This article, which first appeared in The Boston Globe in January, 2013, argues that we have lost something over time in our culture now that we do not say hello to the people that we come across as part of our day. David Roach remembers when he was young and...
This article, which first appeared in The Boston Globe in January, 2013, argues that we have lost something over time in our culture now that we do not say hello to the people that we come across as part of our day. David Roach remembers when he was young and how he was instructed by his parents to say hello to everybody that he passed, whether that was in the car with a simple wave, or verbally on the street. He reflects that something has been lost that makes humanity much poorer now that this custom is considered strange and slightly odd. His central argument is expressed in the following quote:
I believe it is not good if we become so self-absorbed and harried that we fail to acknowledge one another’s presence--our common interest in a good day, a fine sunset, and a better tomorrow. We are on this journey together, and the journey is short. While we are on it, we should say hi to our fellow travelers.
There is much about Roach's argument that is attractive. He imagines that life is a kind of journey, and we should take a moment out of our time to say hello to "our fellow travellers" who are on that journey with us, especially because life is so short. It is important to remember, however, that our whole attitude to greeting others is very culturally bound. As Roach emerges from the South, he comes from a culture where politeness in this form is very much accepted. In other parts of the world, however, politeness is not shown through brazenly greeting strangers, and it is important to remember that Roach's remarks are made in a specific cultural context that is not universal. In some Asian countries, for example, it is considered very rude, even aggressive, to greet a stranger on the street. Whilst the principle behind Roach's remarks can therefore be applauded, the practice needs to be very carefully considered depending on the context.