Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where Has All the Civility Gone?

We’ve all been cursed with “earwigs” from time to time. What’s an earwig? An earwig, or a “tune wedgie” as my friend Martha Glunt puts it, is a musical tune that sticks in your head that you can’t get rid of. It tunnels its way into your ear and burrows itself into your brain. Think PSY’s  "Gangnam Style," Carly Rae Jepson’sCall Me Maybe,” or  Katy Perry’sCalifornia Gurls.”

With me, as I was going about my day a while back, Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboy’s Gone?” kept running through my head.  As this, admittedly catchy, tune kept replaying in my mind, I was also reminded of an ever-increasing frequency of examples of people being, well, just plain mean to other people. This happens almost as much in real life (offline) as it certainly does online.    
You’ve seen it - people cutting each other off, or speeding up to make an entry or passing more difficult on the road, the name calling and degradation in political discussions, the lack of “pleases” and “thank yous,” throwing money down on the counter at stores instead of handing it to the clerk… It goes on and on.

My question is why? Where, indeed, has all the civility gone?  In “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?,” Paula Cole tunefully muses,  “Where is my John Wayne? Where is my prairie son? Where is my happy ending? Where have all the cowboys gone?” It’s a harkening back, a yearning for classic chivalry, classic politeness. She hit the nail right on the proverbial head.

To me, it has it’s genesis (as so many things often do) to childhood and parents. It’s a culture we’ve developed into… Immediate gratification, parents treating their children as friends, giving them what they want, when they want - sometimes just to keep the peace, assuage guilt, or just to make sure their children “love” them back. Whatever the reason, it needs to stop - now.  I mean, a simple incident of a teacher   It must be that the teacher’s lying because of some bias against their sweet little bundle of joy. If you doubt me, volunteer to ride a school bus and see how “these little angels” behave.  
Reporting that a child has misbehaved almost requires that the teacher – the authority figure and professional, by the way - have an attorney. Parents now, almost reflexively, believe that THEIR child couldn’t have POSSIBLY misbehaved!

Getting back to classic child-rearing (Ann and I are big fans of Dr. John Rosemond), teaching politeness and respect for adults and authority, having children address adults by their titles, not their first names, teaching them to say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” is a great start. Even better, how about we adults  
MODEL that behavior? We adults (parents or not) are role models for children. They watch and see how we respond and behave in situations and model that very same behavior.

So, “Where is my Marboro Man? Where is my shiny gun? Where is my lonely ranger? Where have all the cowboys gone?”  If you think about it, they all really haven’t gone. Civility really hasn’t gone. It’s still there, hanging in…hanging on.  We see it pop up in stories of police officers buying boots for homeless people, people rushing in to help or rescue others in distress, gentlemen offering seats to ladies in crowded buses, conversations that could easily turn toxic and uncivil, that, suddenly, thankfully, deescalate as the participants let their better selves surface.

Civility has gone nowhere. It remains where it’s always been… in our hearts. Let’s let it come out.

That’s the point!

    - Tony