Courtesy gives way to technology

By Bethany Reinhart

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am tired of living in a society that seems to be overrun with rude individuals who lack manners, kindness and respect. From gum-smacking prepubescent kids who don’t know how to say “please” and “thank you,” to religious leaders who preach tolerance from the pulpit but think only in dollars and cents when mass is over. People who lack manners, kindness and civility are overtaking our world.

In a society where we are consumed by technology, addicted to our smartphones and walk around in an oblivious trance created by blasting iPods, something fundamental has disappeared—respect for our fellow man.

In recent years, I have noticed a growing lack of respect and caring for those who surround us. People have become so consumed with themselves, their lives, convenience and comfort that many have forgotten, or simply don’t care about putting the needs of others in front of their own.

One overwhelming example of this is the lack of chivalry that seems to have increased in past years. These days I find myself shocked when a gentleman actually holds a door or sacrifices his seat on a crowded train. Although I am a strong, independent woman who is capable of opening my own door or standing in four-inch stilettos for an hour on the bus, I am not offended—but rather, I am grateful—when a healthy, vital young man offers me a seat. What I find truly sad is when polished young men in business suits barely acknowledge elderly passengers or pregnant women. The Chronicle’s own Spencer Roush pointed out that she often finds herself giving up her seat “before any businessmen  in their crisp suits even look up from their BlackBerrys.”

In addition to the death of chivalry, it seems that general kindness and respect are also suffering. As we become more of an everything-goes society, our manners have also gone out the window, and it is well past time for us to regain them. It is time for parents to stop tiptoeing around their angry teenagers and to start teaching them the meaning of manners. Kids should be taught the importance of saying “please” and “thank you” and using the words ma’am and sir. But young adults aren’t the only ones with lessons to learn. It’s time for everyone to help in the effort to restore courtesy to our society. When you’re walking to the train in the morning, nod or say hello as someone passes you on the sidewalk. If you see someone elderly waiting for the bus, step aside and let them board first. They have earned that right.

Rudeness has become an alarming fact of life in this country. In fact, it has become an epidemic. But instead of ignoring the problem, we need to address it. It is time that we stop “letting it go” and start speaking up. If we don’t, we risk growing immune to the problem and heaven help us if we grow immune.