Why don't people greet each other any more?

By Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

Published 25/08/2015 | 00:00

michael commane
michael commane

A film that often comes to mind is 'Crocodile Dundee', released in 1986.

 

It proved a worldwide success. It is extremely funny. In ways it's outrageous but it also tells some interesting tales. When Crocodile or Mick Dundee first comes to live in New York he more or less behaves as if he were still living in Walkabout Creek in the Australian Outback. One of the ways that manifests itself is how he says hello to passers-by. On one occasion he even opens the window of his taxi to shout hello to someone and introduces himself as Mick Dundee from Walkabout Creek.

Of course it's funny. Can you imagine yourself walking down any busy street in an Irish city and saying hello to strangers? People would think it odd. Or is it as odd as it might seem?

For a number of years I was living between a rural village in West Kerry and Dublin. It was taken as the norm to say hello to people in Kerry, even people you did not know. So the days I would be in Dublin I often found myself saying hello to passing strangers. It took me a while to 'fit in' to urban living.

These days I spend most of my time in Dublin. It so happens on weekdays I'm out walking with the dog early in the morning. There are not too many out walking or running at that time but there are a few. I say good morning or hello but there are fewer and fewer responses. Why, because they don't hear me. Headphones in their ears and they are cut off from the world around them.

Maybe I am intolerant, maybe I'm a Luddite but the idea of nodding a greeting or an hello to someone in a park early on a summer's morning and not receiving a reply is bizarre. And it's even more bizarre because the person has their ears blocked off. They may be listening to music or radio, they may even be in communication with someone in faraway places.

And then those cyclists, who have the dreaded headphones in their ears when cycling. The stupidity and danger of that.

I once heard a young woman on the Luas telling the person she was talking to on the phone that the doors of the Luas were about to open and then as they closed she went on to explain that the doors were now closing. Imagine had I turned to her to tell her that the doors were opening and closing?

Modern sophisticated people might well throw scorn at the likes of Mick Dundee greeting strangers in downtown Manhattan. But just think of the millions of people who are talking to strangers on social media. Is it all a matter of following what the crowd is doing? Are we simply a species of animals, which are so easily manipulated? And the people who pull the strings can do whatever they like with us?

Why is it that we are forever running off chasing rainbows in far-off distant places when right in front of our noses there is extraordinary beauty to behold? Isn't it the English poet John Keats who manages to see the extraordinary in the ordinary things that are about us? A re-read of Keats might do us no harm at all.

I'm going to continue saying hello to passers-by when out walking my dog early in the morning. It's a nice beginning to the day to be greeted with a friendly salutation. Surely it's good to be in touch with our immediate surroundings?

Wexford People

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