Where Have Your Ps and Qs Gone?

There’s something terribly wrong with civil society when civility becomes a thing of the past.I got around to thinking about this and other things like basic courtesy, appropriateness and decorum just today after a friend’s visit the other day.

Where does civility come from? Parents? Education? Experience? Or from a conscious awareness of oneself?
I have often wondered by and large when parents keep saying kids these days are different from kids of yesteryears. They often say this with much exasperation, pointing out that the quality has deteriorated somehow as we developed into ‘bangsa Malaysia yang cemerlang’.
But it is true. Kids aren’t afraid of monsters any more, they won’t even be cowed by the Bengali uncle story. They won’t shut up, they’ll instead give you a spicy retort if what you say isn’t what they want to hear. Parents giggle in amusement. “Ah, that’s my smart kid.”
That’s basically the problem. Within my circle of friends, I don’t seem to see proper behaviour of parents and children any more. Children talk back and parents smile, hearts all a-swell that their kids are garrulous.
They tear open angpows in front of their (embarrassed) givers, and wrinkle their pert noses when the sum isn’t what they expect. They jump, yell and zoom around in maddening circles when they are taken to visit their parents’ friends. If they don’t wreck your furniture, you are lucky.
They won’t shut up. They cannot. I assume the Smarties, Koko Krunch and whatever Sugar Bombs cereal they’re fueling their kids with is causing this sugar-rush and hyperactivity. Parents are as much to blame. They’re not fit to be parents if they cannot even control their own children.
My own uncle is a case in point. He’s practically under the control of his bratty seven-year-old son. He has to use the cane to scare the child and coerce the child to get ready for school/tuition/extra classes. Most times, he fails miserably because the boy knows his father’s Achilles heel. Most times, he would need to bribe the child. And the child talks back. He calls his father names. He laughs in derision when his father gets mad. He relishes the anger and yet knows no one, not even his father, would really cane him. It’s just…a cane.
And he becomes unbelievably rude. To the extent that he would spit at whomever who is angering him. Or kick and jump about if he is unhappy.
But again, I cannot expect much from a child if their Mommy and Daddy cannot even be courteous when they are driving on the road. Or if Mummy and Daddy throw rubbish out of their car. Or if Mummy and Daddy are the first to reprimand the Headmistress when their child comes complaining that the teacher scolded him.
It’s bad enough that we’re no longer learning Tatarakyat in class or that Civics is long gone and forgotten.
Moral Studies? What Moral Studies? Oh you mean that subject where the students have to MEMORISE acceptable and politically-correct moral values in order to regurgitate them during exams? So that they can get an A for it and yet act like morons when driving on Malaysian roads?
These very same morons will grow up (I hope!) and get married and produce offspring which act and talk like them.
Can one really blame genetics for bad upbringing? Isn’t bad upbringing a result of parents who never learnt how to act like civic-minded folks?
Who talk for the world to hear when they’re using their mobile phones?
Who barge into other people’s rooms without feeling embarrassed at such impropriety?
Who throw rubbish out of their homes without realising that what they do today will affect others?
Who think they’re smarter than average folk when they’re jumping the queue?
Who rifle through personal documents on other people’s desks when they are not around?
Who open and read other people’s diaries?
Malaysian society may be smarter now compared to two decades ago. I can see it everywhere. The intent is clear: you send your child to a good school, make sure he is properly fed and clothed, that he has eaten at the best restaurants Mommy and Daddy can afford. The child gets an overseas holiday once in a while because “it is important for him to see other cultures and peoples”. The child gets the best books to read and the best toys to play with. He gets the best of life.
But I don’t see parents teaching their children to mind their Ps and Qs, to say thank you and be grateful for every gift received. I don’t see parents teaching their children to be generous or kind. I don’t see parents teaching their children to be mindful of other people’s property or to spend within their limit. What I see is that parents urging their children to compete aggressively, to give in to selfishness, to buy first and pay later, to eat more if it is free or if it is a buffet.
That is why when these children grow up, they grow up ignorant of the finer points of being a human being. I used to know a man who is on the Board of Directors of a public-listed company who had such disgraceful manners. He is miserly but that’s not a problem. What made him notorious was his habit of going through files and documents on other people’s desks without respecting the notion of privacy of the employee. He had a peculiar habit of not paying whenever he owed others and used to bring cookies past their expiry date to the office, to “share” with everyone. Once, his subordinate saw him opening her briefcase. When confronted, he just shrugged!
So isn’t it odd and remarkable that when we do see a well-mannered child, we go oooh and aaah because in a world of increasingly bratty kids, this gem stands out?

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