Good Manners: A Thing Of The Past?

By Arjun Walia

While each generation wails about the demise of good manners amongst its youth, history shows it’s a recurring theme.

As the world grows smaller and the population larger, the perception of an ever decreasing tolerance level for one’s fellow human being seems more pronounced. So the question that is asked not only by the elder generation, but by people from all age groups: are people getting ruder? Has society lost its good manners?

What Happened to Polite Society?

As often is the case, dealing with issues of culture, society and regions – a kind of global narrative – the answer to the diminishing patience level is not simple to find. With the continued increase in population there is, logically, a decrease of personal space. The infringement causes friction and seems to manifest itself in a lack of common courtesy. Another factor could be the clash of cultures in cities across Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. A perceived foreignness tends to exacerbate the situation. Different behavioral patterns amongst the individual groups, paired with ignorance, is counterproductive to bridging the gap of different customs, languages and traditions. The tolerance level seems to sink even further.

Violence in the Media

Not to be downplayed are children’s exposure to ever more visuals of shock value, from a very young age. The parents’ neglect of supervision can have severe repercussions if a child finds itself in a precarious situation it has never learned to deal with, either through judicious parenting or by positive emulation.

Values, manners, etiquette that have been absorbed since birth, with the combined efforts of parents, teachers and after-school mentoring, do contribute to the facilitation of young people’s travels through life in the long run, as a publication by the American Institutes for Research, in 2017 states. Continued funds promoting safe schools and healthy children are vital. The beauty of mutual respect for people from many different backgrounds is an important factor to relationships, however fleeting, on a daily basis, as they are encountered day by day.

Moral Outrage Fueled by the Media?

The question of the demise of polite society (not to be mistaken for “upper class society”) is one posed amongst most generations. The young generation and their antics were frowned upon one hundred years ago the same as they are frowned upon now. The Term “Hooligan” was coined as far back as 1880, describing a street gang in London around that time. Urban legend has it, that the name came from a rowdy Irish family back in the late 19th century.

“Throughout the ensuing 20th century, the Scuttlers, the Teddy boys, the Mods have struck terror in the heart of “polite society.” Geoffrey Pearson, author of “Hooligans: A History of Respectable Fears devoted an entire book to the subject. In 1983, James Gilbert summarized the 1950s in his “A Cycle of Outrage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent of the 1950s

“Public debates surround youth are an important forum where new understandings about the past, present and future of public life are encoded, articulated and contested, so that youth functions as a metaphor of received social change and its projected consequences,” as stated in the 1998 publication “Angels of History, Demons of Culture: Generations of Youth Cultures and History in 20th Century America, by Joe Austin and Michael Willard.

What Can We Do as Parents and Peers?

Youth is, historically, the time of rebellion, the time to test one’s limits. It’s up to society to set these limits, these guidelines within reason. Good manners and acceptable behavior begin at home and can only be properly enforced at home. The watchdog effect may not carry over beyond the front door; nevertheless it will always remain in the teenager’s head when he is out and about, and may let him think twice before putting his feet up while traveling on public transportation.

The mass media does carry a narrative that can amplify and create a spiral of public fear and indignation. However, it is up to the voices of reason to put it into perspective.

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