Thursday 17 January 2008

counting all the ripples on the sea...

In his first post of 2008, Andrew Collins had an idea.
"It's a new year. Time to solve the problems of the world - and there are one or two - before it's too late. I've been thinking about this for a while now, and it's dawned on me that the only way we're going to make the world a better place without having to plough through all that due process and red tape and so-called democracy is to start being better ourselves."

Fair enough. Be the change you want to see in the world and all that.

But how?

He put forward the following and called it The Manners Manifesto

1. Smile
2. Say please and thank you
3. Let that car in
4. Be friendly to strangers
5. Help old people off or on the bus
6. Buy the Big Issue and give some change to the homeless
7. Be polite to Jehovah's Witnesses
8. Never swear at people on the other end of helplines
9. Never, ever drop litter
10. Leaving bags of stuff outside charity shops when they're closed? Come on!
11. Talk to people at the check-out
12. Don't swear when there are kids about

The thinking behind each one is detailed in the post itself, and it worth having a look at the follow-up discussion that this stimulated on Metafilter (if only to marvel at the idiot who thinks it's his right to litter the world with his butt ends if the world insists on banishing him outside into the cold to smoke).

I'm sure you don't agree with it all, and none of this stuff should need to be said at all, but the sad truth is that we could probably all do with a bit of a brush-up on a few of the points. Here's my own self-assessment:

good: 2, 8, 9, 11
could do more: 1, 3, 4, 6 (but at least I always make eye contact), 12
not really relevant, but yes in principle: 5, 7, 10

Actually, I reckon I could still do more of the things I think I'm alright at.

The point is, I think, is that we are all human beings and we're all in this together. We can either try to make the journey as pleasant as possible for each other, or we can decide not to bother. You don't have to be a pushover, but you just have to try to remember that it's easy to make somebody's day, and it's easy to ruin someone's day... sometimes you have the choice. Which one would you prefer someone chose for you?

Christ, I sound like a hippy.

I'm not the most outgoing of people in the main, but I do enjoy being as polite and friendly as I can manage with the people I run into in the course of my normal day... not the people I know, of course - I'm a bastard to them. I mean the people I don't know: the checkout girl, the bus driver, the taxi driver, a waitress. A smile here, a little comment there, making absolutely sure that all my Ps and Qs are in the right places... it doesn't take much. Some people will always be miserable bastards, of course, but actually surprisingly few, and when someone responds positively with a smile or whatever, I find that little spark of human interaction really gives me a kick and puts a spring in my step.

Of course, when she sees me doing this, C. generally accuses me of being a flirt and of having a magic touch with ladies of a certain age.... well, that's not it at all. I'm not denying that I find it easier to make a connection with ladies, but it's definitely not flirting - not consciously, anyway. Jesus - I wish I could be so relaxed about flirting, but I've always been absolutely hopeless at it. Terrible. I've never knowingly chatted up or flirted with anyone in my life, I don't think. The very thought of it makes me start to sweat. If, as C. alleges, my behaviour is tantamount to flirting, then perhaps I have the slightly unfortunate ability only to flirt with people I'm not really seriously interested in flirting with.

Whatever. It's not flirting. I'm just doing my bit to make the world a better place, one person at a time (two at a time, if you count me).

Anyway. Enough about me. How do you score?


  1. I agree with all of them except the Big Issue - I donate to homeless charities instead, since I don't read the Big Issue and think it's a waste of the paper it's printed on.

    I'm good at: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 12
    I could do more of: 5, 8, 10
    I don't do: 6, 7

    I have trouble being polite to anyone who hassles me (cold calling) when I'm tucked up at home. I'm not overtly rude, just terse, and certainly not polite.

    JW's generally don't want to talk to me anyway, since I lounge around home wearing a sarong and very little else. Those young boys get a bit flustered when they get greeted by a braless hippy! :)

  2. Descartes said "Conquer yourself rather than the world" (thank you, Manics album sleeve)

    I'm good at 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11.
    3. I don't drive.
    6. I very occasionally buy the Big Issue. I give to Crisis, not to people on the street, but not very much not very often.
    7. I'm nice to them at the station when they try to give me the watchtower, I suppose.
    12. I swear too much in public. Potty mouth.

    I don't think it's being hippyish. I think it takes more effort and, frankly, more balls to be pleasant to people. Much easier to mumble and look the other way. I think in a world gone dog eat dog mad, being nice to people is the new punk!