City Journal Winter 2016

Current Issue:

Winter 2016
Table of Contents
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Peter Whittle
Sorry No More « Back to Story

View Comments (18)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.

Showing 18 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
Those two examples of "naked abuse" are horrifying. In a city in upstate New York, where I live, people always, always hold doors open for me, even though I am visibly walking without a cane. I'm glad to see the courtesy, unnecessary though it is.
I think it to be purposely from the author’s side that he did not mention multiculturalism, however we all know what is lurking beneath this. However, it is not only a matter of cultural differences and the terrible and insensible soup it creates, I sense increasingly a condescending manner from the upper classes towards those, the unfortunate ones, who actually pays for the «tolerance» they are preaching and daily experiences what multiculturalism means in practice
Robert Marchenoir April 23, 2013 at 5:12 PM
You might try asking people to turn down their gadgets or their voices, or to take their feet off train seats.

However, here in France, you might also get killed for doing that.
London is not really England anymore. The queue is very much alive in the rest of the UK i.e. about 88% of the population.
It's thanks to the spread of liberalism that manners have declined.

Sorry to hear that manners have declined in London though last year when I visited I didn't detect a change for the worse. Perhaps part of this is due to the fact that I'm American. When I visited a London museum in the 1990s, I was walking in opposition to the signed route and was chastised by a security guard. I thought it was absurd that 1. there was a direction one had to take and 2. monitoring of adherence to said ridiculous rule.

That said, I don't mind London loosening up some but there is a point of going too far. In many parts of the word, there is little civility in queuing, a bad thing in my opinion.
Some years ago I made a comment to one of my rather worldly sons that Americans were often carefully well-mannered, indeed more than most Anglophones. He replied cheerily that it pays to be polite if you know that someone might, legally or not, carrying a concealed handgun. There is at least some merit in considering why people, rationally, might be polite or have adopted courtesy in personal interractions at some period in the past.

Duelling comes to mind. But, less dramatically, the de haut en bas courtesy which stopped the upper classes being hated and therefore endangered by the less fortunate was probably a factor. And, notoriously, there was a cultural trickle down effect during the rise of the Anglophone middle classes from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. On the one hand the downwardly mobile members of very large families with some wealth took the manners to their humbler positions in society and the upwardly mobile, especially when education at the so-called public schools became common in the 19th century, learned how to be Christian gentlemen and dispensers of justice to the lower orders of all races.

Behaving in a way which was regarded as appropriate in front of women, whether not swearing or standing when they entered the room must also have tended to fortify the notion that there was some such thing as good manners and that it mattered.
I took a local commuter train in San Francisco, California several years ago and noted that except for a very heavy man, all those who were seated were women. The men were all standing. This would certainly not have been the case in Asian cities like Hong Kong or Tokyo. I think Americans (or Californians?) are politer than many people believe.
Looked in vain, in your article, for some kind of reference to the fact that London is no longer an English city, reflective of a country and culture that is fast becoming "no more", but rather a global metropolis full of rootless cosmopolitans on the make - but alas. I submit for your enlightenment the queuing habits of those who live east of the Hellespont. Hope you enjoy the choice of having a variety of ethnic restaurants to choose from, in exchange for a civilized and peaceful nation.
It falls to us who have a semblance of civility and regard for civilisation to uphold good manners where we can. Yes, there will be people who take advantage but our own regard for people (for that is what good manners are) means we have to let them be what they are.

As an Englishman myself, I am aware that London is fast becoming a non-English city. 'White flight' has resulted (reportedly) in 600,000 Brits leaving the nation's capital and others who stay are aware it is sinking into a third world mess with ghettos and tribal cultures. The Labour Party strove for this so well under Blair and then Brown that it could be said to be their one success in 13 years of power, eclipsing all their failed social engineering and disastrous economic policies.

But turning London -- and with it driving out people who might well be prepared to show good manners -- into a mere conglomeration of people largely unable to contribute anything other than selfishness means that things like queueing are falling by the wayside.

As I say, it is down to us to keep up the effort. Not easy, but then civilisation never was simple to achieve.

The globalised economy, which as an Economics student, I thought would be so good, has a down side. The middle class is disappearing, and it was the middle class that politely played by the rules. As they are downsized and casualised after sometimes twenty to thirty years of "playing the game", do we wonder why they, too stop playing by the old rules.
Look at the future lower socio-economic kids have, poor schools, packet food diet, obese, poorly educated, no real job prospects, pop culture of all gangsters, porn from kindie school. The middle class see their kids facing the same unless they do well financially or educationally.
An auditor friend of mine is overseeing the sacking of 10 of 20 CPA qualified accountants and auditors, the company makes excellent money in Australia, but they can make even more with the Malyasian auditors doing the back office work. Those made redundant include book-keepers, who have worked for the company for twenty years studying in the evenings to go from accounts clerks to masters qualified auditors. They make the company money and good money, but it can make even more "off shoring" the work. My friend a religion man and father fo five, said to me he has questioned his faith and life values. This is the issue when even a man like this a father of five, a professional auditor, who is Treasurer to his church and several charities, ask why.
When you have played by all the rules, their children have seen them study a couple of evenings a week for over ten years, you have the kids in private school and live in a nice house. Then you are "rationalised", they leave private school, the house a millstone now, you get constant casual work, is it any wonder when you tell your 15 and 13 year old to work hard at school and get a career, they don't listen and look more at the reality of globalisation.
I think over the next 5 to 10 years when government can't meet the pension obligations. Many will feel they have worked, saved, queued and paid their taxes, but the government can't pay their pension. It can bail out banks, that despite losses still pay huge bonuses, it can fight overseas, but it can't afford a decent border patrol or Police force to deal with drugs and rising crime.
"Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breath in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them." Edmund Burke, Letters on a Regicide Peace, 1796.
I know many elderly men who have fought for their country and they would say that treachery is much worse than being rude to people on the street.

Self-indulgent solipsism is pretty tiresome too.
We still patiently wait in line (queue)in a civilized manner in Tasmania, maybe an Australian island paradise that the rest of the frenzied world has passed by. The pace of life is so much slower other than road rage, which seems to be on the increase, but that's another story!
Early on in my career I had the opportunity to work with two older english gentlemen. To this day I'll never understand how they had to patience to put up with an ill-mannered 18 year old (that would be me!).

Over the course of several years, they transformed me. They were alwaysgentle and tactful in their criticism. They led by example. And that's the thing about manners. When you have several well mannered individuals in a group of rutting mastodons they tend to uplift everyone. When I left the company I was a better person thanks to those two men.

Fast forward thirty years (2013). I'm sitting in a NY subway train with my 9 year old (it was his first trip to NY). We're sitting among many self-absorbed,tattoed hipster i-pod monkeys. A pregnant woman gets on board. My boy gets up looks at the woman and says, "Excuse me ma'am. Please. Take my seat". I got up as well to give her some breathing room.

She was beside herself. The ladythanked my son. Obviously this doesn'thappen very often.

While hanging on to a strap an older gentleman asks me, "is that your boy"?

I nodded yes.

"Well", he replied. "You're doing a damn fine job as a dad".

all I could think about was Michael, leaning over my drawing board, patting me on the back and saying, "I think you're getting the hang of it, young man".

Joanne Silverman March 24, 2013 at 4:18 AM
Perhaps the decay of civility can be traced to the spread of globalization, the internet, unbridled immigration, diversity, and even the precariousness of so many people's economic situation. When the English were a definable group, as were the Germans, the Dutch and the French,and so many others, certain mores went part and parcel with their cultures, but no longer. It seems that's the price of progress and what the "shareholders want"
This is fascinating, especially since the NY Times and other American major newspapers and magazines have been filled with stories about rage in New York--bad manners, temper tantrums, sometimes traced to fears of terrorism and the cost of living. But Americans are sometimes still seduced by a pleasant "foreign" and that includes British accent--if there really are foreign accents in that paradise of internationalism, New York. I've had more experience with rage and rudeness in New York, although it is true that if you're suddenly lost or in trouble, the average citizen seems friendly and eager to help. When I was in London and surrounding towns in the eighties and nineties, I noticed people puffing away in the non-smoking trains and on the underground; if I said anything they got contemptuous and they puffed away more.
EFF YOU!!! Sherri!
Lack of manners no where more apparent than on many "comments" boards.