Whatever happened to manners?

Walking home on a cold but sunny spring evening from work I paused at a busy road to wait for a break in the traffic. Rush hour with cars whizzing past and pedestrians stalking along, eyes down, pushing past other equally ignorant pedestrians. Standing a few feet from me as I wait is a woman in her 20s tapping her white cane against the kerbside. She was quite obviously requiring a wee hand yet everyone passed her by. I asked if she wanted some assitance and helped her across the road, wondering how long she’d had to wait for someone to offer.

And I wondered just how we’ve ended up with a society where most folk wouldn’t even think to pause for a moment and help a blind person across a busy street. Is it the same kind of selfish mentality that leads folk to shove through shop doors and let them swing shut behind them without looking rather than pause, look back, hold the door ajar for anyone behind you? The ignorant, selfish sense that leads folk to ignore their elderly neighbours struggling up the stairs of the tenement with heavy shopping? The same selfish outlook that lead a rich woman with her children in a huge Mercedes to drive right through the pedstrian crossing at Haymarket this morning, while the green man was on and people crossing?

We do seem to becoming increasingly selfish and mannerless and it seems to me to be endemic, spread across all age groups and social classes. With examples like the Merc-driving woman shoving across the crossing like a panzer I’m moved to wonder just how horribly rude and arrogant her children (sitting in the car on the school run) will be when they grow up. When I was very young I vividly remember my dad pulling over the car on the way into Glasgow. He had seen a blind man trying to cross the road and he pulled over the car, got out, helped the man across, came back, got into the car and continued on our way. Neither he or my mum said anything to me – they didn’t lecture me on proper behaviour or anything like that; this lesson was far more effective and one I’ve never forgotten.

Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned but I tend to think good manners and being able to offer a wee hand to others rubs off and encourages others to do the same, make the world a wee bit better. When everyone acts selfishlessly it has a similar effect. I think I know which example I prefer. It’s a sad day when folk become so unwilling to offer a hand to another.