I have recently had some interesting experiences relating to generational differences with regard to manners; the way the young see the elderly and their more “traditional” manners, and the way the elderly see the youth of today with their “lack of manners and respect”.
It all began a few weeks ago, while I was on vacation and taking a quiet walk along a nearby street with my dogs. An older gentleman (I think he would have been late 70s)went past me on a bike, and then stopped suddenly to look at a new “McMansion” being built on the other side of the road. I acknowledged him with a smile and a “good morning”, and he said: “I grew up in the house that used to be there”. I remembered the previous house as being quite elegant, on a large block, filled with beautiful trees. He said: “I lived there for the whole of my childhood”...and then commenced to tell me about the suburb in those days and what he remembered of the area at that time.
After we had finished a really interesting conversation I continued my walk. Along the way I passed a few young people (OK, about their 20s) and a few young couples, all connected to their IPods, as I was, none of them acknowledging my eye contact and “good morning”.
Does this make me “old fashioned” in that I do acknowledge others on an early morning walk? I mean, I don't necessarily want a long chat at that time of solace and early morning light, but an acknowledgment is perhaps not a bad thing.
One of the musicians I am most enjoying at the moment is Amy MacDonald who has an insightful song “Youth of Today” on her great album “This is the Life”. I was listening to it following my encounter with the old gentleman and it made me think. She is in her early 20s and has a following around the world – 3 million albums – which, as a result of her insightful lyrics and wonderful melodies, crosses all age boundaries. http://www.amymacdonald.co.uk/gb/lyrics/youth_of_today/
The traditional manners of those aged over 50 often seem disproportionate to the young, as do the casual manners of the young to those more mature. The young find it difficult to deal with the formality of the manners which dictated for their parents rigidly how people greeted each other, dated and certainly ate at the table in the days before McDonalds. But that doesn’t make the more formal manners of times gone by less realistic than the manners of our modern life.
The new manners guide on whether we can make and break a first date by text; and how we can date via internet introductions rather than friends; and how to deal with a table laid with western cutlery and asian utsensils together; and then dealing with the "modern manners" which guide parents divorcing with attendant partners, blended families and how the kids and their friends cope with those situations.
If common courtesy and respect for each other are by definition the basics of good manners, whether they are traditional or modern, we should all see the differences in standards not so much as difficulties but as opportunities to talk about the evolution of codes of behaviour for the times in which we live.