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Civility Vanishes, Civilization is Lost

Civility comes from the word civis, which in Latin means "citizen". Merriam Webster defines civility as civilized conduct or a polite act or expression. Anonymity, because it inherently removes a person's association with his actions, allows conduct without consequence, and therefore non-accountability.

I am not so wise as the “psychology guys” nor the ones who “moil in minds”. What I see happening here has its beginnings with the automobile. Drivers find the safety and insulation of that driver’s “car cocoon” as a place to release inhibitions. Rude behaviors become “road rage” as an extension of unchecked anti-social behaviors. Freedom from accountability because “no one knows who I am” triggers behaviors which would be unimaginable to an otherwise normal, respectful person. Automobile anonymity is closely followed by email and social media anonymity.

Internet access is masked and gives unbridled license to cyber bullies. Message bullying and “hate mail” spread through the ethernet unchecked. Damage done by an anonymous culprit has no (or little) redress. Lack of the ability to hold an anonymous source responsible for their actions gives open range to bad behaviors.

Cybercrime, cyber bullies, cyber fraud, cyber deception all erode trust and confidence in our fellows. This abundant erosion scrapes bald our reactions. As we react to the poison of others we too fall into the role of predators. We don’t like to think so.We are better than that. Except, it happens in hundreds of ways. Complete an on-line “survey”. Forward hate mail. Pass on unsubstantiated gossip about others. Click on “like, or hate, or laugh” on a Facebook posting. It’s anonymous. It can be hurtful to others. It can be felt as bullying. Hey, its just a click, who cares? Who knows? Who will hold me accountable for my opinions and actions? Where does it start? Where will it stop?

Factors Impacting Anonymity Driven Anti-social behaviors:

1. Isolation

2. Social distancing

3. Masking

4. Cyber-life

5. Accountability

These factors drive behaviors. The more isolated we become the less likely we are to be “civil” and respectful of others. The less likely we are of being respectful of others the less like we are to value their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and ideals. When we devalue others and their ideas, the option for understanding and trust and respect vanishes.

Lead follow or get out of the Way!

“Local government leaders set the tone and frame the debate. If local government is seen as uncivil, trust is diminished. If board members are uncivil toward each other, little progress can be made. If a governing board is uncivil toward professional staff, the staff will be fearful to share new ideas and opportunities. We owe it to each other and to our communities to treat one another with respect and dignity”. (source: Vaughn Upshaw on March 18, 2015, “ Creating a Culture of Civility”)

Leaders lead. Government leaders have an imperative to lead their peers and constituents. Government leaders must set the “moral” example. Take Governor Cuomo,… please. When behaviors fall short of meeting a basic moral standard, action is needed. Appropriate action must be swift and certain and visible to be meaningful.

Leaders have an obligation to build trust and confidence. More trust we have in our government the more confidence we have in our fellow. More trust builds more respect. More respect builds better understanding, acceptance, and chance for a true dialog over differences of opinions. These strengthen our culture. Culture builds civilization.

culture and civilization are slowly falling off a cliff

Our culture and civilization feel like they are slowly falling off a cliff. What can we do about it? First, look to our own behaviors. Be more respectful to others…all others. Think about what you say and do. Expect the best of your fellows. Brace for disappointment. Do NOT be discouraged. Set the example. Lead the way.

Help make the state and federal government get better. Help the best people get elected to lead. Join the Convention of States. The Convention of States is a firm strong step to making governments better and more accountable to “we the people.”

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