Have We Come to This?

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” (Robert Heinlein)

This quote gives me the shivers. It seems to me that we are perilously close to this description. Manners seems to have gone by the wayside, rudeness and selfishness are rampant, politeness seems to have taken a holiday, and driving these days is getting more and more aggressive.

The very words “please” and “thank you” are getting pretty thin on the ground. People who might be perfectly nice on their own turn into savages on Black Friday, or any other time when there is something they want, and they want it NOW. Children have learned that shrieking and crying and throwing things gets them what they want faster. Many parents are barely parenting these days.

But for me, the worst indicator of how our culture is changing is the way people drive. Case in point: I was driving behind someone just the other day on the highway, and it was obvious that he/she was either texting or pre-occupied with something other than driving. I hung back just as far as I could while I watched the vehicle swerve into other lanes. It is frightening how common this is.

Also, it seems as though people these days are just looking for a reason to get mad at something, someone, anything. I don’t engage anymore while driving; it’s too dangerous. I do not flip anyone the finger, I don’t do the hands-in-the-air gesture meaning ‘what the hell is wrong with you?’ If someone behind me is crowding me, I take the first opportunity to let them pass me if I can.

It isn’t that I’m some kind of goodie-goodie, it’s just that I’m afraid of retaliation. These days you just don’t know who might be at war with the world and is looking for a fight. You don’t know if someone driving nearby is holding a loaded gun; it’s better to just not engage.

Back in the stone age when I was learning to drive, you let people go in front of you with a smile. Generally, the recipient smiled back and waved a thank-you. Also, when you were out driving, most people were smiling anyway. They were out of the house, driving somewhere and enjoying the experience. There was no speeding up to grab a parking spot before anyone else; none of that. Time was slow and fluid, and no one seemed to be in a hurry. It just seems today that no one has a bit of patience.

These days I have seen drivers who never look behind them when they back out of a parking space. I have seen people nearly run over because the driver couldn’t wait for them to walk into a store.

Worst of all, it seems that everyone everywhere swears; not just the occasional ‘damn’ or ‘hell,’ but some pretty crude language. Saddest of all, this crude language does not stop in the presence of older women or men, or small children.

How did we get like this? These days everyone seems to want to pick a fight, and most people look angry all the time. Why? When did life become so terrible that we have to be rude, crude and nasty to each other?

So, here’s my question: are we becoming a dying culture? It sure seems that way. What a shame.

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