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WOLF: Readers cite manners, civility, reasonable debate as ‘lost skills’

COLUMN: Cursive writing, driving a standard and blacksmithing also seemingly forgotten
Some PQB News readers cite a lack of good manners (such as holding a door open) as something people don’t seem to remember these days. (Black Press file photo)

What’s a lost skill that no one seems to remember anymore?

A question posed to our readers on Facebook drew hundreds of responses, ranging from the amusing to the thought-provoking – with one intriguing theme a constant throughout.

Amid an often relentless cycle of less-than-cheery news, we like to have a little fun sometimes through our social media. Ask some questions like ‘what’s the best colour of freezie?’ and lighten the mood.

Last week, we asked the ‘lost skill’ question.

A sampling of responses:

Retailers counting your change back to you. Cursive writing. Hand-written letters and posting them via snail mail. Walking to school, or sports events. Amusing yourself instead of having to use technology for entertainment. Pyramid building.

Marbles. Using a telephone book. Pouring a beer without a giant foamy. Wagon wheel making. Opening a beer bottle with a lighter. Spelling. Driving a stick shift. Sewing. Baking and preserving food. Editing. Stalking a mammoth. Hand-picking fruit and vegetables.

Adjusting the rabbit ears on a TV so it would still have a good picture when you let go of them. Making a good paper airplane.

A few more:

Simple math. Using a darkroom to develop film. Polishing; whether it’s floors, shoes or brass. Embroidery. Knitting. Cooking. Baking. Talking to people face-to-face rather than just texting. Winding a cassette tape back with a pencil. Navigation with map, compass and pacing. Sending thank-you notes. Remembering phone numbers. How to tell time (analog versus digital). Jumping the solenoid to start your car. Using a rotary phone. Blacksmithing. Shorthand. Farting the alphabet.

And plenty more. An interesting list, though I can’t say I ever tried learning that last skill. Is it too late?

READ MORE: WOLF: Drivers battling roundabouts and other motoring pet peeves

But overwhelmingly, more of the responses about what’s missing fell along these lines:

Civility. Good manners. Work ethic and reliability. Truth. Respect. Courtesy. Common sense. Critical thinking. Manners. Being polite and kind. Honesty. Respectful debate. Chivalry. Empathy. Ethics. Trustworthiness. Selflessness. Being nice to one another. Common decency for fellow beings.

So many posts along those lines. So many.

It definitely made me think.

I spend way too much time on the internet (I tell myself it’s because of the job) and it can be an absolute cesspool.

There is a lack of respect, a loss of civility, an absence of critical thinking.

There’s so much polarization, refusal to engage in respectful debate. Confirmation bias is king and folks won’t budge from their positions.

Politicians gleefully pander to specific groups, rather than aiming to represent an entire electorate.

Worse, those with differing views from you are often now seen as the enemy. “Owning’ others online is somehow something to be celebrated.

I have friends and acquaintances of all political stripes. Vaccinated and unvaccinated. Even Leafs fans.

We can disagree on certain points, but still be connected by the things that made us friends in the first place. At the very least, the civility remains.

Is it so wrong to have opposing views?

And other than online and the odd rambling phone call, I rarely encounter anyone who isn’t polite or respectful in public.

That said, I of course see what’s going on elsewhere in the world.

This willingness to say foul things on the internet continues more and more to seep into ‘real life’ as people become emboldened by the notion they are more supported than ever.

Previously, if you held what might be widely seen as an ‘extreme’ viewpoint, it might have been difficult to find large numbers of like-minded individuals. Now, you’re a mouse click away from finding thousands of them.

Do the loudest among us now just get more attention than they previously did? Or are we actually headed down a slippery slope?

What can be done? Does anything need to be done?

Is ‘be kind and respectful to one another’ a credo the overwhelming majority of us still live by, or an antiquated notion that will be harder and harder to reinforce moving forward?

For me, it’s still the former.

A lot to think about. Maybe we all need to take a break and have some fun with the alphabet.

PQB News/Vancouver Island Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached at, 250-905-0029, or on Twitter @philipwolf13.

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Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
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