Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the Loss of Civility

As I watch society unfold before me I am struck, no distressed would be a better description, on how we have lost our ability to be civil to one another. Why is this? We have only to look at the almost daily news reports to see example after example of this. “Congressman Joe Wilson calls Obama a 'liar',” “Kanye West Crashes VMA Stage During Taylor Swift's Award Speech,” “In Toronto, Bike-Car Road Rage Escalates,” and the list goes on.

I believe we, as humans, are selfish, aggressive and violent by our nature. What has historically separated us from the other species is our ability to modify our base instincts to conform to the expectations of society. For example, rats are social, they live in ordered society and each is able to determine its place. They don’t seem to build unique cultures and I believe they play out their base instincts in the formation of those societies. We, on the other hand, are social beings, and build our societies for similar base goals, protection and furtherance of our race. We then train our youth to conform to those expectations so that society may evolve. Our history is filled with example after example of this, each eventually leading to a collapse and emergence of a follow-on civilization. Which brings us to today, and the question that is troubling me, what can we do to bring a sense of pride and civility back to our nation, and then the world?

Today it seems unfashionable to talk of cause and effect relationships, but I believe this is the only way to understand and address this decline. Parents of my generation began the process of trying to relate to their children and reinforce positive attitudes and performance in the belief if someone has positive thoughts about themselves they will fit better into society. My generation expanded on this to reinforce the idea that their child could do no wrong, and our children carry this to the next level where everyone must be a winner. I wonder if this could be a base cause for our failure to train the younger generation on the expectation for their role in society and the now prevalent belief they can say and do whatever they feel like and it is okay. The belief that their needs or ideas are more important than anyone else; debate and movement to a common approach is never an option.

As society embraces the idea that everyone can do, or say, whatever they feel like I am concerned with our ability to resolve the real problems that confront us as a society. With that inability to resolve conflict there is only one inevitable outcome. As uncivil behavior is spread, and more widely tolerated, what will be the next societal norm to be cast aside?

To my congressman, Jeff Miller, who rationalizes Congressman Wilson’s outburst, as emotions stirred by the health care debate, shame on you. I would hope, no I would expect, that Congressman control their emotions and do the nations business. What happened to the expectations of respect for your colleagues?

To rapper Jay-Z and all who rationalize Mr. West’s outburst as emotions to be understood and overlooked… shame on you. I don't expect you to condemn him, but you don't need to rationalize it away either. Perhaps this is one point where silence is a virtue?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

August has come & gone. It has been a momentous month for us. On August 31st my son's wife gave birth to our second grandchild, and on September 4th our first grandchild turned two. It is hard to believe I now have two grandchildren.
On the way home from church today there was an interesting observation which, I think, summarizes the "whatever I think" picture of today's society. My wife observed that the nation was more divided today than anytime in our past, and it must be a direct result of the Roe v Wade decision that limits the states ability to prevent abortions. I would suspect that most of our society may think the same way. My only comment to this -- it seemed to me the issue of slavery or states rights, and the resultant civil war was probably more divisive since we've not yet seen a state attempt to seperate.
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