June 18, 2017

Why Civility Is In Decline

I wish I knew. More to the point, I wish it would stop. As the recent shooting at the baseball practice in Washington demonstrates, things seem to be escalating in a very dangerous way. 

An article in Psychology Today said,  "There seems to be more and more rude, demeaning, insulting, and aggressive language and behavior in our society."  That sums up what most of us experience on a too-regular basis. The question then becomes, why?

Civility is defined as courtesy in behavior or speech. I'm pretty sure we all know it when we experience it. From holding a door for a stranger to helping someone reach a box of cereal on the top shelf, from disagreeing without disrespect to making a fresh pot of coffee after taking the last cup, civility makes life more pleasant and satisfying.

So why does civility seem to be in decline, maybe even dying from disuse?  I can offer a few possibilities. Your (civil) additions to my list are encouraged!

1) Social media

Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat didn't start out to be uncivil. I imagine the inventors thought just the opposite. People could connect with others anywhere in the world to share ideas, photos, thoughts, and feelings. What was not anticipated was the anonymity of the Internet giving some people the freedom to insult, demonize, and degrade with no personal consequences. 

Those first hurtful comments seemed to open the floodgates. Decency and respect were swept away. Nice comments didn't get retweeted or reposted nearly as often as the hateful, inciteful ones. The lack of any boundaries seems to have encouraged a certain type of person to flourish while those repelled by the verbal vomit stopped participating. Politeness was buried under waves of disrespect. Of course, it is possible to avoid this stuff on your feeds, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

2) Political Correctness

I dislike the term, political correctness. It has come to mean something very different from its original meaning, which was to avoid words or phrases that denigrated certain people based on differences, disabilities, sexual or racial matters. Because of the extreme nature of some PC zealots, the whole idea of being sensitive of those different from us has become a reason for pushback. Being politically correct has become a negative.

This allows for some of the worst traits of humans to be expressed under the banner of being freed from the abuses of extreme PC.  Rebellion has allowed the pendulum to swing so far to the other side that marginalizing the "others" has become acceptable to many. Civility is one of the victims of this mindset. 

3) 24 hour news cycle

Most readers of this blog grew up in the era of three networks on television and a morning newspaper. Whatever happened in our town, state, nation, or the world, would only come to our attention if it was part of the 30 minute Huntley-Brinkley or Walter Cronkite newscast at 6pm, or on the front page of tomorrow's paper. Radio newscasts were about the same: hog and wheat prices, a local robbery, or whatever the networks in New York could fit in a 5 minute update at the top of the hour. Everything was slower. Reactions were muted by time and distance.

No more. Hundreds, if not thousands of sources, rush to inform us of whatever they deem important in a continuous flood. Something that happens in Paris or Moscow, New York, Washington D.C., or Phoenix is before our eyes or into our ears with virtually no delay. The time to verify facts or put something in context is no more. On the plus side, we can be much more aware of what is happening in the world around us. On the other side of the ledger, the tsunami of stuff simply washes away our ability to process all this information. More often than not we react with emotion, not consideration. Blame, anger, and condemnation are too often the first responses.  


4) Lack of shared visions

The word bipartisan could join civility in the endangered column. Extreme political divides, believing the other party is not only wrong but evil and doing the devil's work, seems to be par for the course. Why that matters is two-fold. Firstly, governing in a representative democracy requires working together. It isn't simply nice and more productive in the long haul, but it is required. Even if one party controls all branches of the government, without working together on major initiatives, the out-of-power party will just do their best to gum up the works and bring governance to a halt.

Secondly, the dysfunction in Washington spills well beyond its borders. Citizens find little reason to participate in building something; tearing down and obstructing become the new norm. We stop seeing ourselves as part of a whole. There is little shared vision of what made us who we are, and what is needed to maintain and build upon the successes and learn from the failures. Being civil when a person views others as a threat is impossible. It is very much a Lord Of The Flies worldview: survival of the fittest.


A little over a month ago I wrote A Different Way To Think About Politics. As expected, there were some comments that suggested my plea for moderation and civility in political matters was naive and dangerous. I expected that; I rarely write about politics because that isn't what this blog is about and most readers don't want to find it on these pages.

This post really isn't meant to be political.  Point #4 above, The Lack of Shared Visions, happens in part because of politics, and I believe rubs off on our everyday life. But, civility and its importance in making life more pleasant is one that transcends donkeys and elephants, as the previous three points emphasize.

I am very interested in your observations in this area. Also, I am hoping you have some suggestions to improve our situation. The post on the positive power of affirmations, A Force That Powers The World might shed some light on how we deal with this problem, too.

OK, that ends my thoughts. I politely and respectfully ask you to add to this discussion!




 

50 comments:

  1. It's unfortunate, but true and what we can do is spread kindness and respect. Here are some factors that strike me. The US population has doubled since I was in high school...mo people, mo problems. The sixties antiauthority theme has gone off the rails, encouraging antisocial behavior not political action. The accessibility of drugs. The denigration of the middle class.... lack of secure, good paying jobs, need for multiple degrees, specialization of work, etc.

    On a more positive note, we are much more tolerant of diversity, racial, sexual and ethnic. The past was Jim Crow, sexist, homophobic and pretty darn rigid.

    I don't want to turn back the clock, but we can work to practice civility in our little corner of the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember being part of a march on Washington to protest the Vietnam War, as well as having a sit-in at the administration building at Syracuse University. Just two years later I was in an army uniform undergoing basic training. Protests and then being part of the establishment didn't seem odd. As you note, political protests usually didn't morph into antisocial behavior for the vast majority. Today, the line seems much more blurred.

      Delete
  2. I agree that social media has opened the flood gates but, the vitriol that has permeated our society started building up when Obama was elected. And, I think we know who was leading that charge starting with the 'birther' movement. How that buffoon got to where he is today speaks volumes to how it has all ramped up. He's brought out the KKK and every other socially unacceptable group to say what they please with no repercussions. I find it sad and appalling at some of the things I see and read daily. I'm not sure there is any turning back without some major 'house cleaning' on both sides.
    I was reading a piece in this morning about Macron and how he's changing things in a good way in France. He brought out the 30-40 year olds in large numbers and has brought more of them into his administration, including a large percentage of women. You look at this administration and it is nothing but old white men. That has to stop! Maybe we should have an age limit on being able to run? One that stops at retirement age? Just a thought.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Term limits for Congress is an interesting idea, one that should be explored. Being a representative or senator was never supposed to be a career. Fresh blood with people who are not so ingrained with special interests would probably be a very good thing. Unfortunately, I am not so sure that would directly affect the civility and anger problems plaguing us. Are the people in Washington driving the divide or simply reflecting it? I don't know.

      The anger and discord did seem to worsen during the Obama years. But, I remember a lot of anger over Bush the 2nd and his decisions regarding Iraq and financial problems and Clinton and his various scandals. I think the civility problem began much earlier.

      So, where does that leave us? Are we totally at the mercy of whatever is happening in the political world to determine how we act? If so, that says more about ourselves than people in Washington. We are allowing our daily lives to be overly influenced by events we cannot control in the moment.

      Delete
  3. Bob, I find it interesting that you stated upfront that this was not a political commentary, but one one of the first responses is a totally one-sided political rant. I won't go down that rathole, but rather state that the return of civility will happen when people want it to happen, not by accusing one side of being the total cause of the problem. It won't be legislated away, it won't be "resisted" away, and it certainly won't come from people swearing and taking the name in vain of currently elected officials at all levels.

    I for one feel very thankful that I live in a small town in the South, where young children, high school kids and adults are oftentimes extremely polite to one another. For example, since I am tall and we have a lot of senior retirees in this town, I help them in the grocery store as much as I can. I have always held the doors for others, and I notice many others here must have been raised the same way. We do not try to bust through four way traffic stops, but generally wait patiently for our turn. I believe it is the little things that will bring civility back - insisting on it from ourselves and our kids, helping others in the community, the basics that make for a civil society. And it won't come from "resisting" everything one disagrees with in the world today. I'll get off my soapbox and let the fireworks commence.

    And btw, everyone have a happy Father's Day. Our kids can be frustrating at times, but they are also the source of our greatest joy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe the answer must start on the local level, even inside the home. I view civility kind of like ocean tides, albeit on a very long cycle. Right now, the tide has retreated from shore, leaving rocks and debris exposed. That is what we see so we react to it. Eventually (I hope) the tide will come back in, covering the rough stuff and reminding us of the beauty of our lives and how everything is connected.

      While I completely agree that our political system is a total mess right now, I will return to the point I made in an earlier comment: those folks are reflecting what they think will keep them elected, and that is by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

      Most of us don't have to live that way. We can fight against political wrongs we see, but practice common decency and civility within our family, neighborhood, and with strangers we interact with on a regular basis.

      And, a very happy Father's Day to you too, Chuck, and all the dads who may be reading this. today.

      Delete
  4. I blame the schools, especially the colleges and university. What started out as an experiment has turned into a nightmare. Professors and teachers think what they are doing is right and just but it is not! Two months after my daughter attended an uber leftist liberal college, she came home and screamed: "You're an evangelical and listen to FOX News!" I should have stopped it there but everyone told me not to interfere in my children's lives. Very bad mistake.
    Fast forward to November 9, 2017, when my adult children found out I voted for Donald Trump they cut off all communication with me. Blocked me from all social media and started spreading lies about me to the rest of our family. They said I had an anger problem and thus barred me from ever seeing my grandchildren again. The situation between my adult children and myself is bordering on the verge of elder abuse. At times, I actually feel scared. I don't know what they are going to do to me next.
    The condition has gotten so far out of hand (I think I'm living in a nightmare, I can't believe this is happening to me) I had to hire an attorney. I am now in the process of suing my children so that I can at least get visitation rights to see my grandchildren.
    You reap what you so. Those of you who are progressive liberals have reaked this nightmare on all of us. You instruct your followers to resist. Resist what? It's only going to get worse.. Much worse. I predict a civil war. And over what? The corruptness of Hillary Clinton? The apparent corruptness of our current government? Trump won the election fair and square and look at how the liberal left is acting? Robert DeNiro, Madonna, Kathy Griffin........all disgusting pigs in my opinion.
    We're probably already in a war and don't know it. War has been declared on all conservatives. Just recently a celebrity said all conservatives should be banned. Thrown off college campuses. Really?
    Wish me luck in court. I pity my poor grandchildren who have to grow up in such hatred and bitterness. All, for what? WHAT????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. November 9, 2016. Election night results. Sorry for the type.

      Delete
    2. I appreciate your frustration and fear. Your children are being unfair and judgemental. But, I respectfully suggest that the anger you have expressed about "progressive liberals" is very much part of the same problem. Aren't you just as intolerant as your kids have become? I doubt you will change many hearts and minds with "disgusting pigs" labels.

      Even though I was hoping this post wouldn't trigger a political slant, I have left your comment in place because it really is a strong example of what I am writing about. Both sides see each other through a lens of hate and anger. I am not saying you don't have a right to be very, very upset about being cut off from your children and grandkids. Your court case may force the issue, but it will only make the divide between you and your family a permanent chasm.

      Does civility begin with forgiveness? Does civility mean taking the high road instead of descending into the gutter with others? I can't begin to tell you I understand what you are feeling and going through. I ask you, though, to think about the long term consequences and whether the battle you are entering has an outcome that is good for anyone. Your children are wrong, but can you force them to bend to your views?

      Delete
    3. It works two ways Bob, as you said. My kids are nearing 40 years old. They are not teenagers or college students anymore. Over these past 8 years under Obama, believe me, I learned to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself. But my offspring had no problem criticizing my husband and myself for our beliefs. They wouldn't let us say prayers at the dinner table anymore, we could no longer say the word "God"in mixed company or in front of their children. It was either their way or the highway. We had to be for abortion, even partial-birth abortion. Trust me, Bob, it was becoming very uncomfortable around here. Then my adult children started supporting demonstrations, marching in those demonstrations, bringing the grandkids to those demonstrations, funneling money and donations to anti-American causes, anti-government documentairies.....well you get the picture. They even started telling me how to dress, what subjects I could talk about in public...I found all of this behavior bizarre. On the night Trump was declared a winner, it was 3:30AM and like the rest of the world, I was dumbfounded. After being lied to for so long that Trump didn't have a chance. Well, when I expressed my glee, my kids vowed right there and then to destroy me. After 39 years of raising, what I thought were wonderful kids, I was astounded at the vitriol.
      My attorney suggested mediation at first, which my children agreed to therapy sessions instead. Lots of misdirections in there. For eight months I have asked my children for their forgiveness. I have apologized profusely. They have denied me each and every time. They have stopped calling me 'mom' and will only speak to me using my first name. It's very heartbreaking, to say the least. And I know I am not alone. Many children of baby boomers have turned into narcissistic horror stories. We gave them everything.
      I don't expect nor want my kids to think and believe as I do. I just wanted the same mutual respect I gave them. Thanks for leaving my post in place. Perhaps it will help other baby boomer parents who are experiencing the same thing with their sons and daughters.

      Delete
    4. I am so sorry for what you are going through. I wish I had some advice for you. Parenting gives us immense joys and, sometimes, deep heartaches. I wish you luck and peace on your journey forward.

      Delete
    5. To the second anonymous poster above, like Jeannine, I am so sorry for your hurt. Frankly, I can't imagine children behaving that way to a parent, but I absolutely believe you. Your experiences also helps me understand the first anonymous comment that started this string a little bit more sympathetically. It really is a slice of life that is completely out of my realm of experience. I should listen and learn.

      Delete
    6. We are only getting one side of the story with regard to the original commenter . Her own blog postings showed an incredible intolerance, narcissism and deep anger issues that I'm sure her children didn't want their children exposed to. Frankly, I would never want my children exposed to that kind of behavior for any length of time. I'm certainly sorry for the second commenter's situation and hope it can be resolved, but the phrase "we gave them everything" is telling. Perhaps that's a lesson for our children.

      Delete
  5. Well, this is going well so far. ;-)

    I agree that social media has allowed people to spew the most vile comments anonymously and that's just really ramped up the vitriol. I don't know how you solve that when our chief executive is tweeting angry comments on a regular basis. It seems his communications team has given up any hope of tempering the rant.

    That said, I'm one who has really dialed back who I see on my feed and look at it far less. We can only improve our little corner of the world. My life is much happier without reading that constant flow of anger.

    Our family had a holiday blow up over the election results (not that I was actually involved) and it's calmed down, but the bad feelings are still under the surface. I keep on moving forward with all family relationships and avoid political talk. I'm hoping they all level out over time, but I'm not particularly hopeful. I think the election just shone a light on the difference of opinions, although I'm not sure the Trump voters think the results are worth the vote at this point.

    Happy to say however, that no one is hiring lawyers, although this administration has clearly created an amazing market for the legal profession.
    --Hope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am trying to look at civility through a wider lens than politics, but that may not happen. Certainly, the political divides in this country are deep, serious, and potentially creating long term damage to our way of life.

      If that is true, focusing on it only drives us nuts. We can hold strong opinions, but I doubt the clerk at Home Depot, the person waiting at the stop sign, the neighbor who is struggling to roll out an overly full trash can, or the person with only 3 items behind us and our full cart at the grocery store is thinking about gerrymandering or political appointments at the moment.

      Civility can start with a very small step. But, when we ignore that small act, aren't we contributing to the overall problem of lack of respect for each other?

      Perplexing problem, for sure.

      Delete
  6. I think this falls under the "change what you can control, accept what you can't" banner. I go out of my way to be polite and civil and just ignore rudeness, even when it's meant to provoke. My Dad -- Happy Father's Day! -- used to say that we have to rise above others' resentments and inadequacies. I'm no saint -- sometimes I want to respond in kind but bite my tongue.

    Incidentally, if you read any history, you know that there have been periods (both American and global) far worse than ours in which individuals and groups were ostracized, persecuted, and slaughtered, sometimes in the millions, for their beliefs or words or identities. I realize this rises above the term "incivility," but it puts it in context.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your context reference. The millions who have been killed, wounded, displaced, or become refugees in the world would view our discussion here with a plea to get a grip. Our civil problems are serious, but don't even come close to what so many in the rest of the world have to face on a daily basis. I am not minimizing the mess we are in, but those in Syria or many parts of Africa are dealing with much, much worse. We need to keep our problems in perspective.



      Delete
  7. IMHO, it all goes down to how parents raise kids...as the Bible says "train up your children in the way they should go & when they are old they will not depart from it" - Too many parents
    for so long have passed the buck on this. When we were young, we were taught certain ways to
    behave - then we passed on that training to our children. Then for so many, it was too hard
    to train them to have consciences, to respect others, to help, be kind, tolerance, love your
    neighbor fell out of 'style' - hopefully the circle will come back around when everyone gets
    tired of the constant violence & begins again to live the 10 commandments & Golden Rule.
    It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, common decency is top amongst them all.
    Life is certainly more pleasant when we can all live as our grandparents & parents taught us. It is mostly the media who push what brings in ratings & it is up to people & their
    common sense to regulate what they see & believe. For me & my family, God is still in control!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your analysis is on target. How we are raised plays a big role in how we live. In the past few decades the school system has been asked to take on too much of the parents' jobs, and that just doesn't work. Expecting teachers to do that is not fair and not efficient.

      As several previous comments have suggested, the answer seems to come down to the personal and "local" level. Change how you act might change how someone else acts. With enough of those ripples, we have a wave.

      Delete
  8. Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching presents a devolving hierarchy of civilized existence (too long to list here). I used to make my law students read it because "justice" was pretty far down the list. The circle of blaming from politics to parents to schools to social media to religion to whatever seems to assume that there was a point we can identify when things changed for the worse and that there is an identifiable cause. However, I suspect that if we look back at what we think of as better times, there were places in the world that were decidedly not better, and even in the US, those times were not so great for certain groups of people. The limited (compared to today) news we had access to then perhaps allowed us to believe that things we believed and experienced in our own lives were more universal then they ever were. I don't know.

    You have offered several ideas that undoubtedly represent valid "whys" for what we now see in our world. But I wonder if there isn't something more fundamental. I am not saying there is--I don't know. But if you look at big picture ecology, it seems that when a species overpopulates and uses up its resources, behavior changes. There is more violence and competition resulting from the overcrowding and diminishing resources. Everything is out of balance. At some point, nature steps in to restore balance.

    Perhaps as a species we are reaping what we have sown. I don't mean that in any moral or religious sense. Just an evolutionary wondering. And I'm not suggesting that we should all abandon our comfortable homes and go live off the land and let survival of the fittest prevail. I think that there is a natural rhythm to creation, and although I don't pretend to see into the future, I think that the growing dismay over our current state of collective "bad behavior" might lead to some genuine "progress" as we seek to "recalculate our inner GPS" and care more for each other. Perhaps we will heed the call to be our better selves. Hoping....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is an opinion piece in today's New York Times entitled, "I'm O.K.-Your're Pure Evil." That seems to sum up how too many of us approach each other. It can't continue this way. I sincerely hope the re-calibration of our inner GPS and accepting that all of us, every single one of us, is precious in God's eyes will result in a change for the better.

      You are right on target: things are out of balance. At some tipping point still to be determined, the need for balance will assert itself. I hope it starts soon.

      Delete
  9. Your question, Bob, is one I have thought about for quite some time. I guess I first noticed it when I was driving the girls around - so many more people seemed to be so aggressive out on the road, in a hurry, had a need to be "first," etc. and I wondered when that happened. My hypothesis was that many of these aggressive, impatient drivers were gamers; that is, they had spent or were still spending time playing video games, with their instant gratification and aggressiveness rewarded, and the behavior had spilled over into other aspects of daily life, like driving. But that's my own hypothesis, or at least part of it.

    John Edwards once said we have two Americas, the rich one and the poor one, but these days I believe there are many more Americas beyond that, ones that many of us are unaware of, and may resent when we do become aware. There is not only rich and poor America, but black America, Asian America, white American, educated America, urban America, rural America, small town America, female America, male America and so forth. We all grew up with the idea that we're all "American" and yet with experiences so vastly different from each other any "common ground" between us has been stretched to its limits, and we have become more and more uncivil. We don't know how to listen, or get others simply to listen, let alone understand and care, and frustrations are being angrily acted out more and more. People want their experiences validated, whether they're on the top or the bottom. Maybe it won't change anything immediately, but really listening is the first step. Unfortunately, the knee jerk reaction to someone telling their experience right now seems to be a doubling down by the person who doesn't want to hear.

    I'm sure this won't be popular with many, but I honestly think our "original sin" of slavery is also coming back to bite us. Many people think things have gotten better in this country, but I think in reality much was covered over - racism (and not just for blacks) never went away. Same for misogyny. My one gripe with political correctness has been that if allowed many to politely cover over their true beliefs. That bandage has been ripped off though, and the wound underneath is still festering. Sometimes I honestly don't know where we're going, or what's going to happen, or if the wounds will ever heal.

    Life is better in the U.S. in many ways - I certainly don't want to go backwards - but I see us at a tipping point, where we either decide as a country that we've had enough of this, or it gets much, much worse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with this whole-heartedly.
      --Hope

      Delete
    2. Me, too, Laura. America used to be a giant melting pot, with all sorts of different people and ideas coming together to form the idea of a representative democracy. I'm afraid the melting pot has become a boiling pot, with little assimilation, rather a bubbling over of hurts and anger, some real, some imagined.

      Delete
  10. Obviously there are no easy answers. As a former teacher I have noted the rise in incivility as more and more young students are sent to daycare, where social skills (the base of civility) are not taught. In my last years of teaching I spent significantly more classroom time teaching those skills; happily I was part of a school system that systematically taught and celebrated character development.

    Bob, you mentioned the influence of social media. There are no consequences there for incivility, which I see as a huge factor in the spread of incivility among all its users. In addition, because social media exchanges don't happen face-to-face, it's easy to forget one is talking to another person, and then dehumanize, objectify and vilify.

    On a deeper level, there seems to be a widespread lack of tolerance, and a worrisome willingness to demonize anyone who disagrees with one's viewpoint. Having conspicuous poor models in public view further encourages this behavior. I would respectfully point out that it is easier to react emotionally than to think critically and clearly, and if one does not read widely and reflect calmly on any issue (politics included), one is not prepared for a civil, meaningful discussion. Hence the course of least resistance is to forego thinking and spew emotion.

    As all seem to agree, we can make our corner of the world better by practicing civility and its Southern cousin, graciousness. I am absorbing Kelly Williams Brown's recent book, Gracious, which defines graciousness and roots it in compassion, respect, and genuine concern for and interest in other people. Y'all may find it interesting.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As someone who works in an elementary school, I agree totally with your first paragraph.

      Delete
    2. This is a good example of a reader sharing something that I can't directly relate to, but the insight seems so spot on. My wife was a stay-at-home mom when our daughters were young, so day care was not part of their life. But, today, day care seems the norm. That must have an effect on how children form ideas and habits. Thank you for pointing it out.

      Delete
    3. I don't you can blame the rise in incivility on more kids in daycare, or on daycare. Incivility begins at home. If children hear rude, racist, bullying, misogynist things at home, or it's not corrected at home they take that to daycare or school, where unfortunately it only intensifies. I also think there's a strong strain of entitlement these days in both kids and parents. Teachers and other adults are not allowed to discipline kids, and if they do there's often negative pushback from the parents, who maybe see it as a comment on their parenting.

      Incivility is learned, and it is first learned and tolerated at home.

      Delete
    4. Let me clarify. Daycare isn't to blame. But, when a young child spends up to 8 hours a day away from a parent there is a cost.

      Sure, rudeness at home is absorbed by the child. But, no group setting can mold as well as a motivated parent. Unfortunately, the economics of today don't always allow that to happen.

      Delete
  11. I've already commented but after reading some more comments I thought I would add something, hoping to bring a little lightheartedness to a serious topic.

    When my daughter was in high school, it was decidedly NOT cool to be nice. I was constantly dismayed by the rude and mean spirited behavior that seemed to be the path to popularity. My daughter was not immune to this and I often felt like I was fighting an uphill battle to insist on kind and courteous behavior.

    One day she came home and related some incident in which she had said something to someone that was really mean. She was just reporting the event to me, not seeing anything wrong with what she had done. When I insisted that she go to school the next day and apologize, she burst into tears and wailed, "Why do you have such high standards for me?" "Honey," I replied, " these are just the lowest baseline standards for being a decent human being. We haven't gotten to the high standards yet."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great story. I can so see you saying that.

      Delete
    2. Love your story. Thanks for injecting balance and humor!

      Delete
  12. One thing for sure none of this is new. Although we think that things were somehow more civil in our grandparent's time imagine the incivility as the world lurched towards two world wars within 20 years (I think it was actually one war with a 20 year break). The civility we remember from our Boomer youth may be that people were plain worn out from war and hate. I also think our memories are selective and "us Boomers" in particular have little direct experience with that level of animosity (recall that American citizens of Japanese decent were rounded up and sent to internment camps - talk about hate & suspicion). As the civil rights and equal rights movements of 50-60 years show, even post-war it wasn't all that wonderful for everyone. I guess what I am saying is that we are naïve to think it's some sort of modern problem that we can blame on the schools, bad parenting, politicians, the media, the internet, or video games - we should look in the mirror. As was said so long ago: "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are absolutely correct. The problems have existed almost since Day One. The difference is the way media (social and otherwise) allows for all of it to be in our face 24/7 and us to voice opinions.

      I would argue that being aware of the issues is much better than ignoring them, but the instant reaction removes any sort of filter and analysis. It emphasizes emotion over rationality.

      Your Biblical quote, by the way, is a perfect closer for your comment. We can't see our own shortcomings while accusing others of dastardly deeds.

      Delete
  13. There was a time when facts mattered and basic facts could be agreed upon. We are now in a post-fact world and that has created a void. Into that void has flowed emotions, notions and "feelings." Add "complete certainty" to your beliefs and you have what we have today. It is a stressful way to live and that stress needs an outlet and that outlet (fed by the "echo chamber" media) is incivility. It feels good to vent on the "other." I look upon the hateful comments and rhetoric as a stress reliever. It is a horrible choice, but readily available.

    The answer? I am not certain, but I have elected to hold on to "doubt" as a friend. As long as I continually doubt and question what I believe I find that I am less prone to anger and judgement. I have found this to be easy because of my training in science, but I would recommend it to others as a place to begin.

    Rick in Oregon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are advocating a cautious, analytical approach to reactions and judgments which would help with so much of this problem. Instantaneous, uncritical responses are likely to be wrong and excessive.

      Thanks, Rick.

      Delete
    2. Ironically, if you look at studies of anger, venting makes it worse. Maybe that's why it continues to ramp up around us daily.
      --Hope

      Delete
    3. I do not believe that we are in a post fact world- that is a total "cop out". I believe we have moved on to believe that not everyone agrees on what is a fact ("what we all agree to") and what is not a fact. "Facts" are different for every group that Laura mentioned, and more.

      Delete
    4. I never thought I'd be in a world where "facts" are considered flexible. Gravity works whether you believe in it or not. Is that a fact or a belief?

      Delete
    5. Facts are not different for every group. Facts are facts, period. What is different these days is people failing to or refusing to acknowledge that others might have a different experience than themselves, and believing that another's experience or beliefs based on experience, are invalid. But facts are still facts.

      Delete
    6. Maybe I phrased it incorrectly. The disagreement that I have is that this is a "post fact" world. I do not believe that. I do believe that there are so many "facts" out there that one can be swayed by the facts that they hear---or are taught to believe. I can give political views---but I will attempt to hold it to cultural facts.
      Person A believes that person B stole something from them. Person B has the object. Person B believes that it is borrowed, since person A did not look like they needed it anymore. The fact, to person A, is that it is stolen. The fact, to person B, is that it is borrowed or un needed by Person A. They may, or may not, have the need to return such object. Both believe that the object belongs to them.
      Person C writes out a test. Person D uses the answers from their team member's test to fill out their test. Person A says it is cheating- and it is a common "European" fact. Person B says it is normal to share information- and that is a common fact in their culture.
      Both of these situations were found in my classroom. Culturally, all sides stuck by their "facts". The largest reasoning for no one being "punished" was that the culture that the child came from DOES, in fact, believe their side. So is it fact or belief? Taking it from the White European system- child A and C had the correct facts. Taken from a different view, those were not actually facts, but beliefs.
      You can go further- with life and death situations--when is a person alive or dead.Infants are drowned in some societies if they are seen as useless (thinking of girls in China until 20 years ago). Was the child actually alive to begin with? There is the fact, now, that a body is dead- but the belief weighs on the right or wrong of the circumstances. All are factual situations--but they are also cultural ones.
      The US a melting pot. It will boil over occasionally, but it settles down and discourse (as long as it is still being taught in our schools) begins again. If you read our history, this period is , seriously, nothing in comparison to some of the transitions we have gone through.
      BTW Laura- I apologize. I was only siting you because I was lazy and did not wish to list all of the groups myself.I agree with you on the slavery issue. What a mess.
      And Bob- gravity is a scientific law and referred to, often, as a theory ;) it is still being challenged and reworked.

      Delete
    7. I believe that you may be confusing cultural norms with facts. Facts are (or should be) indisputable, can be tested and serve to support theories.

      Delete
  14. When I read your first sentence, "Why Civility Is In Decline" my first reaction was, the more important question isn't why but how do we fix it. In either question my response is go back to basics. For example, basic manners and civility should be taught in the home at a young age but unfortunately like so many other things in so many cases its not. I like others, would like to point to a good example of the problem. One of the very first responses to your topic (even after you set the stage for this NOT to be political) begins by railing away on a particular political party and sitting president. I think she missed the point totally. Free speech is fine but tempering your words BEFORE you speak and considering others would go a long way in helping bring back civility. I learned my lesson the hard way as I offended a very sweet older member of my family by espousing exactly what I thought of the previous administration. I lived to regret it and am now trying to practice restraint. The Great Generation believed a basic tenet which is; two things you don't discuss are religion and politics. Because of our insatiable appetite for immediate access to EVERYTHING nowadays with all the ways to view it, it tends to keep the pot stirred to a boil. No matter how you feel about anything there is someone who will disagree especially politics but the important thing is how we disagree. Sometimes in my humble opinion is to remind myself to THINK before I speak. Its not always easy but its usually always worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very well expressed. I am beginning to think we'd be better off as a society if politics was added to the "never talk about religion or sex in public" slogan. Those who agree with you politically just support what you say, while those of disagree tend to put you in the same place as the devil or someone who is a danger to all.

      Frankly, I have serious doubts that constructive, respectful disagreement is even possible right now. Obviously, I wasn't around then, but it seems that the level of anger during the buildup to the Civil War between salve and non-slave supporters was probably on par with what we are experiencing today. And, that is truly terrifying.

      Delete
  15. Wouldn't it be great if we could discuss issues within your blog in a polite and civil manner. What works, what doesn't work, what might work, share info etc. Too much to hope for I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will keep trying every once in awhile. Who knows, if there is a breakthrough it will be pretty obvious!

      Delete
  16. This is one of my favorite posts in quite awhile because of the interaction between readers. Having commenters reacting to other commenters directly shows the type of engagement that signifies both a healthy blog and an active readership.

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Like everyone else, I prefer to be treated with civility and I try to be polite to others as well. However, I think that politeness is often just a thin veneer that doesn't represent genuine respect or concern for others' wellbeing. I'd opt for the latter any day, even if it sometimes results in heated discussion and impolite words.

    Jude

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is an interesting observation. I would think that distinction may depend on the setting. Artificial politeness may not be heartfelt but in a public setting it beats rudeness. In a more private situation, heated words can be used without causing distress since each knows of the underlying respect.

      Your comment is certainly thought provoking.

      Delete
    2. I prefer artificial politeness to rudeness all day every day.
      --Hope

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted