The Best Things In Life Are Free

‘Manners maketh man’, remember that? Well, no more apparently. It seems today that manners are just another quaint old fashioned idea; something that used to be taught and practiced. I for one vehemently reject the notion that manners don’t matter any more. Perhaps manners have been kicked into touch because they require us to have thoughts and feelings for others which in a selfish world can often be construed as a dated notion that belongs to past generations. Manners were first taught to us as children by our parents long before we even went to school at the age of four or five. They were a simple list of basic rules embedded into our subconscious which would enable us to interact with all others in a civilised and thoughtful way. According to my parents manners cost nothing and they were absolutely right and something that costs nothing, you might think, should appeal to today’s generations. There were manners for children ‘Don’t speak with your mouth full’, ‘Elbows off the table’, or ‘Don’t interrupt – we’re talking’. You get the idea. Then there were manners for adults. I still open doors for ladies, I still walk on the outside on a pavement and I still stand whenever a lady enters a room. My dad, who always wore a hat, would ‘doff’ it whenever he was passed by a lady. As a family, whenever a funeral cortege passed us by my dad would remove his hat and we would all stand still, our heads bowed in respect for both the deceased and the bereaved. On a recent trip to New York I automatically offered a lady my seat on the subway. It was something that was done subconsciously and I could tell from her reaction that this was an uncommon act. Last week my wife found herself on a packed commuter train at St. Pancras station. She found herself, like many others, having to stand as all the seats had been taken. Not one man offered his seat to her. She had to spend the next hour standing on a train that was travelling at speeds in excess of 80 MPH and full of seated men. These men might think of themselves as civilised, educated or well connected. Perhaps they have highly paid jobs in the city and have a beautiful home with all the proper credentials for a civilised life. However, in my quaint old fashioned mind, I think of them as being a reflection of where a great deal of our current ailments in society emanate: selfish. It is precisely that, selfishness, that ‘maketh NOT the man’.

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