Friday, 28 October 2011

Are manners dead?

Spitters, swearers, armrest hoggers and interrupters be warned: there is a growing gang of radicals coming after you.

Taking aim at what he sees as the demise of good manners, demographer Bernard Salt and his increasing army of followers want to eradicate rudeness.

Affronted by bad manners at business functions Mr Salt recently formed a Facebook group called the Society for Normal People as a place where people "who feel aggrieved by the bad manners of others can publicly, but ever so politely express displeasure".

"We are a group of normal people and we intend taking over the world with our radical ideas of manners and respect for everyone," Mr Salt said.

"This all flowed from an article I wrote maybe two months ago, where I said I was sick of ... people not returning phone calls, not returning emails, people who hog the armrest on a plane.

"People who go to functions and they talk to each other in tight little circles, so that if you don't know anyone you're effectively excluded.

"Have you ever felt that when you come away from an event like that and you think: 'Am I the only normal person in the world that sees that rudeness?"'

Among the group's pet peeves are people who swear, spit, interrupt others or push their shopping trolleys straight down the middle of a supermarket aisle, he said.

Mr Salt said he blamed bad manners on people being brought up to think only of themselves.

"I think we are now a society of individuals - we all think we're special, we're all unique.

"We're being told we're special and unique by parents, by teachers, by employers and all of a sudden it's all about us, it's all about me."

Perhaps nowhere is more prone to the evidence of gross bad manners than on internet forums, where some think it is open season on being unnecessarily rude and disrespectful to people whose opinions they take disagree with.

Etiquette queen June Dally-Watkins said it is websites like Facebook and Twitter that are contributing to a demise in manners.

"I think people spend too much time on Facebook and their mobile phones, just pressing buttons," Ms Dally-Watkins said.

"They're losing touch with human beings and they're losing their personality and their charm.

"The greatest part of good manners is being kind and respectful to other human beings."

"Good manners and correct etiquette are all about being courteous and thoughtful and considerate to other people."

Her tips for improving manners included saying "thank you", moving aside to let others through and being aware of other people's feelings.

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