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Thread: On the subject of civility

  1. #1
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    On the subject of civility

    On the subject of civility

    First, we must ask these questions: Is being civil a matter of responsiveness or initiation? Are we civil as a matter of course or is civility a responsibility? From an early age, some of us, and note how I frame that, are taught to say, “Please, thank you, you’re welcome, may I, etc.” This was considered a matter of form in my youth. Yet, social pressure in my circle stated that if you did not use this “proper” way of addressing others, you would be admonished by your peers. So I ask; is this all there is to civility? Hardly.

    Take the Ten Commandments. They are/were literally written in stone. I believe the story is told that way to “cement” the idea in one’s mind, to borrow a pun. While conceived thousands of years ago, it follows as a matter of course that a person would behave in a more civil manner if they obeyed such rules. Yet, if we are to follow ancient rules, the Code of Hammurabi contained codes of conduct as well and explicitly explained severe punishments for those who did not obey them, “an eye for an eye…” and so on. I would say that in the modern context, these codes are far more stringent than required. A person could say, “I practice the golden rule (do unto others as they would do unto you).” However, some use that as an excuse for rudeness (get the other guy before he gets me)!

    That brings us to modern jurisprudence, the basis upon which we conduct our current level of civilization today, which is founded upon principles that specifically spell out rules of conduct… in most situations. In the past, the judicial system has been given so much leeway, that our courts have allowed the subjugation of women, men could own slaves, and they once made being gay a crime punishable by death. If this was justice, there is nothing civil about it. Some would say that since the 1960’s, the judicial system has undergone a complete overhaul since its early concepts were laid down in “Natural law” and Black’s Law Dictionary. Yet, for all of the rules and regulations passed by every august body since Aristotle, the Roman Forum, throne rooms, parliament, the congress and all of the other great assemblies whose laws are crammed into great documents, no one ever defined what it means to be civil (substitute “polite” here).

    Are we not a gentile society? Do we throw our physical weight around to get what we want? Isn’t such fragrant flaunting a violation of some right or other? Yet, so many “get away” with “murder” on a daily basis that we wink at one another and allow it to happen. How many times have you heard that someone is the “worst person” or “despicable” or verbally characterized in some terrible form? Fox News comes to mind? MSNBC? CNN? CBS? ABC? NBC? PBS? How often do we hear derogatory terms used to tear down someone’s character and choose to regard it as the normal course of business? When the results of this vitriol are injury and assassination of the innocent, the first thing that happens is that one side blames the other for what happened.

    I put to you that we are not civil; that by the very definition of the word, we are anything but civil… we are brutish, garish, rough, mean-spirited, eager for a fight, happy when someone fails, and blood lust fills our hearts when some gory scene appears on television or in the movies. Civil? We are the animals from whence we came.
    Last edited by cinemabon; 01-12-2011 at 09:49 AM.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    4,674
    Thanks for expressing these thoughts and sentiments, cinemabon. This is a most important issue. Civility concerns the behavior of the individual in the context of the group, of society. I wonder if there is a dark side to the philosophy of individualism and "every man for himself" so ingrained in our culture. I wonder if we need a revival of humanistic thought in our country. We need to develop our social consciousness at this time when individualistic prerogative or entitlement rears its ugly head.

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