We tend to think of politeness as the hallmark of French society and culture, but in the French press of late there has been quite a bit of berating of the decline in standards of civility here. Le Point last week devoted a dozen pages to a variety of articles under the banner headline of "Les Mal Élevés" - the badly brought-up. But of course it isn't just France. If you are French you might ascribe the change in people's behaviour towards each other to "The Spring of 1968" or even the French Revolution, if you are English you might put it down to the advent of Thatcherism or the advent of consumerism; but when I was reading about this, I found a lot of bells started ringing and I went back to the JM Barrie quote I used in the last chapter of "Stillness in Mind":
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."
It has been suggested that there are two reasons for society's norms and everyday courtesies - to oil the wheels of social interaction so that casual encounters can't (easily) give rein to the dark violent underbelly of human nature; and as an acknowledgement of the other to protect each from the desolation of anonymity.
But the writer of Peter Pan wanted more... more than oiling wheels, more than simple acknowledgement, we've got to actually do something!
We've got a long way to go.