My father would often take pieces of bread, break them up in milk, add some sugar, then proceed to eat it. He lived through the depression and the meal is one he would have consumed many times. He continued to eat it on occasion throughout his life even though he could have ate pretty much anything he wanted to at any time he wanted to. The poor man’s meal was not beneath him long after the need for such a basic meal was passed.
Like many people who lived through the tough times of the Great Depression, he knew what hand-me-downs were, what hunger was, what poverty, unemployment and all that went along with it was. And like most of those who lived through those tough times, he did not feel so hopeless or disenfranchised that he felt the need to light the streets ablaze and take what he did not have the money to buy.
He survived in the best way he could, educated himself through books, knowing his family could never afford to send him to school. And he worked – worked to support his family, his younger siblings and ultimately his own family. He worked his ass off to make sure our cupboards, fridge and pantry were well stocked with food so that we would be prepared should financial calamity strike again as it had when he was in his teens.
I’ve witnessed, in the nearly half century I’ve been fortunate enough to walk this planet, my father’s generation die off, my generation rise, and now new generations coming to the forefront. And with each has come a lessening of the common civilities that were a matter of course in my father’s and his father’s day, a lessening of civility and a lessening of societal expectations on people in general and our youth in particular. And with each passing year it becomes less and less acceptable for any one of us to hold any other person accountable for their actions.
Mention to a driver he should signal before changing lanes and you are likely to get the bird. Mention to a driver perhaps he ought to park between the yellow lines and you are likely to get the verbal equivalent of the bird. Mention to someone that perhaps they should say excuse me when they push in front of you and you are likely to get told you are rude or worse.
Rude, indifferent or self-absorbed people who violate the unwritten rules of polite society are perhaps far from Anarchy in the UK, but with each passing year of just letting the little things slide, we push the line farther and farther down the politically correct road of what is tolerated.
Tolerance, in its truest sense, is how much variance from correctness we will put up with. In a blueprint, tolerance is how far one can be out of step with the plan and still be acceptable. It does not mean we accept everything in the name of harmony. It does not mean we put up with what we don’t like because the world is changing. I’m not talking race, religion, gender or sexual orientation here.
We’ve been tolerating ill behaviour, entitlement, and a lack of respect and common courtesy for too long. The result seems to have been less about societal enlightenment and more about lightening the individual’s responsibility to ensure his societal rights and freedoms do not become a nuisance to the rest of us.