Well, that’s what they say, but it’s not strictly true; a man (or woman) can have no manners whatsoever and still be assured of the integrity of their gender. However, that’s where their integrity ends. The simple truth is that some people seem to think that not adhering to a basic code of good manners somehow sets them apart and makes them appear more important than those around them, giving them an air of superiority and aloofness. It does nothing such. If I hold open a door for you and you walk through it without even acknowledging me, like it was my job or something, then outwardly I might appear to have thought nothing of it but, trust me, I’m imagining you stepping on the ground-sheet which conceals a pit of poison-tipped spears upon which you will dangle, helpless, as the life ekes from your swollen, aching veins.
Politeness, conversely, pays rewards which are felt by many. Simple smiles and thanks spread good feeling and it is passed from one to the next in a viral fashion, just as negativity and ignorance spread bad feeling. In every encounter you have a choice: some people say, “Why should I step aside for another?” and, of course, you don’t have to. The thing is this: we’re all on a journey through life; we each take our own path and have different destinations and different ways of getting there. Nobody has to go out of their way to be considerate to another but, given a choice between merely barging through life or stopping to acknowledge and assist others, what possible motivation can there be to be anything other than gracious? We’re all human (even the Dutch) and that means we’re all on the same team because, as a species, either we make it or we don’t. Some of us are playing a slightly different game with slightly different rules but it’s only nuances of separation: the music may have different melodies, rhythms and strains but we’re all still dancing in one form or another.
So what does this mean on a day-to-day level? Simple: you aren’t better than anybody and nobody is better than you. We’re all equals in a struggle but we ain’t struggling against each other (writhing perhaps, if we’re lucky, but not struggling). The struggle is one that we all face, on different levels and in different ways, and we can all use encouragement. Simple politeness and manners allow us to feel good about ourselves and make others feel good too, and it can be as simple as saying “Excuse me,” “Please” or simply thanking someone for holding a door.
Alas, it seems that the world and its occupants may be moving, as a whole, towards insularity and hostility. What can I tell you? Pray for an asteroid.