I'm not just talking about the disappearance of words like 'thank you', 'please' or 'excuse me', or covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
I had on one occasion, entered a hotel lobby through a side door and then noticing someone behind me, held the door open for him. It has been my habit to look behind me before letting go of the door as some swing doors close a little too fast and can hit the next person if they're following too close behind. All of a sudden a whole group of others trooped in through the door without looking at me or a word of thanks or even a nod of acknowledgement. I was standing there holding the door for them, feeling like I was just the doorman. (No offence to doormen. In fact I'd even thank a doorman even though it's his job to open doors for me.) It wouldn't kill anyone of them just to nod at me or smile and say 'thanks', but nobody did. I looked at myself and thought; perhaps it's because I wasn't wearing a coat and tie.
Then there was the time when I was walking a few steps behind someone through a door, and he just walked right on and let go of the door which would have swung right into my face had I not foreseen that and put my hand out in front of me. That door happened to have an absorber closer that malfunctioned.
Some years ago, I drove to a supermarket with the whole family. We went round a few times hunting for a parking lot and noticed one about to be vacated. So I put on my turn signal, stopped my car a little distance away so that the other car could back out easily from the parking space. But as soon as the car drove off, before I could move forward another car came in from behind, cut in right in front of me into the parking space. The driver and his passengers got out of his car and walked away without looking at us. That set my blood into boiling point and I had to mumble a whole string of profanities without my family hearing any of them. These kinds of people seem to think it's fair since they got in first, not who arrived first. I told a relative about the incident, but he told me about a case of a guy who had both his legs broken as a result of an argument over a parking space. So maybe I was right I didn't pursue the matter.
Remember the ad where a guy sitting in LRT commuter train ignored a pregnant lady standing nearby? It's probably one of our problems as a result of urban living that turns people into self-serving, uncaring observers instead of doers I'm sure, in spite of the bad things we've been told about Malaysian attitudes, we have many here who are really caring and generous. But have we grown immune to the hardships or discomfort of others in the course of living our daily lives? Have we become so tough inside that we think, "Who cares, I'm tired. I've got my seat. I haven't sat all day... Who's she anyway?"
But then again, as Malaysians we've always been known to have responded very enthusiastically when asked for donations for victims of natural disasters, for people with diseases which need tens of thousands of Ringgit for operations, etc. I tend to believe we are not so bad after all. Just sometimes we couldn't care less, or simply lack some manners.
Looking at it, if 'charity starts at home', then I believe good manners and courtesy should start from there too. Consider that your first job when you bring up your kids. No buts, no excuses. And like all things, good manners work both ways. You show it, they follow it and you get it back in kind.