Whatever happened to civility, manners, and comporting oneself with elegance? I don’t mean having salt cellars at every place setting or attending finishing school (although both are personally appreciated). I mean the simple things. Saying please and thank you. Holding the door for someone behind you (man or woman). Keeping personal things personal. I realize the world is changing and will continue to do so, but when is enough enough?
I am not one to share my opinions about a polarizing topic via social media. That joy (such as it is) is reserved for those who really know me; the handful (or less) of people I trust with my money, my dog, and my life. But lately, I have had it. Recently I was scolded because I was exchanging pleasantries with a cashier at my grocery store. I was told “your cheerfulness isn’t helping anyone.” A few days later I witnessed a mother (in her 60s I guess) speaking to her daughter (40s?) with such disdain and disrespect that it made me wonder what the daughter had done to the mother, besides drive her to Target. Finally, I witnessed the backlash United Airlines faced on Twitter because of the gate agent’s enforcement of dress code for employees and their families using employee pass privileges. All of this caused me to wonder, “What the hell is going on?”
It seems that we are exposed to crassness, rudeness, vitriol and tastelessness more now than ever before. Even though I choose not to watch television or read gossip rags, I am still subjected to the latest nonsense from the worlds of celebrity (blech!) and so-called Internet stars. It can’t be avoided if you log into the Internet. People are celebrated for “clapping back”. Getting into a brawl regardless of gender seems to be badge of honor. Being obnoxious and classless is rewarded with going viral. Adhering to what were once considered social niceties is classified as ‘basic’ and old-fashioned. And beware anyone who attacks a popular pop star or sports star; the haters will come at you with a vengeance. I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we are living in an America that elected a misogynistic, egotistical, abhorrent bully.
Please don’t call me naïve. I know this sort of thing has been going on for years, but it seems to be escalating. Sure, social media plays a huge part in this devolution (trolls can hide behind keyboards and dispense ignorant opinions, hateful speech, and venom-filled insults). But more than that is how we behave in the real world (away from the screen). Do you treat the barista with respect or do you toss wadded up cash on the counter? Do you ask your kids about their day or ignore them in favor of chat on the cellphone while driving carpool (dangerous and rude)? Do you make time to eat as a family, even one night a week and then, have actually conversation? Do you put your damn cellphone away when spending time with a friend to give them your undivided attention? Little things like that matter.
And, I want the little things to matter. I am sick of the noise of incivility. I want people to be respectful of one another. I am not saying I want to roll back the clock to a time when discrimination was rampant (although, that seems to be happening now, too), I just would like people to realize that how you speak to someone matters. How you leave the house matters (sweat pants and leggings as day wear?). How you respond to antipathy matters. The ‘entertainment’ you choose matters. It ALL matters and I can’t bring myself to believe that this is a class issue. It can’t be, can it?
The way we treat people, animals, and our environment is an indication of the health of our civilization and WE ARE DOING A SHIT JOB of it all. A vulgar and rude person gains the attention of the masses while someone who is bettering a community or caring for the less fortunate enough barely gets a mention. People become famous for sex tapes while doctors who travel to war torn regions get no attention. How did we get so backwards?
Our civilization is declining and soon we will go the way of the Greeks and the Romans. Do you really want to accept bread and circus? Because that is exactly what all this fake celebrity, outlandish and crass behavior on the public stage, and ‘info-tainment’ disguised as news are, people! They are BREAD AND CIRCUS.
So, the next time you find yourself reveling in the misfortune of someone or reading the latest gossip rag, ask yourself, “Why am I doing/reading this?” Is it because you need a distraction from something in your life? Then find an alternative. Volunteer your time, take a walk, cuddle your kids/pets, or just mentally tally all the good things you have (not possessions) or you see around you. Even if you have nothing, you can appreciate the breeze, the flowers of Spring, the laughter of a child, the rising of the sun every morning. We can all find something to appreciate, no matter how small.
Travel as much as you can as far as you can to realize how truly lucky you are. Read a book about an historical figure. Cultivate friendships with people you actually see in person. Speak kindly to you children, partners, and parents even when you disagree (yes, even if they voted for Trump). Spend your time on sites like Soul Pancake , MariaShriver.com or The Happiness Project Toolbox instead of gossip sites. Do what you can to raise happy children who value intelligence, kindness and manners as a way to get ahead. Don’t let them grow up to think that bullying is the answer or that behaving badly is the key to success.
Education, kindness, compassion, exploration, awareness, and civility. Those are the keys to success. We need more kindness. We need more respect. We need more civility. We need to change. So, who’s with me?