The population of the world is heading for 7 billion. India’s population is over 1.2 billion and rising. There’s an inevitability that we’re all going to have to get used to being around a lot more people a lot more of the time. Solitude and isolation will become increasingly rare. So, to me, it’s an extremely worrying trend that people are behaving more selfishly, more often and being less respectful of others’ rights.
This can relate to some fundamental things like queuing (Yes, I’m British), cars and vehicles filtering alternatively if two lanes of traffic are merging in to one. What they all have in common is a logical acceptance that life is simply better for all if we practice the decency of ‘give and take’, from a position of acceptance that my rights cannot be superior to anyone else’s. Even if in this moment I lose out a little, I’ll make it up on another day when someone else does something that favours me and my rights.
Here’s a BBC article looking at the levels of frustration and annoyance that people feel over the issue of mobile phones in public places, particularly music concerts and recitals.
This is an area where standards of interpersonal respect have dwindled at a very rapid rate in almost no time. In 1993-4 I and my colleagues working in private banking in London were in possession of our first mobile phones. One day I received an urgent call from one of my account officers, mortified by what he had done and the consequences! He had been invited to lunch at the East India Club in the West End of London. Arriving on the dot, in his haste to get in to meet his client, he forgot to switch off his mobile phone. After a drink in the bar, client and banker moved in to the dining room and took their table. Conversation was going well, until half way through the soup course, his phone rang. A deathly silence fell over the whole room. He snatched it from his jacket pocket and switched it off as fast as he could. He offered a sincere apology to the client, who had turned a nasty shade of red. The client just stared at him in silent horror as the restaurant manager approached. “Sir, I must ask you to leave the room.” “No, it’s OK. I’ve switched it off. It won’t ring again. Very sorry about that,” replied the humbled banker. “That’s as may be sir, but as you have angered some of the members and are here as a guest, I must nevertheless ask you to leave. Allow me to get your coat for you on the way out.”
There was no way back. Whilst it was all done with the utmost politeness and tact, he was thrown out and found himself on the street before he’d even got his coat done up. The client did not join him, in fact showed no wish to even acknowledge his existence! Cleaning up the mess took considerably longer. The client had to be provided profuse apologies and, if I remember correctly a trip to the Badminton Horse Trials, as well as a change of account officer. Dire warnings were issued to all the account officers across the country about mobile phone etiquette.
How times have changed, and so quickly.
Whilst we can probably all laugh and consider that the ‘stiff upper lip’ rigid rules of the East India Club are overly extreme, do we have to accept that ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ is just going to keep getting g worse? Are we all going to just keep complaining that ‘someone ought to do something about it’, insist on a profusion of CCTV cameras to catch the worst culprits who place their own interests above the law and others’ interests? Or, can we really, as members of society and as educators and parents of tomorrow’s leaders in society, swing the pendulum back through getting enough people to recognize that educated people understand the logic that all our best interests are served by treating all our interests as equal.
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