Saturday, August 4, 2007

The End of Civil - ization

Ladies and Gentlemen I regret to inform you that civil-ization as we know it is coming to an end. Oh I'm not trying to tell you that the sky is falling, or that Armageddon is just around the corner. I don't have a crystal ball, and contrary to popular belief I am not a nut case (and I refuse to acknowledge the preponderance of evidence to the contrary). All I am saying here is that the concept of civil (or polite) behavior seems to be disappearing from the world. This doesn't mean that I think that the world will come to a end because we don't use the right fork for a salad any more. I'm talking more about the fact that simple concepts of common decency like these seemed to have faded:
  • No one holds a door open any more for anyone, man or a woman, young or old (well I do, but I usually get a funny look for it).
  • No one rises when a woman enters a room or sits at a table any more.
  • No one tips a hat in greeting , takes their hat off when entering a room, or even shows the courtesy of removing it while eating. (not even the ball cap, which seems to pass for a hat these days and would be easier to tip than the other popular headgear, a do rag)
  • Please, thank you, and excuse me appear to be disappearing from the language.
  • TV talk shows feature hosts don't show the courtesy of allowing their guests to answer the questions they ask, guests don't try to answer those questions instead shouting out their particular brand of vitriol, and fellow guests on the same shows are constantly interrupting those non-answers with vitriol of their own, when they are not denigrating or even physically assaulting those with whom they appear
  • ... And as for the behavior of people using cell phones, don't even get me started. That's another posting all on its own.
All of these may seem like little things, but they seemed to be adding up to something truly sad. Somehow what used to be considered acceptable behavior got replaced by a form of lying, cheating, back-biting, and self-serving nonsense that are lovingly portrayed in the things called "reality shows". What's worse, this form of entertainment (purporting to provide a mirror on society) usually celebrates the most egregious perpetrators of rude behavior as "winners". 

Instead of Miss Manners as a guide to the options of proper behavior, we get Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears as guides to the options of wearing underwear. When now stop to look around us, we are already sliding down a slippery slope of societal degradation faster than a drunken Bode Miller runs the slopes in a gold medal effort in the downhill.

What happened to us? Did our parents gave us too much and spoil us? Did the excesses of our own youth take us down the wrong path? Did our greed and self-interest make us blind to the proper treatment of our fellow man? Did we just take casual Friday too far? Don't you believe it! Every generation that came before us has gotten more from their parents, had their excesses, and followed the single-minded pursuit of money and power to the best of their ability without losing the framework of civilized behavior. (We have to take the blame for casual Friday on our own, but as much as I would like to see it blamed for something other than giving people a chance to make poor personal wardrobe selections, I will not lay the blame for the demise of civilized behavior at its feet.)

I guess that the truth of the matter is that we have probably just become lazy, and that the effort required to maintain even the fictions of a polite society have become quite beyond us. It's too bad really, but a fact of life. All I can suggest is that you enjoy what's left of it while you can. While a few of us dinosaurs remain, some semblance of what once defined us as a civilized species will have survived the asteroid strike of "The Real World", "Big Brother", and "Survivor". When we're gone, you will have to watch old black and white movies to try and remember what civil behavior used to mean.


Lark Lamontagne said...

BRAVO!!!! I figured it can be Andy Rooney's replacement when he retires!

Tim Higgins said...

I would gladly accept any position that involves getting paid for doing 5 minutes of work, 1 day a week, as long as I don't have to do the whiny voice. I won't hold my breath waiting for the offer however.