"The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls".
So wrote George Bernard Shaw in 'Pygmalion', the story of Professor Henry Higgins and a cockney flower girl called Eliza Dolittle, but is it the truth?
Are there such things as good manners, bad manners or no 'blooming manners at all'? (in the style of Eliza Dolittle, the Audrey Hepburn version).
I believe that manners do matter, and even more so in an age when politeness seems past it and decorum has died a woeful death. In 2013 you're more likely to hear a 'f*ck you' rather than a 'thank you' and you've got more of a chance of a door being slammed in your face rather than one being held open for you. We've become a fast food, want it now and pay for it later culture.
Is the rise of Internet shopping the reason nobody remembers to say thank you to the real life check out girl and is the pitiful rise in the minimum wage the reason she's unlikely to say it back to you?
I don't know when the 'stiff upper lip' of the British became the 'stiff middle finger' but I do think being rude is now second nature to a nation who where once looked upon as being paragons of politeness. Even the Americans, those crass and uncouth (ex) partners in war of ours know it's only right to call any man over the age of 25 'Sir' and any woman who looks like she may be past baby making age 'Mam', and this is the country that brought us 'pimps, bitches and hoes'. Try saying 'have a nice day' to someone on a rush hour tube in London and they are likely to punch you, try saying 'you want fries with that' and they are likely to kiss you. We've become more American than the Americans, we've even learned to riot like them.
The English have always been known to love standing in line and yet we've thrown that tradition under the bus too (unless, of course, we're waiting for a bus). Why should we queue when we can cut in, push in front or even push someone over? Once again, is it the ease of online shopping / banking / dating that's caused us to be so arrogant and impatient or is nothing worth waiting for anymore?
The only time I see English people standing in line is if they are waiting to audition for the X Factor. Simon Cowell has a lot to answer for regarding the diminishing decorum of the British public. He's made the uneducated and the unwashed like Zombies and the X Factor auditions like the shopping mall in 'Dawn of the Dead'.
I have no idea if he of the dazzling teeth and the dangling loins knows what he has done but I'm starting to think he sees himself as the Henry Higgins of the X Factor generation. He definitely has a habit of taking poor, bedraggled, malnourished and phonetically challenged young women (Cheryl Cole, Cher Lloyd, Tulisa) and trying to pass them off as cultured young women with an assumed air of gentility, and these sorry (Tattooed arse) souls are now the Eliza Dolittle's we are faced with.
I can just imagine him saying:
'The great secret Cheryl/Cher/Tulisa is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but in having no blooming manners at all'.
Pygmalion was written to lampoon the British class system back in 1912 and now over one hundred years later Mr Cowell is holding the British public up to ridicule once again.
I think it's about time we held him responsible for being the pariah of politeness, the master of the disorderly queue and the reason we're all now more likely to be saying 'F*ck You' rather than 'Thank You'.