IS civility seriously in decline? Regrettably, I think so, and I don’t think I’m alone in that view.
Scarcely a week goes by without some headline about cyber bullying and radio shock jocks insulting someone, and all manner of people engaging in rude and aggressive public behaviour that in previous decades just wouldn’t have been tolerated.
The other week I was standing in a queue at the local supermarket. Just ahead of me was a young man, probably in his early twenties, who was talking loudly on his mobile phone.
The conversation was punctuated by an extraordinary string of expletives and explicit sexual references uttered, or rather shouted, without any regard for anyone within a 30-metre radius. A few people were cringing, but most appeared to accept this conduct as unobjectionable, unremarkable.
I don’t have a problem with expletives in private conversation, but this recent incident, together with numerous other recent encounters that family and friends have had with rude and hostile people indifferent to the feelings or interests of others, really has made me wonder what’s happened to civility.
It seems to me that good manners, politeness, civility in public conduct have fallen out of fashion, or at least don’t rate anywhere the importance they once did.
Now, being assertive, indeed aggressive, shouting the loudest, pushing over the top of others, thinking only of one’s self and being uncaring increasingly seem to be accepted as the norm.
Unfortunately, what our children see around them is what they learn and how they will ultimately behave themselves. When uncivil, uncaring behaviour is accepted as routine, just part of day-to-day social interaction, then it’s even harder to deal with difficult issues such as bullying, be it in schools, workplaces, aggressive driving on our roads or trolls in social media.
We are entering the Christmas season. We all have too many commitments and dates in our diary, queues seem to go on forever and the weather is getting hotter. We’re often tired from a long, hard year, tempers are frayed, and we still have this last big month to get through before we collapse into January. But maybe it’s precisely the season of goodwill when we should take a deep breath, and make that extra effort to practice the old adage: “Politeness costs nothing and gains everything”.