Monday, March 14, 2011


Have you all noticed one very major difference between the terrible tragedy that has taken place following the major earthquake in Japan and similar tragedies that have occurred in other places around the world in recent years? One of the most common scenes you see in news stories of disasters like that is the unruly mob climbing over one another, trampling their fellow men, fighting to grab food and water being dropped off a truck by terrified workers. Another is looters smashing their way into stores and making off with anything portable. Did you all notice that isn’t happening in Japan? Everyone is queuing up politely and nobody is looting. They are all exercising courtesy towards one another, and in doing so making everyone’s lives better, even in such trying circumstances.

One of the most obvious changes that I noticed over the twenty nine years that I did police work as well as the years since that I’ve spent as a police dispatcher afterwards was the rapid erosion of manners and courtesy in Western society. I’ve seen many examples of self absorbed people with no concern for others. No one holds doors open for people any more. People j-walk whenever and wherever they feel like it, completely disregarding oncoming traffic. Fewer and fewer people signal lane changes and the speed limit seems to be when their gas pedal hits the floor boards. I found myself surrounded by people feeling isolated, entirely wrapped up in their own concerns with no thought whatsoever for anyone else. Road rage incidents have multiplied exponentially. The more discourtesy they experience, the more this feeling of isolation and distrust in them grows.

Want to make a difference in the world? Hold the door for someone. It is amazing to me how many people look surprised when I hold the door open for them at the store or at work. Want to make someone’s day? Greet people that you pass on the street. Some people give me strange looks or duck their heads down and look away when I greet them while out walking, but far more respond with a surprised smile when I tip my hat. People aren’t used to having people show courtesy towards them these days and doing so will certainly bring a smile to their face which may last all day. Want to relieve someone else’s stress? Let that other driver merge into traffic in front of you. It’s not going to slow you down and it’d going to restore their faith in others.

Courtesy, in other words showing respect and consideration at all times towards others, is one of the keystones of the Code of Chivalry of the order of knights that I belong to, just as courtesy (rei) was one of the keystones of Bushido. Courtesy is an essential attribute of the warrior. There will be those who try to tell you that nice guys finish last. I tell you this is not so. Courtesy is a sign of strength and confidence. Look what rei is doing for the people in Japan. Courtesy is directly linked to the law of three fold return. You get back what you put out there, and if you’re courteous you will always be the winner. Like largesse, another of the principles of chivalry, courtesy is part of paying it forward. Courtesy is the soul of modern knighthood. In Idylls of the King, Lord Tennyson put it this way: “For manners are not idle, but the fruit of loyal nature and of noble mind.” Modern knighthood begins and ends with courtesy. In his Letters and Social Aims, Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.”

So take time to be courteous. You’ll be glad that you did.

In Her Service, Kerr Cuhulain

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