Mark Steel's Independent column is always worth a read. He focuses this week on politeness. He points out that the "war" on rude and anti-social behaviour always seems to focus on poor people, when in fact rich people are much, much worse.
When I started out in comedy it was pretty common for new acts to be asked to go out and hand out flyers in the street promoting shows in return for a 5 minute spot on the bill. It's not the world's most enjoyable job but it's interesting because you see the world from a very new perspective - the bottom. Sometimes it was just funny - like the students who bought me a litre of apple juice out of the blue - that's the time you think "I really need to buy new clothes and get a haircut". And not quite so funny - like people offering me jobs as a tequila girl and a "masseuse" ("I don't know how to do massage", "That doesn't matter") but then there are times when it really gets pretty nasty, usually alcohol is involved. Rough drunk blokes will shout "Alright darling, give us a smile then", but the ones that grab your arse or "hilariously" start humping your leg as their mates look on and cheer are always the posh ones. I remember kneeing a particularly horrid one in the nuts as he tried that kind of stunt to which he responded by spitting at me and calling me a lesbian. When they had finally fucked off I was stood in Leicester Square with a sense of disgust and disbelief and then the Polish waiter from the Italian restaurant opposite where I was standing came over with a cup of tea "is ok, on ze house". I cried.
Or to offer another example. Gerrard Finneran, the super-rich financier who was told he wouldn't be getting any more alcohol on his First Class flight. The highlight for me is section 6: "A male flight attendant then entered the first class section and saw FINNERAN with his pants and underwear down defecating on a service cart used by the flight crew. FINNERAN then used linen napkins as toilet paper and wiped his hands on various service counters and service implements used by the crew. FINNERAN also tracked feces throughout the aircraft". Some days you'd be glad you didn't get offered an upgrade.
And then there's the corporate rudeness. Varying from "Your call is important to us and will be answered by the first available operator", and then six hours of muzak to the ones I seem to get every day now "Hello Mrs Smur-i-ta-waite, I'm calling to ask you about your electricity bill", "Is this a sales call?", "No, no, no, I'm trying to save you money", "By getting me to buy your product?", "I'm just calling to let you know", "So you're just an information service, if I want to sign up for your service, you can't help me? ", "You would like to sign up? Certainly, do you wish to pay by direct debit...". Personally I find that pretty rude, not on the part of the guy in India making the call, but on the part of the mega-corporate who are paying him a wage he needs to earn to ring me up and lie to me.
Finally Steel goes on to praise volunteers, who do good in our communities without expecting anything in return. Personally I would advocate a national policy of a 2% tax cut for people who do at least four hours a week of voluntary work in approved schemes: mentoring, fostering, community projects. Suddenly the well-educated high earners would have an incentive to get involved in sharing their skills, and encouraging them to see how the other half lives might just bring them down a peg or two. Plus of course it would boost the voluntary sector to unfeasible highs and give kids across the country access to extra tuition, after-school clubs and mentoring, there'd be shopping services for older people and coffee mornings being organised, and a bunch less kids in care which would in fact save money...! When do I get to be prime minister?