The Disappearance of Courtesy
Oblivious to the danger, the operative sprang into action, reaching the junction box where his mission-critical skills would be put to the test. Honed by years of experience, his hands worked effortlessly as they located the sensitive communications cable and severed it. In the blink of an eye, he was finished, making it back to the safe house unscathed. Victory!
An American agent working behind enemy lines to disrupt an adversary’s crucial communications? No way.
Instead, in a typical reaction of the Entitlement Movement sweeping the country, it was a self-righteous, "I’m offended" baby boomer suburbanite who deliberately disconnected his neighbors’ communications cable, knocking out their phone, television and Internet for days. (Disclosure: the author was in no way involved).
And what prompted the suburban commando to choose instant gratification over good relations with his neighbors?
Due to some nearby construction, a thin communications cable was temporarily above-ground, running in front of his house. That’s it. It wasn’t the latest chapter in a Hatfield-McCoy feud, nor was it an act of desperation because his life had been turned upside down. It was only a small cable, which didn’t affect anyone. And the kicker is that our "hero’s" actions hurt those who had absolutely nothing to do with the situation.
Did it matter that his neighbors’ kids couldn’t log on to do their homework? Nope. Or that people missed work deadlines because of no Internet? Or that baby sitters without cellphones had no way of calling the parents (or 911) in an emergency?
Absolutely not. So long as he still had service, that’s all that mattered, everything and everyone else be damned.
In straying from what were once our values, he succumbed to the do-whatever-you-want-that-makes-you-feel-good mentality, where consequences and accountability are ignored.
First, tampering with a company’s equipment is a serious crime, so he’s lucky not to be prosecuted. Ironically, if he did jail time, he’d still be able to watch cable TV, but it’s just not the same when Bubba, your ax-murdering cell mate, doesn’t share your programming tastes. (Suggested shows/movies while in the pen: "Law And Order," "The Jerk," "Dumb And Dumber," "The Cable Guy").
Obviously, the rerouted cable was a result of the construction. So clearly, he should have addressed the construction manager, not disrupt his neighbors. That’s common sense, but it didn’t happen.
It’s pretty sad when people have nothing better to do with their lives than complain about trivialities while assailing their neighbors and friends.
By far, most disconcerting is today’s total lack of courtesy. Not that long ago, when people had a problem, they’d walk next door and talk things out civilly. Imagine that. Same at work, school, on sports teams, and yes, even in government buildings. But somewhere along the way, that all changed, replaced by an it’s-all-about-me attitude.
Far too many now deem it acceptable to hide behind social media while demonizing others. Or shout obscenities at the motorist ahead who didn’t stomp on the accelerator the second the light turned green. Or insult someone at the ATM because we’re "inconvenienced" by waiting a whopping two minutes.
It has become commonplace to see adults (and, sadly, their children) butt in front of others at the amusement park while acting as if that’s their right. We see parents screaming at referees during youth sports games, acting like it’s the NCAA championship. And these same parents accept their young children rudely calling teachers and coaches by their first names.
Manners, let alone etiquette, have become foreign concepts. (Though the oasis in the desert of rudeness are Wawa stores. People go out of their way to hold open doors, wait patiently in the coffee line, and even behave themselves finding a parking space. Whatever causes that phenomenon needs to be studied and emulated.)
The biggest irony is that the same people who are just dying to tell the entire world their life story on the back of their cars — yes, we know: You went to Ohio State, vacation in Sea Isle, have been to Disneyworld, love Pomeranians, brake for squirrels, hate guns, support the troops, save the whales, and have brainiac kids who, despite their massive social ineptitude, are middle school honor students, play the cello, are mathletes, and attempt to play lacrosse — won’t give you the time of day in the elevator or walking down the street. No hellos, God Bless yous, or good mornings. Nothing. All too often, it’s just a sneer.
Ronald Reagan and former Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill disagreed on most issues, but at the end of the day, they shared a beer while laughing, telling stories and enjoying each other’s company.
So why the change? Crazy as it sounds, maybe it was the fall of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the threats of the Red Menace and nuclear war were always with us. While we naturally still had our disputes, the common perils we faced kept us disciplined, focused on the big picture. Once the Communist walls came tumbling down, so did the common bonds that kept us united, replaced by the new "causes" of unchecked consumerism and greed — an unprecedented thirst for materialism that would make Gordon Gekko blush with envy.
Or maybe it’s air conditioning and back decks keeping us totally isolated from our neighbors, unlike the days when everyone in the neighborhood would sit on their front porches. That made for tightknit communities where neighbors were intimately involved in each other’s lives.
Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but Americans would do well to put down the phones now and then, and try that lost art of talking to each other. Will we ever return to those halcyon days of yesteryear when respect and courtesy were commonplace? Hard to say. But this much is certain: that transformation can only begin one conversation at a time.
And a good day to you!
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]