Courtesy is a rare thing in today’s selfish society

I’m a big believer in common courtesy.

The world can be a pretty grim, dog-eat-dog place these days and a little consideration toward your fellow man goes a long way.

Holding doors open for people or letting the miserable-looking bloke in the Vauxhall Astra join your queue of traffic on a wet Tuesday morning might just put a smile on someone’s face.

It’s actually quite cathartic and, what’s more, it costs you nowt.

The very fact that two regular bus users in the Potteries have taken it upon themselves to campaign for people with prams and pushchairs to be more considerate is a sad indictment of modern Britain.

It may not be an issue central to the forthcoming election, but it certainly gets to the heart of much of what is wrong with our society.

It is, presumably, the same reason why North Staffordshire’s very own Reverend Ian Gregory felt motivated to create the Polite Society almost a quarter of a century ago.

In 1986 he wrote: “British courtesy is a myth. It’s based on foreigners’ reading of romantic fiction.

“The reality, especially in our inner cities, is that we are heading back to the Stone Age.
“It’s simply appalling, the way people treat each other.”

Amen to that. Although I reckon things are actually worse in 2010.

Just ask Mary Milakovic and Jessie Jervis, who say they are fed up with being threatened and forced out of the way by parents transporting their pride and joys across the Six Towns.

Sadly, I fear their plea for a little more consideration – via a petition which already has more than 200 names – will just fall on deaf ears.

Why? Because unless bus firms decide to employ ‘courtesy conductors’ a minority of passengers will simply continue to act selfishly.

Bus drivers have enough to do without refereeing the aisles.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Increasingly, in recent years, we’ve seen The Sentinel’s letters pages peppered with complaints about mums barging the elderly and disabled out of the way with something akin to a lunar rover.

In response, more articulate parents have cited the fact that some pensioners feel they have a divine right to a seat and are generally rude and condescending to anyone with children.

What’s got into people? Surely it wasn’t always like this.

If memory serves me correctly, 30 years ago such behaviour on public transport was the exception rather than the rule.

When I travelled to Hanley and back with my mum on Sammy Turner’s or PMT buses, any breach of common courtesy would have been stamped on by the majority of passengers.

Nowadays, it seems apathy rules. People avert their gaze when voices are raised or conflict arises, allowing the yobs and the ladettes to call the shots.

The ignorance and inhumanity of those people continues to go unchallenged.

Let’s face it, there is a selfish streak that runs through some people like lettering in a stick of rock.

Nowhere is this behaviour more prevalent than on our roads.

Take, for example, the increasing incidences of ‘road rage’ or the abuse of disabled people’s parking badges just to enable some lazy drivers to leave their cars closer to the shops.

Then you have the drivers of more expensive cars who park across two spaces, depriving someone else of a berth in order that no-one touches their paintwork.

Or you have selfish parents who can’t be bothered to fold down their buggies on a bus so someone else may pass by them or have somewhere to stand.

I will always give up my seat on public transport for an elderly traveller, or a harassed-looking parent.

But it shouldn’t just be about the younger generations making sacrifices.

A sizeable proportion of senior citizens can be equally selfish and it wouldn’t hurt them if they occasionally got up off their backsides and demonstrated a little kindness to others.

After all, reaching a certain age doesn’t suddenly mean you are somehow more important than the next person.

It’s time we all took a stand against the not insignificant minority of people who think life revolves around them.

How else can we teach future generations the importance of civility and common courtesy if we tolerate such selfishness?

Fred Astaire, of all people, once said: “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”

He wasn’t just a great dancer, you know.

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