Common Courtesy is Not So Common


by Matthew Thompson

Not too long ago, people naturally treated other people with a certain amount of common courtesy. People held open doors a little longer as a gesture of good will and kindness. This small action pointed to a bigger attitude within the nation, an attitude of selflessness and generosity. It is an attitude that is being lost. Then, people greeted one another without provocation, and respect was given freely to strangers until they proved themselves to be unworthy of it. Not too long ago, people treated other people significantly better than they treat them now.

Currently in America, there is an air of competition in everything. Capitalism has its hold firmly rooted in the consciousness of the typical American. The common man worries only about if those close to him are assets or liabilities. Everything to him is “his” gain or “his” loss. This common man is unaware of how he affects those around him. People, in general, are now moving too fast to enjoy the simpler things in life, like taking a long walk, or relaxing at home with friends. They are absolutely oblivious to the plight of those surrounding them. Those that do acknowledge the presence and recognize the condition of other people that are less fortunate are reticent to offer help unless there are no sacrifices to be made. Whereas, before there was an environment of community in society, there is now an attitude of selfishness and avarice amongst even the most grass roots cultures.

Something in America has changed in the last 40-50 years. The old source of motivation and work ethic has transformed into a completely different force. Communities in the 50′s and 60′s were concerned with the prosperity of the other families that populated their subdivisions. People of the same neighborhood engaged in light banter about their schools, weather, and the children, because they had an interest in the well-being of the neighbors and ultimately, the community. They understood the metaphor of a chain only being as strong as its weakest link, so people of a community protected each other. People of that time understood the connection between home-life and the workplace, and acted accordingly. They knew that there was a direct correlation between happiness at home and success in the office. People now, are expected to separate the two and perform. Though that is the reality of the business world, it does not negate the fact that the two are inextricably linked. And there is no sense of community to help brace the individual for the hardships that they may face in the office.

In business, the person with the most cutthroat demeanor often wins, and that has spilled into everyday life. There is a constant fight to be better than your peers, instead of a shared struggle to succeed in a tough economy. In all of the previous, difficult, economic time periods in the United States, the nation banded together with a call for patriotism to help the country survive and then thrive economically despite challenging financial crisis. Now people are separated along race lines, class lines, party lines, and any other line that they can find. People search adamantly for a reason to dislike another person. That dislike precedes disdain which comes before disrespect. The sense of community leaves, so common courtesy goes with it.

People need a return to the days of old. They need to be reminded that they are not in a competition with their neighbors, and remember that they have allies within their peer group. People need to help each other again. They need to look inside themselves and find compassion for those that have fallen on hard times. People need to open doors again and it all starts with you.


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