It is not like me to rant and rave, but honestly, our ability to behave in civil ways is on the decline. It may even be so far down the priority list that it may never truly return.
I’m sick of people taking sides in an argument when they lack the basic facts. I’m tired of the race card and the gender inequality protests – heck, even the age discrimination game.
Whether you belong to a marginalized group or not is wholly a matter of perspective. Common courtesy should be an obligation, not a random occurrence.
We spent decades trying to find a way to build peace and understanding across all demographics. But today we seem to be much more interested in putting our emotional outrage on display, from screaming at servers and sales staff to arguing out loud in public places.
In our endless quest to be perceived as objective, open minded and polite, we’re rewarding the loud, angry and disgruntled among us. And media showers them with attention.
Have we really sunk so low that there are no longer healthy boundaries (or consequences) around codes of conduct? Has being polite and grateful been replaced so callously by selfishness and contrariness?
February highlighted countless examples of incivility.
During speed skating at the Olympics, a Korean was disqualified for contact with another racer. Korean fans became so outraged that the Canadian competitor (who medaled because of the rule violation) had to shut down her social media feeds due to relentless virtual harassment. These are the rules of the race – everyone is aware of them. So how does one feel so justified in attacking another? Of course the disqualification was disheartening for Korean fans. But when is it okay to harangue another competitor who raced cleanly?
And athletes aren’t the only victims of this growing movement towards incivility. The trial of Gerald Stanley in Saskatchewan became an issue of race and culture rather than one of crime and tragedy. So many took to the airways spouting vengeance. Little care was given to objective facts.
In democracies, every person is entitled to a fair trial by their peers. You don’t get to cry foul when you don’t like the decision rendered by those who were privy to all the evidence presented.
A brawl breaks out on a cruise ship involving more than 20 people. Staff must use physical restraints to contain the mayhem. Now one family is outraged. They feel they were too roughly handled by security personnel – and we gave them platforms to shout that message out.
When officers are called to intervene in a crisis, they’re called heavy-handed. When they refuse to get involved, they’re called cowards.
We take our children to Disneyland and then spend time in line arguing and complaining.
We need to stop behaving like schoolyard primates. The thing that differentiates us from the animal kingdom (at least in theory) is our ability to discern when certain behaviours are inappropriate.
And yes, behaviour is a choice.
And it isn’t just public places that are subjected to this lack of civility. We can’t seem to locate basic etiquette in personal gatherings either.
When someone plans an event and makes reservations, you don’t get to call them names for asking what happened to you or pointing out how the restaurant was inconvenienced by your failure to show. A message to alert the host that you’re not attending is a basic courtesy, so other guests aren’t kept waiting on dinner while they ponder what happened to you.
I’d love to start a movement that rewards civility at all levels. One that stops giving air time to complainers and instead highlights politeness, problem solving and basic courtesy.
What if we all started to make it not okay to be disruptive by using a positive and proactive problem-solving approach.
A little civility would go a long way toward building positive healthy relationships.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
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