Friday, April 3, 2015

In Search of the Lost Civility

I have to admit that I really don’t spend that much time watching TV. Sure it is on but usually it is just background noise while I am doing other things. I know, that is a horrible waste of electricity and I can just hear my mother reminding me to shut it off if I am not watching it. She probably would be telling me to go outside too.
I have pondered turning off the cable and trying to save some money. I would bet that after a short, painful adjustment period we would really not miss it and we probably would be more productive. There would be a couple of things I would miss and they are the reason I keep the cable on. I really enjoy old TV shows, Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke; The Honeymooners even The Three Stooges. All of these shows take me back to a time when we were more civil and compassionate. All things I dearly miss today.
My main problem with the cable is also some of the programming available. I watch series after series where confrontation and getting what is coming to me are the themes of the day. It seems as though if you are not in someone’s face, screaming at them and trying to get your way no matter what is the thing to do. I am not sure if this is entertainment mirroring life or life mirroring entertainment. In any case it seems as though we have lost our civility and compassion and I believe it is getting worse.
Every part of our everyday life has to be contentious. It seems as though every opinion that does not agree with ours is a reason to cry foul. We seem to think the only way to get our ideas across is to our yell the other person. This way of thinking has permeated every part of our lives from schools to youth activities to even our own churches.
We have lost our sense of civility when it comes to discussing and debating issues. If someone’s opinion differs from our own we must shout them down. Calm reasoning and discussion are rare and I suspect viewed as a sign of weakness. We see this at every level from our national politics to school activities, I am right and if you don’t agree I will impose my ideas on you. This loss of civility is troubling and I think it is a by-product of communicating via e-mail or text. You cannot hear or see the other person or their reaction and it deadens our ability to be civil.
While the loss of civility is troubling I am even more concerned over the loss of compassion in our everyday lives. We have become a society of me-first. Instead of putting the greater good of society and our fellow man first, we only worry about how it affects us directly and lobby accordingly. If there is a problem it is someone else’s problem. We blame the coach, the teacher and even our own pastors when most of the time we should look inward.
We rarely worry about the other person and ask about what is going on in their lives. Failure to perform at the level we demand is grounds for immediate termination. In some cases we might have been wronged, our sandwich might have taken too long to get to our table or the teacher might have made a mistake. Those things happen, mistakes are made. It might have been a bad day or there might be a bigger underlying reason. Seldom do we take time to ask if there is a bigger more serious reason that is the compassion I think society is missing.
I know, I am being a downer, a grump and a pessimist and don’t think I am exempting myself from this at all. I may be one of the worst offenders. However, I do think we can change the course of society and it comes back to each of us individually. Each of us can choose to live our lives and conduct ourselves with compassion and civility. We can make that choice to accentuate the positive and try to lift up those around us.
We all know people who live their lives this way. I would bet they are the type of people you want to be around. Those are the role models we need to hold up and model our lives after.  Just like the main characters in many of my favorite old TV series. Maybe this world would be a better place if we would all spend just a little more time watching TV in black and white.

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