Privilege Blog

Whither Civility, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:52am

I don’t miss formal much at all. I don’t really care what fork someone uses for their fish, nor in what direction they scoop their soup. I never wanted my kids’ friends to call me Mrs. So-and-So because Lisa is just fine.

But I miss civility. And I miss the grace notes of civility, augmented civility, often conflated with formality but not the same thing.

There’s so much yelling these days. I refuse to talk politics here, not because they don’t matter, they do, but because for whatever reason we seem to have lost the ability to speak in civil tones about civic matters. There’s virtue in kindness that’s separate from the virtue in causes.

Also people shove a lot. And honk. I’m guilty of over-enthusiastic horning, especially when I can tell the person blithely parked at a green light is reading his or her phone. I will try to do better.

I think Please, Thank You, and You Are Ever So Welcome are lovely words and should be over-used. It is possible to disagree, to coexist, to find a parking place in a crowded lot without yelling at your fellow shoppers. At least without yelling at them so they can hear. But yes, it takes work.

I think it’s worth it. Tough for blurters, I do not exempt myself from this reminder.

I am sure there is science behind how to have a civil argument. I know we’ve talked about dealing with difficult people in the workplace, maybe we just extrapolate that thinking to regular life. As though being a human in society is a job, even a privilege, not something we take for granted like grotty plaid flannel pajama bottoms.

So. Happy recent Canada Day to our Canadian friends, happy on-its-way Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans. Thank you for reading, please have a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

33 Responses

  1. Such a good post. Can’t stand all the screaming, both real and virtual like on Facebook. I also don’t miss formal, but civility, yes. I feel concerned about the amount of rage out there…..

  2. I do think it is so sad that we cannot discuss political issues civilly without name calling and such. And I agree that our daily lives would be richer if we made an effort to practice civility. It’s something I try to do–at least in small ways as I goi about my daily life.

  3. Brava! I am pleased to see you echo concerns that have recently been concerning me, as well. I will make an effort to remember your felicitous phrase, “As though being a human in society is a job, even a privilege, not something we take for granted like grotty plaid flannel pajama bottoms.” I have been guilty of expecting civility to be the default mode, when instead it requires deliberate insertion almost every time, to keep the wheels of social interaction from going horridly off track.

  4. Thank you for this lovely and timely post. I agree there’s not enough thank you notes, please and thank yous. I was brought up to have manners and behave your best in all circumstances. So many do not have a clue what that means and children aren’t being taught it either. It all makes for a kinder more lovely world. it’s upsetting to see like certain candidates have no problem insulting and offending others and people actually applaud it. I’m hoping the world says no to such people. We are better than that.
    Happy weekend Lisa! Kim

  5. Amen, sista.

    And that is why I cannot stand the people on Fox News. I think the only thing they miss is literal pushing and shoving. Ugh!

    Hope you have a lovely weekend too!

  6. There is so much yelling these days. Way too much. Angry yelling. Over parking spaces. Or drivers yelling out their open window at cyclists… that’s happened to me recently. Yelling in general. It all bugs me. Particularly the shrieking and the nerve-jangling “Woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo” at sports events. We’ve pretty much stopped going to hockey games and the like. So much shrieking. And in print…people need to back off with the exclamation points. If we didn’t use them so much we wouldn’t need to use fifteen when one should suffice. We all just need to take a breath and calm down.
    That feels better.Thanks Lisa. And Happy 4th of July to you. xo

  7. You should try living in the UK at the moment. I have never in my lifetime experienced anything like the division and hostility not to mention the name calling that is happening here as we experience political chaos of seismic proportions. We all need to keep calm and carry on.

  8. Yes, “thank you” fits most situations and can never be over used. I agree that there is too much yelling, even on FB, and I have found it necessary for peace of mind to unfollow some people because, seriously, do they really think they are going to convince me with their FB rants? Or, even worse, assume that I agree? Being louder doesn’t make it more convincing. I want to read that book about the power of introverts and being quiet in a world that values the loud and noisy.

  9. Honestly it does seem that things are pretty dire. I’m frightened by the anger and the hatred, and the encouragement of these things, I’m seeing in the world right now. I have to say I haven’t always found Canadians the most polite people (despite our reputation), my father is American so I’ve been fortunate to spend some time around some absolutely lovely and civil southerners. Yet I think we are improving here in Canada, we’re certainly a bright spot in the world right now if we’re going to talk about tolerance and positivity. We can thank our Prime Minister for that, and all of the people who voted for him.
    Here’s something to cheer you up, “Tom Ford Presents The Avengers”:

    I’m not on Facebook but I found that through a link and I thought it was both hilarious and appreciative. XOX

  10. World could be so beautiful place,with kindness and civility!
    This post has excellent timing,as always…

    “Please forgive me
    I’m sorry
    I love you
    Thank you”
    Ho’oponopono-ancient Hawaiian wisdom

    Happy 4th of July!

  11. Let me add another Amen! and a hallelujah. Society feels like it’s descending into anarchy.
    In addition to pantyhose, heels, hair dye and anything even remotely formal or form fitting, regretfully added to this list is conversation involving politics, sex and religion. Dagnabbit, fiery conversation used to be fun and stimulating.

  12. Yes, yes, and yes. As a school teacher I have noticed that the lack of civility has been increasing geometrically since the ’90s. I believe it coincides with the transition from analog television to cable and digital communication. I can’t watch talk shows because of all the hooting & cheering, which, if you look at the audience when the camera pans, they are not actually doing, the sound is dubbed in. Now with angry politicians and news talk shows making outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about their rivals, it is hard to convince students that discourse is actually interesting. On a side note, I’ve always though of Canadians as the polite North Americans!…

    1. @Carol, I believe I first noticed it when home VHS viewing became popular. Folks watched uninterrupted movies in their living room in complete relaxation. Unfortunately this at-home feeling carried over into the movie theatre, and it became impossible to enjoy going out for a movie with all the carrying on around me.

  13. I got honked at in a way you so aptly describe as “overenthusiastic horning” the other evening driving to a class location I hadn’t been to before. I took an extra moment to look both ways before turning across the mass transit tracks, but I’m sure people who live around there do it faster, as they’ve got more practice & probably aren’t thinking “Whoa I sure don’t want to get hit by a train!” & they don’t have to check & make sure they’re turning onto the correct street. It was a good reminder to take a moment & realize that sometimes we all need an extra moment.

  14. Yes! Politeness and kindness are so necessary even or especially when they are difficult qualities to achieve. I have been practicing a little something each time I feel being snippy with someone in public. I smile the most genuine smile I can conjure and it honestly makes it nearly impossible to take a nasty tone in speaking to someone. Haha, makes it sound like I am the mean lady.

  15. “happy on-its-way Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans”

    And a Happy 4th to you and to all your Declaration Of Independence-Signing clan, without whom we’d not be celebrating this holiday at all.

    Here’s to YOU and YOURS!

  16. Thank you for posting this. I have been wondering if I am the only one that is frustrated by the yelling, taunting, finger flipping that is so common these days. I am not saying I am without fault but have done my best to curb my urge to purge at someone that may appear to be thoughtless. In this time of rude politicians, violence riddled world, common and base behavior, let’s all take a breath and count to ten.

  17. Beautiful. “…grace notes of civility…” The thoughts are so true.

  18. Civility and manners, both expressed and received, are an oasis. Thank you for this reminder!

  19. Perfect post for this holiday as we generally reflect on America and themes of democracy. I try not to take our collective incicility personally, but I get pretty disheartened when I think I spent 30+ years teaching college students how to mount valid, logic-based arguments that by definition took into account and respected the views of others. Don’t know how we continue to have a democracy if we cannot rationally agree to disagree.

    Parking lot moments may be where we live most truthfully. If we don’t have time to step out of our own private universe then, when will we? In the face of the overarching chaos that has ensued in the civility vacuum, my latest strategy involves living literally in the moment with other humans and erring on the side of an abundance of civility no matter what happens, which can be challenging for me some days more than others.

  20. Manners and kindness never go out of style…you bring up a fine point Lisa…there is far too much shouting and my goodness some people are downright rude.
    Politics are very heated right now and I have difficulty accepting some of the opinions of the candidates in the US…here in Canada we are enjoying a breath of fresh air with our prime minister…we are very much a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities…and yes we Canadians apologize often!

  21. from “Choosing Civility” by PM Forni: “Civility is complex. Civility is good. Whatever civility might be, it has to do with courtesy, politeness and good manners. Civility belongs in the realm of ethics.”

    I agree, living a civil life has nothing to do with formality.

    Happy 4th!

  22. I don’t miss formality at all and find it too often is used to exclude. I miss civil discourse terribly, and kindness in general sometimes seems in short supply. Without them, how can we maintain any semblance of civilization?

  23. I agree entirely. Some people take the position, “you are with me or you are against me.” Said people see things their way and only their way. They also seem to feel if they speak the loudest and the harshest, they beat others into agreeing. No civility here. Today there is definitely a lack of ability to have an exchange of ideas or thoughts. Unfortunately, when kids see their parents behave like this, they follow in the parent’s footsteps. God help us!

  24. I live in a very rural area of the southeast. People don’t honk here.

    Imagine my horror when I drove an hour and a half to get to the nearest mall and someone honked their horn because they didn’t think I started moving fast enough after the light turned green.

    It seemed so mean.

  25. I miss civility too. I can’t stand to watch the news these days and hate to drive the crowded highways. Everyone is so aggressive! Rudeness is becoming the norm and I hate it

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