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Monday, June 26, 2006

On courtesy, kindness and respect

What is to blame for a society seemingly slipping rapidly toward total crassness...where being punked is entertainment, where the busiest websites are those that show people fighting, where somebody's need is always seen as brought on themselves and never your duty to help (unless it's your need), where kindess is a sign of weakness, where entertainment is videos in which women degrade themselves or it's peaking into the lives of others, where someone met is analyzed for their weaknesses to exploit versus their strength of character?
Whatever happened to smiling at strangers instead of glaring at them to make sure they understand you're not to be messed with? To those of you who try to be kind to everyone, you know what I'm talking about. How many times a day when you're walking down a sidewalk or an aisle in the grocery store do you make way for someone who makes no effort to do the same for you? How often do you get a wave of thanks for letting someone merge in front of you in traffic?
I'm not talking about the phoney yes, sir and yes, ma'am of the over-aggressive service industry. You know when someone is genuinely kind and respectful, especially in this day in age when it's become so rare.
Do we blame a society that's sole measure of success is the accumulation of wealth or is it that we no longer look inward to resolve problems but look outward to blame instead? There have always been mean kids at school but it seems more and more every day meanness is the rule instead of the exception.
Frankly, it's a parenting issue; and therefore, we can turn this around. We as parents and adults need to make sure our children understand what we really value. We value a society where people care about one another, where others walking on the sidewalk are potential friends, not the obstacles of an overly self-absorbed life; that we value a society in which people respect one another, rather than degrade or disrespect others for our amusement. We need to ensure that kindess is repaid with kindness, a genuine thank-you. Every person you interact with is a human being with real feelings. Doesn't it appear that everyone acts as though they're playing a video game in which they're the only human being in it?
So before we've slipped beyond any hope of return into a total instant gratification, self-absorbed society, start turning it around with an act of kindess. Help a friend, be courteous to a stranger and respect everyone. Better yet, go out of your way to help someone and see how great it makes you feel.

The true measure of a rich society is not the number of millionaires, it is the happiness and wellbeing of the whole.


Karen said...

Great well said! On that note, I was surprised that Justin was only 1 of 2 kiddos who went up and thanked the coachs after T-ball.(I prompted him) I know many people probably think since they pay a fee and the coachs get paid but still I think it is important to teach children to appreciate what others do for them...Again nicely get out of my way hehehe

David said...

Right on the mark Zeb! As a society, we need to get the cell phones out of our ears, ignor the text message when we are in conversations, drop the "me first" attitude, and quit thinking of "values" as some political football to be tossed around to make us feel good about our candidates.

The interstate is not the Daytona 500, and merge means allow others to get in line. more thing...families need to have more conversation at the dinner table and less at the drive thru window.

LittleCuz said...

Well said Zeb, and an oppurtunity to relate a story. I was driving up to the pump one Sunday at a small store. There are 2 pumps, each with 2 hoses. A full size, and I mean full size, puckup was pulling in on the ohterside, there were 2 cars already at the pump so we had to be nose to nose. Now we're pulling up at the same time. She, the driver, keeps pulling ahead, I had to stop, a quick look told me the hose wouldn't reach. Noting that she had stopped her truck so the tank was right next to the hose in the pump, I, politely I might add, asked her if she could please back up a foot or so, so the hose would reach my tank. You'd have thought I'd asked her to sacrifice her first born. After the disgusted look and grumbling she did back up enough for me to pull ahead enough for the hose to barely reach my tank. When I went in to pay for the gas she was already gone. Another customer who had been at the pump on the opposite side of me, made the comment "You were getting no love from her were you?", so it wasn't just me.

David your comment about yielding is so true as well. People keep saying that you can't legislate niceness, but it seems it's the only way to get it today. I complain about people not yielding and I get, "Well by law they don't have too...". And that is the problem, no one does anything unless they have to "by law".

AA said...

Well Zeb, you have hit upon what is possibly the rawest nerve in my entire being. To me, every negative thing with respect to day to day interaction revolves around this very issue. The examples are too numerous to cite (I can probably come up with three or four today alone, and it's only noon) so I won't bother. Needless to say, it's omnipresent and inescapable.
The aspect of how people treat one another really gets to me when I start to think in depth about it. When some inconsiderate jerk, say, scrapes your face with his umbrella, holds up the long line, cuts you off in traffic, etc... two possible scenarios come to mind. One is that they are completely oblivious in their selfish pursuit and have no inkling that they are affecting other people by their actions. That utter stupidity and lack of awareness is bad enough, but at least it's understandable. The other is that they are in fact totally aware of their surroundings and, being fully cognizant of the results of their actions, simply don't give a shit about you or anyone else. "I'm getting what I want... screw the rest of you." That - the more common scenario, i'm afraid - is what completely baffles me.
Unfortunately, it's a vicious cycle. I now view these people during these actions (which, by extension due to the commonality, means virtually everyone) with contempt, thus in a sense becoming that which I hate in them. Yet the difference is that I would probably, say, still hold the door open for them on their way out because that's how I was brought up and how I believe the way things ought to be.
I'm not optimistic enough to expect these depressingly common human characteristics to ever change, so all I can do is treat people the way I would like to be treated in return, hope for the best, and - notwithstanding this opportunity to vent - quietly seethe to myself.
Unfortunately, as long as people maintain their selfishness as they go through this life, I can only conclude that this is the irreversible way of the world.

Zebster said...

Wow, I should've had you folks write this for me or I should've been closer in time to an actual incident, so that I could rant with much better passion like AA.

El Mas Chingón said...

Well said, Zeb! Too often people get the wrong perception of me when they mistake kindness as weakness. On the other hand, I've noticed I've been the exact opposite when confronted, as if it's a defense mechanism in today's society.

The lack of kindness and respect is not only a societal problem, but it's one that's uniquely American.

Karen said...

In the mail yesterday was the Reader's Digest and they had this article about rudeness Uncommon Courtesy

AA said...

I like the turn of the phrase "Uncommon Courtesy". I digress, but it reminds me of the Far Side cartoon showing a young boy looking up at an impossibly high shelf with candy on it. The caption read "Inconvenience Store".