August is National Win with Civility month, “stressing the benefits of being civil and courteous to each other in all aspects of life.”

Can a Civilization without civility exist? The root of both words pertains to the behavior of social groups acting with common laws, values, and objectives. The interaction of individuals for the common good of most (if not all) to make things better, for themselves as well, is the core of this (after all a rising tide raises all boats). Civility seems to be disappearing and being replaced with something decidedly less civil. ‘Me too’ has been replaced by ‘me first’. I see this shift almost everywhere now including my own mirror. Do civilizations ultimately reach the point where the expectations of the civilians within it focus solely on self(ish) interests? Is this the natural progression of things? Is it inevitable? Is this why, to date, all great civilizations have collapsed? I don’t know for certain. Is the tide now ebbing?

I’m not the first, or likely the last, to note that civil behavior is waning. Just drive around town at almost anytime of day and you will encounter folks obviously acting solely for their own perceived benefit. I call it a perceived benefit because often times it could very well result in their own loss. Case in point: on the way home from work tonight, I was first in line in the leftmost lane of a dual lane left turn signal. There were four cars behind me and no one in the turn lane next to me. There is a good reason for that. Shortly after the turn that other turn lane becomes a right turn only and quickly ends. There is no merge lane afterward. Before the light changes a BMW pulled up along side me. The light changed and we all began to make the left turn. The BMW kept pace and was able to signal and merge in behind me comfortably before his lane ended. Out of nowhere (but probably from behind the BMW) a motorcycle zoomed by cutting closely in front of me and narrowly avoiding running out of road in the right lane. He then looked at me in his mirror with obvious disgust that I had not given him more room between me and the car now close in front of me (it had come from the other direction just before the light changed). I really never saw the motorcycle until I heard it roaring along side me while passing. The motorcyclist had a passenger riding on the back. I think that was what made me notice the reckless behavior. That passenger had absolutely no input into what might have occurred. I have yet to see a case of car vs motorcycle where the motorcycle won (or even tied). This was clearly a case of someone only thinking about themselves. Perhaps not the most obvious case of uncivilized behavior I could cite, but it is the one that triggered my thoughts here.

I’m sure you or I could cite many recent examples of this type of (non-)thinking behavior or even more overt uncivilized actions that fall just short of actual crimes. Please feel free to add your own examples. I do not know what triggered the beginning of the loss of civility or when it began. Where does the justification for all of the self righteous indignation come from when people are caught acting selfishly. I thought one of the founding premises of our civilization was that you are free to act as you wish as long as those actions do not infringe the the rights of others to do the same. I guess that includes being allowed to act like an ass as long as I retain my right to call it such. I’d rather spend my time on other matters though. There are many manifestations of the loss of civility, some of them can be found in the way our government acts (or fails to act). The evolution of societies and civilizations is a fascinating subject I hope to return to here from time to time.