Jayne Dawson: Weeks when we forgot decency and manners

A bit of common decency might be better.
A bit of common decency might be better.
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I’m the sort of person who apologises a lot.

I am one of you. I am polite. I can’t help it.

If I collide with a person in the street, I scatter the word “sorry” around like confetti at a wedding, and I do the same if I bump into a lamp post.

And I would rather stab myself in the back of the hand with my fork than be anything less than ultra polite to any waiting staff in any eating or drinking situation.

I will insist the food is lovely even if it tastes like a chewed up dishcloth that has just been run round a greasy sink.

Once, in France, I broke free from the shackles of English politeness and made a slight gurgle of protest when a dog ran into the restaurant and, how shall I say it, went to the toilet in a very thorough manner under the table next to us.

But everyone around simply smiled indulgently, so I quickly subsided and meekly carried on eating my steak and chips.

But that’s how it mostly is with we Brits. We are, in general, polite people - in public if not in private.

We say things like: “Well, I mustn’t keep you” when we really mean “If you don’t shut up and leave me alone soon I think I will scream.”

We say: “Honestly, no, it’s fine” in every situation, from a friend’s child smashing that precious vase that we will weep over later, to that moment when someone tips a drink all over our dry-clean only, shrink-at-sight-of-water silk dress.

That’s just the way we are.

And, mostly, we’re getting more polite as the years go by.

Back in the 1970s, it wasn’t like this. Back then, conversation was much more confrontational and no one was emotionally articulate. In everyday life, nobody gave or received compliments, emotional support or understanding. We didn’t know the meanings of such things.

You had a best friend and a boyfriend/girlfriend. And pretty much everyone else you hated - including the best friend and the boyfriend/girlfriend, once you had fallen out.

But then life got better. We stopped judging people, we began to talk about feelings, we began to accept that people can be different from us and that that’s not threatening, it’s okay.

And so it has continued - with one massive exception.

Now that the general election is over, I have to ask.

Is it really necessary to always treat politicians with such utter and complete contempt?

Is it really rational to say they are all cheats, liars and frauds, as so many people do?

Is it really okay to always speak to them through a mouth twisted with contempt?

I don’t think so.

A tough question is one thing but rudeness and a lack of any personal respect is another.

So I didn’t like the audience in that Leeds debate. I didn’t buy the view that they were a “feisty” crowd.

There were those who claimed them proudly for Yorkshire, but I didn’t feel that way. I thought they were like a baying mob at times. I felt ashamed of them.

Just as I felt ashamed of those SNP supporters in Scotland, screaming into the face of Jim Murphy.

They wouldn’t have done it to anyone else - not to their doctor, their plumber, their neighbour, the person at the checkout, the cashier in the bank. So what were they thinking?

Your politics reflect your view of the world - if you bother to have a view.

But to tell someone they are a liar because they don’t share your view. Or to call them a cheat and a fraud because they are a politician at all is... just bizarre. No doubt some politicians are cheats and frauds, but no more than in any other walk of life.

We really should be better than that. Mutual respect, tolerance and understanding would be good.

But just a bit of normal politeness would be enough.

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