

One of the things about blogs is that they allow comments. I love comments, as it lets me know my readers better. However, blogs occasionally get angry people who leave comments. Sometimes, they leave those comments anonymously, sometimes not. I rarely get negative comments, but I do on occasion. They always make me think about what I have written, and whether or not I could have written it better, but often I have found that people will nitpick about little things and more often than not take a statement completely out of context. It is when these comments twist my words to mean something that they were never my intent that generally makes me a little angry. I know that it should not bother me, but....

Nearly all blogs get negative comments at some point or another. What I do not understand is why people cannot be civil with their comments. Were they never taught manners? Or, do they just not care? And this is not a phenomenon with just blogs, where people can be anonymous through the technology of the internet. I have come to realize that some people just seem to be angry at the world and take that anger out on whoever they can. These angry people should realize that striking out with their anger is not productive. Disagreements and debates are healthy for all of us to see different views, but does someone have to be so vitriolic in their criticisms? Why can't a simple I disagree and this is why I disagree not be sufficient? Instead, these people often attack and attempt to make their attack personal.  A good example of this comes from a recent blog post "What Is Your Christianity Used to Justify?" on the blog for Believe Out Loud.  I have noticed that many of the more harsh criticisms come from people who comment on my posts about Christianity/Religion and those about my opinions of Queer Theory.  I have my opinions, and this blog is a place for me to write about them.  I always welcome comments, but why are people not able to give their opinions in opposition without turning to attacks?

It's not just on blogs that these kinds of things happen  People in everyday life are getting ruder. I was raised to be a good Southerner (at least that is what my mother wanted); good manners were taught and reinforced in my early life and have continued to be a part of who I am. Even the simplest things such as opening and holding the door for someone can make the difference in someone’s day. It only takes a few more seconds to do so, but so many people will almost purposefully shut the door in your face instead of holding the door for you. I have seen people speed up their walking just so that they can step in front of you in line. The other day, I was sitting waiting for someone to pull out of a parking space, when someone actually drove around me, blocked my way and took that parking space.

I also see it more and more with students. They have a distinct lack of courtesy when speaking to people in authority. They are often rude and think it is cute and funny. I find nothing cute or funny about being rude. I have one student, whose family is fairly wealthy, and she is one of the meanest people I have ever met. She is the epitome of a "mean girl." Such people are so inconsiderate of those around them, that they actually think that the world revolves around them alone. With my students, they will one day have a rude awakening. They will find that manners really do matter, and that simple, random acts of kindness can go a long way.

I have often talked on this blog about the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. For me, this is not a hard concept. The nice guy may not always finish first, but I urge all of us, including myself, to work harder each and every day to think of those around you and with whom you interact. The simplest acts of kindness can make someone's day. It shouldn't be that difficult to give someone a smile, to hold open a door for someone, to ask someone how there day is going, etc.

My main question is this: where has chivalry and manners gone? Why is rudeness considered en vogue today? Are we really that self-centered as humans? Where is Miss Manners?


silvereagle said...

Manners, good and bad, have been more of a "southern thing" I do believe. Opening a door for someone, standing up when someone would come in the room, or when a lady came to the dinner table, 'yes, mam' 'no, mam' and 'thank you" seem to be relics of a bygone era. With women's lib ('don't call me mam' and "I will open my own door", even without a thank you at the conclusion)and other advancements, all civility seem to be disappearing now. And that gives rise to the total lack of manners in the schools, workplace and in the community as a whole.

Change is often progress and progress is undrstood to be advancement. However, the changes we have, going back to the simple "yes, mam, thank you" being interred somewhere along the way, can not be considered progress under any definition of the word.

fan of casey said...

Joe: I agree with you, that manners are important, if the golden rule applied more this would be a better world.

It has been heavily debated that the anonymity of the internet allows people to be their rudest and crudest because people can shield their otherwise embarrassing behavior.

I would add that this rudeness isn't something recent. I've seen both young and old act that way. Just take a look at the old people yelling at each other during town halls during healthcare reform discussions.

Some people just think that talking loud wins arguments, and when they are losing, rather than discuss the merits of the issue, they attack the person for whatever. And there are those insecure people that feel good about themselves when they are talking trash about others. Most of these types are bullies and the only effective way to shut them up is to beat them at their own game.

Anonymous said...

I too, have noticed the lack of manners these days, especially driving. I am astounded every day by the antics of others behind the wheel, and I don't mean texting and other distracted driving, though that can be a part of it. Cutting in line in traffic, zooming around someone, then cutting them off, all sorts of crap.

I resolved some time ago to try to be a kinder, gentler, person and I hope I am achieving that.

Peace <3

Anonymous said...

Oh I beg you, silvereagle, please don’t blame women’s lib. I am old (and a person with ladybits) and I remember discussions in which we agreed that feminism was a try at freeing men from gender-based behaviours as well. And I always say thank you when people open doors. (The more cotton-toppy I get the more young women are opening doors for me. So depressing.)

In reading the comments and the theory about Southerners, I could substitute children of immigrants and come to the same conclusion. I am first generation American, and find the manners of some American appalling, as if I were raised in a different country. *g* I hate the anonymous incivility of the web, but you are right, it’s jumped off the screen into modern life.

I think it’s "I’m right" syndrome. People who have determined that they are right have given themselves the (heaven-ordained) task of making the rest of us “righter”, as in: agreeing with them. Even on fashion blogs where taste is so subjective, there are people who can’t let it go when someone doesn’t agree. They are determined to beat others into verbal submission, and get more and more heated if we refuse to be sheep. I think those of us who can disagree with civility aren’t displaying that same righteously-fueled energy so we don’t get play.

The Golden Rule is a great way to live your life, esp if you don’t expect cookies as a result.

Btw, I enjoy your blog and erudition greatly.


Will said...

Apologies, ciel, but I believe a lot of the manners slide began with the women's liberation era. To the extent that the Chivalric Code had a big component on the protection and control of women by men, you can also blame the lack of "chivalry" on the same movement. I remember being berated by women for holding a door open because they weren't "helpless."

We reached a point in this country when manners became identified with "the elite" and of course we couldn't have that. Then there were the insult comedians, led by Don Rickles -- our humor became hostile and aggressive. Simple politeness dropped out of fashion. We see the results now in the overt hostility and lack of respect that infects our politics and poisons our public discourse. It's all very sad.

Anonymous said...

@Will. Well, now I has a sad. And I apologize for the women who berated you. Bad manners is never acceptable. ciel

Uncutplus said...

Well, Joe, that is why I moderate my comments. Very, very few get rejected, but the rude, mean, and evil ones, I don't want to get to see the light of day.

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in my case, as I am not quite as stable on my feet as I once was. On days I bring along my cane, people seem very courteous and hold doors for me, etc. But on days that I leave my cane in the car, they brusquely rush past me. That makes we ask the question, "Why do I NEED a cane for courteousy and manners to be shown to me?"

Eol said...

I completely agree with you. Although part of the 90's generation myself, I've noticed the manners of the people my age are somewhat lacking. I was brought up in an affluent household but was always taught that basic manners are just something you have to have.

I really notice the lack of manners when I go out to a sit-down restaurant; I'm speaking of the ones that have cloth napkins, multiple glasses or silverware, and you usually need a reservation. I am absolutely appalled at some of the things people will do at these restaurants. I notice this particularly when I have been in Europe dining with fellow college-age friends.

I definitely agree with ciel that the "I'm right" syndrome has a part in the lack of manners, but I also notice the parents' lack of tutelage in basic manners for their children. I wonder if that isn't some unconscious rebellion; they were drilled in manners as children, didn't enjoy it, and are now lax in making their children mind.


richard said...

This lament -- whatever happened to good manners -- is not new. Consider the duet "Class" from the musical "Chicago"

Theaterdog said...

Great post!
I am a southerner who lived in the bay area for 20 years where my manners were often considered weaknesses.
I moved to France in 2002 and can say the old world courtesy and politeness of it people, was and is something I appreciate daily.
What I see in the US, is the symptom of a very very angry culture.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Theaterdog, I think you put your finger on it. It is a very angry culture. It’s frightening. As a child of a mother who was in a concentration camp, I appreciate the freedoms of this country more than I can say. It shocks me to see how entitled some people are and how much they take for granted. And are angry for more. ciel

JoeBlow said...

I never expected to get this kind of response for this post, but thank you all for your comments.

Silvereagle, good manners are a southern thing in America, but I won't lay the blame on women's lib. I think it has more to do with TV and movies, where humor comes more and more from rudeness.

FOC: Rudeness is not something new, but I do think it has become more common.

Jay, don't even get me started on drivers. I held back on talking about them with just the one example above, but I could go on and on ad nauseum about the subject. Road rage only adds to the problem.

Ciel, I noticed on the times that I was in Europe that people were much more courteous, and they didn't seem in such a hurry (except for the drivers, LOL). When in Rome, I always found that the safest way to cross the street was with a nun or a woman with a child. That way, I never got hit by a car.

Will, I agree with you that manners equates with elite people. In the south there is a saying about things being "Common" meaning that a person of good breeding will never do such a thing. Now it just means that it is normal, not "common" or a sign of bad breeding.

Uncutplus, I think that you are right, it is more acceptable to be courteous to someone who appears to be handicapped, but then you have all of those people who still park in Handicap spots and show no sign whatsoever of having a handicap.

EOL, I agree with you. I remember one time at a restaurant in Rome when an American couple began to argue with their waiter that Pinot Noir was supposed to be a white wine. I have never been so embarrassed to be an American as at that point. They were in Italy, the waiter obviously knew the difference between Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio.

Richard, you are right, my lament is not new. Velma and the Matron have it so right in Chicago--"Nobody's got no class!" BTW, I love that musical, though I like the live version better than the movie.

Theaterdog, I agree with you and Ciel, the US does have a very angry culture. I blame part of that on politics. As Democrats and Republicans polarize more and more, their attitudes are moving even more toward the electorate. Children are also seeing it from their parents.

Ciel, I have to add, that you sound like an infinitely interesting woman, and I welcome your comments to my blog.

drew said...

When I grew up in a southern city my father's company was based in New York. Many of the executives families came from there. My Dad and Mom were big on Yes Sir and Yes Mam. The parents who came from the north encountered our family they could not believe how our family was raised. My father just beamed!!!

JoeBlow said...

Drew, the South can be faulted for many things, but manners has not historically been one of them. Sadly, it is becoming rarer even here in the South. The only place I know that you can for sure expect good manners still is Mississippi, but I fear that will change too and Mississippi will no longer be "The Hospitality State."

Anonymous said...

@JoeBlow, Why thank you for those kind words. I can’t think of a nicer thing that’s been said to me on the interwebz. ciel

JoeBlow said...

You are most welcome, ciel.