The across the street neighbor and I were discussing current events and what we would do if we were in charge of things. Chuck quipped, “If everyone practiced civility, there wouldn’t be much wrong with the world.” I agreed that living in a civil society would make problem-solving easier and more effective.
Apparently, many people seem to believe that civility is an old-fashioned, rather quaint notion–somewhat like Victorian-style rules of etiquette. What is often misunderstood, is that civility is actually simpler and more powerful than practicing good manners. Although etiquette is an important practice, civility is the active use of politeness in a more genuine way. While etiquette can be superficial, civility is a sign of strength and respect.
These days it’s become socially fashionable to not give a F###, relax into self-centeredness, and promiscuously express rage. In my opinion, this unfortunate state of affairs arrises out of an easy misinterpretation of at least three positive qualities: 1. The ability to have enough self-respect so as to not worry about what others may think about you. 2. That loving oneself enables the equal ability to love others. (To love others as one loves oneself.) 3. The ability to control one’s rage, not the suppression of one’s feelings.
At some point in the past few decades society lost sight of the importance of civility in interpersonal behavior and political action. Formal debate has taken a back seat to anger, resentment, slander, gossip, and destructive behavior. Staunch adherance to dogma has replaced philosophical pondering, give and take, and thoughtful discussion between people of differing viewpoints.
“As citizens we have to be more thoughtful and more educated and more informed. I turn on the TV and I see these grown people screaming at each other, and I think, well, if we don’t get our civility back, we’re in trouble.”–singer/songwriter, Emmylou Harris
I agree with the many experts and observers that our nation’s and society’s downfall is due to extreme partisanship, the rise of extremism, slander/libel, and the severe decline of civility in general and particularly in politics.
Simply stated, we can return to a more civil society by relearning how to disagree without disagreeableness. We can question each other’s opinions without disparaging each other’s humanity or threatening each other’s human rights. It behooves us to remember that we are all world citizens. There are certain ways to act, speak, and write that we can do to uplift humanity. These are easy, free, and doable–respect, kindness, cultivating good personal character, and civility.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes attorney, author, commentator, Van Jones. “Civility isn’t just some optional value in a multicultural, multistate democratic republic. Civility is the key to civilization.”