Nov 03 2010
So, the Today Show on NBC asked the question yesterday, “Is Civility Dead?” with a segment that featured Amy Alkon, author of “I See Rude People”, (McGraw-Hill 2010). Matt Lauer questioned that with the increase in technical gadgets that people are carrying, are we seeing an increase in rude behavior. The segment spotlighted smokers littering, people speaking loudly, people shoving onto public transportation. It posed the question, “Is Civility Dead?”
I say, yah- it pretty much is just about dead. It’s not just in large cities, either. It’s not just on subways or pushing through Time Square. It’s dead everywhere. Well- let’s face it; it never lived in some places.
I live in the rust belt. The Great Lakes region of closed up factories, industrial cities trying to turn themselves around by attracting corporate jobs, health care, tourism and service industries. If we are indeed going to reinvent ourselves as a service-oriented workforce I think we need to re-learn some things about civility. How to Act in Public 101.
I’d like to start with one very basic lesson. I’ll say it’s the Platinum Rule of Civility. Alkon said very eloquently, “Rude people are privatizing public space and making all their own,” after a clip of a loud cell phone talker on a bus was shown, “They are taking what should be shared space and acting like it’s all theirs.” Hence the platinum rule: respect shared space as being shared.
How many times do we see this happening in one day? Not necessarily cell phone use. I mean, people selfishly acting like our public spaces belong just to them. Like they own the place! Take a moment to observe this in just your day today. I’m sure you can come up with at least one occasion. Just today as I was waiting in the check out line someone ran right into me as I was standing still- shoved me over by putting their hands on my shoulders and laughing loud in my face, “HA HA Sorry BABY!”…. this was the CASHIER in full uniform, with a name tag on, on the clock at the place of which I was a customer!!! Shoved me over and proceeded to step in front of me. Ugh.
But here are things I can think of off the top of my head that qualify as OWNING a public space: broadcasting loud music, screaming, screaming swear words, screaming racial slurs, spitting, pissing in public, loud cell phone conversations, cutting in line, yelling/swearing at your children, allowing your children to run wild, walking in front of traffic slowly, littering, cutting people off… this list can go on and on.
At what point did people stop being taught that there is a proper way to act? How about being taught that human beings have worth and you should respect that? Does this stem from not having any self respect therefore you cannot respect others?
I don’t know the source of these ills. I’m not entirely sure of the solution. How can people start teaching their children manners and civility if they have no concept of it themselves? Not only once have I been the victim of someone acting rudely (cutting in line in front of me for example). When I have said to them, “Excuse me but I was in line first,” they just exploded! The NERVE of me for standing up for myself.
What can we do to make people understand that concept that Amy Alkon so simply stated: Some Space is SHARED?
I’m asking you to start with yourself by remembering that. Perhaps it is time we start pointing it out to more and more people. Like little kids.