Bad Manners

Posted June 19 2004
I think I understand some of why "older" people get upset about "the younger generation." The kids drop their McDonald's paper in the car park without a thought.  And then, on this wet morning, still put their feet on the seats.  The four letter word down further down the carriage is like the new ''er-" in conversation; the universal syllable to lubricate articulation.

Once, the racist rap intruding upon us on this morning's train from the young yob who has small ghetto blasters for headphones, would have been instantly quenched with censorious and judgemental glares. I'm not sure our current tolerance- or is it fear?- of his bad manners, is any improvement.

Grumpily, I wonder if the ratings plunge of "reality" TV is perhaps a small sign of hope for western civilisation. The prurient, perverted popularity of such contrived voyeurism in the past several years is a cause for fear. The fact that the exaltation of unfaithfulness, betrayal, and what once was called fornication- now called Temptation Island- did not simply disgust people into not watching, is also a cause for fear. Where are our values as a society?

On ''Big Brother" this week, the latest evictee appeared with his mouth taped shut and a sign pleading for the release of refugees. He refused to speak. This eloquent, silent protest was made all the more powerful by the fact that the audience booed him. And booed the people attempting suicide in despair. And booed the children we hold in gaol.

My instinct is that the disregard, otherwise called lack of compassion, or lack of mercy, we show others in putting our wet and muddy feet on the train seats, and then glaring when they ask us to move them so they can sit down, grows. It grows into the merciless booing of Big Brother. (What are we doing when we tolerate feet on the seat?) One might imagine that the studio audience of Big Brother is no measure of a nation. Yet this loss of values is nation wide, or we would not have the children in gaol. It goes to the highest levels.

The kids glare when you want them to shift their feet or their bags off the seat so you can sit down. Pitjantjatjara people would say "They have no shame."  We see this lack of shame in our government. I quote from a refugee advocate's post to an email list:

"... Dr Sev Ozdowski described the meticulous research that had gone into the HREOC "A Last Resort?'' Report. To have it tabled in Parliament on the eve of the Budget was a disgrace. To then have DIMIA invite Telegraph journalists along to a raid on Doyles [for those interstate: a top Sydney seafood restaurant] thus further diverting media and public attention from the Report makes my blood boil. Then to have Sen Vanstone praise the journalists for covering the raid, when journalists have been refused access to Nauru and other detention centres, makes me tremble with rage!" (Sue B.)

At the very highest level we conspire, without shame, to hide the truth of our bad manners- for this is what this is- as though so doing excuses us. At the station this morning, a kid from the local Christian school turned away from the bin (3 metres distant) and carefully rolled his scrunched up "Macca's" paper under the bushes behind the bus shelter. The quality of the Government is on the level of a school boy. Neither act hid or undid the bad acts of manners.


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