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Is the Concept of Civility Outdated?

Are civility, self-awareness and common sense things of the past?

Civility. Courtesy. Politeness

Common sense:  sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.

Self-Awareness Theory states that when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.

I offer these common definitions of three terms that I am finding to be a rare commodity in everyday life these days. Because of my age, I have a definite perspective that references different times and places. I do look at actions and situations differently than most people under the age of thirty, as I did when I was that age and my parents were in their sixties. But regardless of age, geography or circumstances, I have always thought that people should operate on basic principles that make life easier for everyone. Those three concepts are defined above.

I am not going to be one of those who laments the passing of the years and claim that things were much better back in the old days. I can’t say they were better or any different. Human behavior has not really changed drastically over the years but perhaps my reaction to it has. I am more aware when people do not employ one of the definitions above in their every day activities and it’s disheartening to me that some people appear to be so self-centered that they do not consider others in what they say and do.

When one accidentally bumps into another person or causes them a minor inconvenience, is it so hard to just say “excuse me?” Apparently it is. How often have you been at the grocery store and had your cart bumped with no one saying anything? Has anyone ever cut in front of you in a line? Have they used language that’s unwarranted when you slowly back out of a parking space and yet they slam on their brakes and throw the blame to you for impeding their progress? Where does civility come in at those times? While often awkward moments are resolved with both parties accepting blame for the situation or they smile and move on, at times people react without reason. It’s puzzling to me why some people function as if their agenda is all that matters.

When it comes to the three concepts above, I offer these situations: at what point do people in a neighboring property realize that their noise level, boisterous and colorful language and wafting marijuana smells might be infringing on the rights of other neighbors?  When trying to navigate an aisle with a shopping cart, at what point does a person become self-aware that standing in the middle of the aisle talking on a cell phone, blocking the aisle for others is not really very considerate?  Why do some people never address their barking dogs? And, as you know, the list can go on and on. None of these things are really that serious as isolated incidents. But I am baffled why some of these people don’t possess enough self-awareness to realize they might be inconveniencing others or infringing on the rights of others. Do they just not care or are they just clueless?  I can’t generalize about people’s behavior. And let’s face it, none of us are perfect. We all probably exhibit some behaviors that others might view are a little self-indulgent.

I was following that story this week about the young boys on the bus who verbally bullied the grandmother who was district employee and made her cry. At what point did kids think that relating to any person that way was acceptable? I will play the “Old guy” card here and just say that when I grew up in the fifties, I seriously doubt that children even gave a remote consideration to addressing an adult that way, especially one in a supervisory position. Are children no longer  being taught civility? Are parents making them realize that they share this planet with all kinds of people; all of who deserve respect? I wonder.

I am not sure whether I over-react about certain behaviors that I find uncomfortable or disturbing or if there really is a general disintegration of civility, self-awareness and common sense. I like to think not. But recently, reality is proving otherwise.

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Lou Irigoyen June 28, 2012 at 03:41 PM
This hits what is primarily wrong in our country today. Too many self-centered people that feel that the world revolves around them. Unfortunately, with the change in the family unit, once both parents went to work, the core values that were given to us started to suffer. I for one was raised with many of the common courtesy's that used to be common place. I am always on the watch for disrespect, rudeness and the impolite manner in which many (our younger generation sad to say) of our fellow Americans behave. It just seems that taking a second or two to show good manners, just is not a valuable virtue anymore. This is one of those where I will not say "can' beat em, may as well join them". I will continue to demonstrate my solid upbrininging and show good manners and a courteous attitude whenever it demands. One of my pet peeves is the oaf who doesn't understand respect for our flag and the national anthem and will stand there with his hat on his head while it plays. You can bet he gets a wake up from me to remind him of what is proper respect. thanks for this piece. A topic that is very near and dear to me.
EZDuzit June 28, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I concur...especially that issue of not having the correct etiquette for the national Anthem and flag. But I will never give up on trying to maintain respect, courtesy and manners...it's costs a person nothing to extend those and it makes all the difference in relationships and life.
Denise B. June 30, 2012 at 04:37 AM
If you take a closer look at the emerging pop trends of the last ten years, you will see the rise of the ghetto culture. The lack of civility is basically a protest against the status quo and demands that we quite ignoring those on the margins. It shocks us into paying attention. I prefer the Norman Rockwell take on American life, but that view forces us to look away from the unpleasant and pretend it does exist. The good news is the pendulum always swings back and forth and we are due for it to head in the other direction so maybe good manners will be back in vogue.
EZDuzit June 30, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I really do understand that people come from difficult backgrounds and neighborhoods (the majority of my teaching assignments were in low income areas) but I did see that the majority of those kids were always polite and respectful so I guess it's a choice one makes no matter your circumstances. You're right that lack of civility is a protest against status quo and coming from the 60's I can truly understand that. What I find puzzling is that so many young people who worry about being "disrespected" don't quite understand that to get respect you have to give it and earn it.
Denise B. July 13, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Sorry BK.. I thought I responded. Checked in to see if you had any new blogs to read. Have been busy with overseeing my interns. Yes I don't understand the disrespect thing either. What is that about? I heard the guys charged with the Bryan Stowe beating said it was because he disrespected their sister. I am like, really guys? Well I wonder how much respect they are receiving in county jail by their fellow inmates?
EZDuzit July 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Yes, I wonder too! No problems about the delay...I've been busy myself...my first grandchild just came into the world 11 days ago and been a bit preoccupied myself :)
Denise B. July 13, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Oh how wonderful! Enjoy. Maybe a little blog about your new experience in a few days then. Lucky baby to have a grandpa like you.
EZDuzit July 13, 2012 at 04:24 AM
I will try to figure how how to write about that. I'm still overwhelmed by the whole experience! :) It's so much more profound and emotional than I expected it to be!
Denise B. July 13, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Indeed it is... What do you think the future holds for a newborn child of today? What are your hopes and dreams for this child? As we age we tend to think the best years of America are behind it. I know I feel my parents experienced and enjoyed America at it's best, but that my generation will only be left with it's bills. I am the half empty glass and you are the half full which is why I am curious what type of world you envision for this child. Just throwing some things out there to inspire you. Just playing Zelda to your Scott Fitzgerald... The non- drinking one that is. :)
EZDuzit July 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Hahaha well, while it's flattering to be mentioned in the same sentence as Fitzgerald, I'm not even a poor man's Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck, but I will be thinking about how to do this subject justice. Thanks for the impetus! Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!
Lou Irigoyen July 13, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I wanted to address the question posed by Denise in regard to the future of today's newborns. Ultimately, it is always the same problem. Unless we start to admit there is a problem, the problem only gets worse. Unless our society stops being so liberal minded, It would seem to me that a child not given strong values and upbrining, will develop into a rude, ill mannered, ingnorant citizen who again, thinks the world revolves around him or her. I certainly dont want to use this platform to express my views on our wimply justice system, but we have a serious problem here. People are growing up know how to play the system and how to out smart the legal rules in our country. If you ever listen to a career criminal speak about "petitions" to file, and what they believe to be a very solid understanding of the law, you will agree that we have a flaw in our legal system. I still believe that in general, most people in the world are good, honest, hardworking and moral. The small number of evil doers, should not discourage the rest of us from campaigning on behalf of our kids future. Keep teaching, keep correcting them, keep administering the discipline. It does and will payoff.
Denise B. July 13, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Gosh Lou.... did not think of it along those lines. I was thinking more along the lines if there would be opportunity for the children born in the US today. Use to be that the world was your oyster if you were born here, but it is so much more difficult for kids today to get a foothold. You sound like a Tiger Dad. No doubt kids need structure. With everyone working so hard just to keep their head above water sometimes the kids don't get the attention they need. I just thought BK would write us a nice little story that captured the spirit of the movie, Midnight in Paris. We always look back and feel wistful for the past, but with a new baby we need to think of what the future will hold as they grow up. I know BK would find a way to paint the future as promising. After that maybe he can tackle the issues you brought up. Thank you for helping me to inspire BK and his writing efforts.
EZDuzit July 13, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Well, Lou, my overall influence will be more subtle and indirect and by example. The parents will be the ones to shape their child into the person they think she should be. I just protect, nurture, spoil and love her...that's MY job :)
Lou Irigoyen July 13, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Not a Tiger dad, but rather a realist. I remember my mom saying to me "I would rather have you think I was mean, than to have you grow up to be rude and ill mannered" that was the standard in America 40 years ago. Parents were more interested in their kids being good, solid citizens. I heard someone say not too long ago, that younger parents these days, want to be friends with their kids rather than parents. That is where the lines get fuzzy. You cant be both and expect to make the impact on them that you want. Tiger mom refers to the lady in the news that was very hard on her two daughters, but they are both honor students and accomplished musicians. When they get older, they will reflect and realize that it was not harsh treatment, but rather training and preparation for life that their mom gave them. We seem to have a tendency to believe that our kids have natural instincts to be courteous, polite, well mannered, hard working and ambitious beings. this is not an instinct, this is taught. So many parents look at their children sometimes and wonder where they went wrong. It is not the wrong that is the problem, it is the lack of focus on the areas that are important. We want to medicate the child with gadgets, toys and material possessions and then wonder why there lacks social skills. it is hard for kids these days, but shielding them from reality is more harm than good. Someday they will be adults and will have to cope.
Denise B. July 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Yes I know about the book Tiger Mom which is why I called you the Tiger Dad. We may have reached the tipping point with the lack of discipline towards children. The whole pop culture rap thing inspired bad behavior, but now it looks like the pendulum is swinging back. When I was a kid the neighborhood kept you in check too. It was not unusual for one of the neighbors to correct you and then tell your parents. You can't do that today without taking the chance you will be sued. With the job market the way it is Lou, everyone will have to take on the teachings of the Tiger Mom to a certain to degree to ensure their kids will be employable when they grow up. It is so much more competitive today and only the best and brightest will have any chance at all it seems. We need more parents like you Lou.
Lou Irigoyen July 13, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Sorry to sound like I am horn honking because it certainly is not easy trying to instill these values in kids. I guess we forget how rebellious we were at those ages. I just cant help but think, that if I dont take a stand on this, I may be part of the problem and then dont have the right to complain. It is like people in this country that dont take the time to go out and vote and then complain about the people that represent us. They dont see the point of casting a vote, but want to complain about the person elected to office. Take a stand on something. You may not be a significant deifference, but you do make a difference in general.
Lou Irigoyen July 13, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Referring back to the Tiger Mom subject, one of the things that she is quoted as saying (and forgive me if it is not ver batem) but she says that as Americans, we try to put a force field over our kids and protect them from all of the realities of life. To a large extent, she is right. IE: the mother who is still supporting her 30 year old son, who is still going to college part time and works 2 day a week. She couldnt possibly expect him to get his hard knocks on his own. sound harsh, but hard knocks develp character and the ability to deal with the brutality of the real world.
EZDuzit July 13, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Sounds like we are setting up for a whole new blog topic :) There is no doubt that parents and society seem to have different expectations for children today as opposed to the 1950's when I grew up....some for the better, some, not so much.

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