online: 10 november 2002

9 november 2002 new manners

As I crossed a footbridge a young man walking beside me asked if anyone had a pen. I stopped and lent him mine. He took it and wrote out a telephone number which his companion dictated while listening to a mobile phone. Then he slowly wrote out several more numbers that his companion spoke. As I waited neither of them acknowledged my presence at all as they talked about the numbers. The one phoning stepped backwards into my body space - as if I wasn't there - and the one with my pen handed it back as he talked - without looking at my face or saying thank you.

I walked off wondering about this habit of not thanking... I notice that people seldom send thanks for presents sent by mail - or even acknowledge their arrival. Have presents become impositions of manufactured junk? Or is it that self-interest is no longer masked by politeness - or that we lack any manners or customs appropriate to the new technology and the increased interaction, particularly with strangers, that it makes possible? ...I think it is time to invent new manners and etiquette to suit the time...

...but of course this is already happening, at least on the internet, where 'netiquette' is both an accepted word and a new custom - but of a rougher and franker form than the eighteenth-century manners on which middle-class politeness was based. It includes 'flaming' at people who interject unacceptable remarks into internet discussions (for instance FRO - fuck right off) and of course the writing of emoticons :-) that's the first I've ever written and I don't feel like writing another - but yes I'm sure this is happening - and important. (Important?)

But apart from netiquette there is definitely a culture of rudeness and aggression, dating I think from the 1980s, and I look forward to a reaction against it and towards treating people as people, not objects. Is that what the Buddhist ethic is about - and the ethics of other religions?

In turning from engineering to industrial design and ergonomics - and later in opposing inhuman and abstract design language - I've been reacting against inhumanity and disrespect all my life... and it still makes me angry :-(

But that young man who borrowed my pen as if it were his - perhaps he was completely unaware of other people except as means to his ends? ...and are not most of us likely to manipulate others ...perhaps in more concealed ways?

I'm not so happy with this entry - is that because it's moralistic? I prefer not to be judging. But the new manners are coming from the periphery, not the centre, and they may give some of us a shock. kiss kiss

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© 2002 john chris jones

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