"A U.S. study on civility showed 88% of Americans identified incivility as a problem - and says it's getting worse.  Deep thinkers are beginning to talk about lack of manners as a kind of acid eating away at the fabric of society.  Today's rudeness leading to tomorrow's fistfight, leading to expectation of violence, leading to people hunkering in gated communities and not caring what's happening to folks just outside the fence.

In today's society of two-parent incomes, single parent families and stay-home parents overburdened with community responsibilities the other groups don't have time for, kids just aren't around adults enough to absorb proper comportment.  Heck, adults aren't around other adults enough to display it.  It isn't a lack of parenting skills as much as a simple lack of time.

Since we've begun to shout each other down, our whole society has begun to revolve around violence.  Once we saw violence as a last resort, now it's the first resort.  Civility is comfort, hidden goodness, social lubricant, personal worth, helping others, play - civility is the joy we take in our human achievements and the compassion we show toward our all-too-human faults.  If society is a machine of interconnected cogs and wheels, civility is the oil that keeps the machine running smoothly - a lubricant described as 'social capital'.  Incivility is incompatible with democracy.  If people are uncivil in their private and social lives, they will be uncivil in their public lives.  It's corrosive to the foundations of our regime.

The deep thinkers would have it that this very basis of our society, the constitution's promise for peace, order and good government and protection of our rights, is threatened by rudeness and crudeness in public discourse.  In subtle and heavy-handed ways we condition ourselves and our children to accept a less-than-civil status quo.  How we got into this ill-mannered mess is perhaps less important than how we can get out of it.


Three Dozen Ways to Build a More Civil Society:

  1. Respect freedom of others.  Say please.
  2. Acknowledge dependence on others.  Say thank you.
  3. Protect from unnecessary hurt.  Tell white lies occasionally.
  4. Curb the violence within.
  5. Show respect in what you wear.  Don't show up at a wedding in a baseball cap.
  6. Respect the time of others.  Don't be late.
  7. Be considerate of others' plans.  Respond to invitations.
  8. Observe the social significance of meals.  Mind your table manners.
  9. Value others' property.  Keep your feet off their coffee tables.
  10. Wait your turn.  Keep your bumper off others' tailpipes.
  11. Hold your wind.  Try not to offend with bodily grossness.  [to which I would add second hand smoke and other emissions]
  12. Pay what you owe.
  13. Acknowledge sexual boundaries.  Keep your hands to yourself.
  14. Cultivate a sense of reverence.  Be quiet in church.  Even your cell phones.
  15. Humour our differences.  Don't wear red to a Chinese funeral.
  16. Accept responsibilities for your own failures.  Apologize.
  17. Attend to the forms of communication.  Use nice stationery.
  18. Be a good listener.  Close your mouth and open your ears.
  19. Develop a generous spirit.  Reach for the tab first.
  20. Notice those who serve.  Leave a tip worth working for.
  21. Don't abuse the gift of hospitality.  Go home before the host falls asleep.
  22. Avoid unnecessary intrusions.  Hang up the phone during dinner and bedtime.
  23. Meet others at their own level.  Bend down to speak to children.
  24. Honour those who nurture and lead.  Respect your elders.
  25. Understand the power of words.  Watch what you say.
  26. Clean up after yourself.  Don't leave a messy campsite.
  27. Earn the trust of others.  Keep a secret.
  28. Remember not everyone shares your interests.
  29. Practice moderation.  Stop drinking while you can still remember your mother's name.
  30. Learn and obey the rules of the road.
  31. Avoid humour that demeans.  Don't tell jokes at the expense of others.
  32. Remember milestones.  Keep the card companies in business.
  33. Speak the truth with love.  Tell your buddy his fly is open.
  34. Guard the dignity of others.  Pretend you don't notice when your dinner partner drools.
  35. Strengthen the bonds of community.  Wave to motorists and motor boaters.
  36. Know when to break the rules.  Once in a while, be a slob."

Credits: Calgary Herald Oct 4/98; Say Please, Say Thank You, The Respect We Owe One Another, by Donald McCullough

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1998.  Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
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Last Update: 13 Jul 2000