Is Civility Dead?

This morning, “The Today Show” ran a segment asking this question. Before interviewing a psychologist and a pop culture expert, they ran a montage with recent clips of down right bad behaviour:

Serena Williams cursing out the ref at the US Open
Sen. Joe Wilson shouting “You Lie!” at the President
Table Tossing on The Real Housewives of New Jersey
All out Brawls on The Jersey Shore
Varying clips of Simon Cowell insulting auditions on American Idol (there are too many to post just one!)

What was the expert response to “Is Civility Dead?” Pretty much a yes. But you don’t have to be an expert to know this fact. All you have to do is walk out of your front door. In our house, manners are key and my husband and I know that we are the most important models for those manners for our children. We made it a point from an early age to teach our children “Please,” Thank You,”” May I please…,” etc, etc, and while they are far from perfect (after all we are all human and my husband and I are far from perfect models) there is nothing more heart warming than hearing your child remember her manners without prompting.

A quick personal story about the lack of civility in life happened to be about two weeks ago. I took the girls with me to the local outlet mall and after a bit, The Bear had to go to the washroom so we headed to the family washroom because they have a child sized toilet which makes everyone happy. I had our beastly inline double stroller with me and so off we went. The door to the family washroom is pretty heavy and opens in toward the room so getting in is really no problem, but getting out while pushing a stroller can be difficult if you have no one to hold the door for me. While we were in there, two women with strollers were getting ready to leave, so I held the door for them to exit and we did our business. Once we were ready to leave, I got the girls back in the stroller and tried to leave the room. I had the door partially open and the stroller wedged in the door and I was trying to simultaneously push the stroller through the door and hold the door open. (Did I mention that our stroller is 100 lbs when weighed down with both kids?) While I am performing this amazing feat of mommy-dom, there are no fewer than three people watching me. Not offering to help, just being entertained. Finally, I asked someone to pull the stroller out of the doorway, and we were on the way. I was not so much embarrassed but saddened. I don’t know if we, as a society, have become afraid of offering help for fear of offending or what, but I can tell you, I would have loved for one of those three people to say “May I help?”

One of the experts made the comment that the death of civility seems to be linked to the rise of the internet and the anonymity that can follow. After all, it’s easy to flame people or leave very nasty comments when you can hide behind the label of “Anonymous.” One of the blogs I follow, The Feminist Breeder, wrote about the double edged sword that is popularity. She wrote from the perspective of a popular blogger and her time as a rock star (she was a member of the band Veruca Salt.) Leaving of nasty comments on a blog is particularity hurtful because, believe it or not, bloggers really do have feelings. I am sure there are those out there who might think “Well, if you can’t take the criticism, don’t put yourself out there.” But there is a fine line between crtiticism and just being venomous.

There are times that I think about changing my settings on this blog to allow for “anonymous” comments to allow for people to make comments without saying who they are because they really feel the need to be private, but I know that would just be a bad idea because I could find myself holding back or censoring my opinions and thoughts because of trolls who like nothing better than to leave nasty comments that they don’t have to stand behind.

So how dow we take back civility? If you are a parent, do not discount the power of basic manners. If you read internet blogs, do not hide behind the title “Anonymous” just to leave nasty comments. If you are a tween, teen, or adult, do not forget your own manners and at least offer help to someone if it appears they are struggling with something. The worst thing they can say is “No,” (hopefully, it’s more like “No, thank you”) and you can go on your way. If you are offered help but do not need it, do not be offended or take it as an insult to your own ability, but smile and say “Yes, please” or “No, thank you,” which ever is most applicable.

I don’t know if we will get back to men wearing fedoras outside of the home (a future blog post) but we could get our manners back.
So what are your thoughts? Is civility really dead or am I just being old-fashioned? Today is also All Saints Day. We are going to try to make a cake for Sts. Stephen, Michael, Brigid and Lucy (Lucia) (FYI: Michael is my confirmation name. The rest are members of the CCM family.) For a cute All Saints Craft, check this out!

Pax Christi!



Filed under feminism, life, monday, mothering

3 responses to “Is Civility Dead?

  1. Oscar

    We definitely need to “jump start civility”.
    I try to teach by example. For instance, open or hold doors for anyone coming after me, even if they are more than a few feet away I’ll wait.
    While driving and especially when my teenage son is in the car, I try to use common courtesy letting other drivers make turns, have a parking spot, or say something positive when someone cut in front of me versus swearing & getting mad. It doesn’t serve a purpose.
    Don’t forget that old adage “If you cannot say something nice, Don’t say anything at all”

    • Those are great points, Oscar. I think leading by example will be our best bet for gaining back our lost civil natures! Once we get civility back, we can work on the fine art of Conversation! (How often have we been at a table with friends and everyone is more focused on their phones than the actual HUMAN company?)
      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Pingback: Civility is dead « Be Nice.

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