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Civility and Societal Decay


Civility and Societal Decay

The following is from the book, Choosing Civility by P.M Forni.  He actually teaches a college level class on this topic. (If parents and culture were teaching and modeling this to their kids, it wouldn’t need to be discussed in a college class…)  I found the book very interesting, convicting and needed in today’s culture.  Every parent should buy the book and include what he lists there as goals for their children.

In the book he lists 25 practices of civil behavior.  Then, later in the book, he randomly adds to what he previously wrote.

This is one of those later short chapters.


“We now live in an age of idolatry of Self.  We have persuaded ourselves that first and foremost we live to realize our own Selves for our own good.  Having made the Self the central concern and value in our lives, we should not be surprised if self-centered behaviors have become more prevalent than altruistic ones.  We shouldn’t be surprised if civility has suffered.  The more we focus on our Selves and our self-gratification, the less moral energy we have available to spend on others and the less attuned we are to others’ well being.  We emerged from the upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s with a stronger belief in the decency of equality and the goodness of freedom.

What many of us are learning or relearning now is the essential role that self-control plays in the lives of democracies.  The emphasis on individual rights and entitlements in advanced democracies makes self-control particularly relevant to us.  It is in part to prevent the massive intervention of government and the law in our everyday lives that we are expected to develop civil discipline.  As a system of self-regulation, civility assures the survival of self-determination.  It is nothing less than the lifeblood of democracies.”

End quote

Couldn’t be said better.

A quote from James Madison:

“We have staked the whole of American civilization, not on the power of government…[but] upon the capacity of each and every one of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

If one were to look at the news and read just about anything in the media today, self-control is almost a cuss word.  It seems that it’s OK (and required, if you are a college student) to say or do whatever comes in your head or someone else’s head, regardless if it makes any sense or if it impinges on anyone else’s life or safety.  Violence in the name of tolerance is a perfect example.

Then there are the media stars who are finally having to pay for their lack of self-control.  “Be sure your sins will find you out.”  This has included politicians.  Hugo Grotius  (1583-1645), “was one of the first to define expressly the idea of one society of states, governed not by force or warfare but by actual laws and mutual agreement to enforce those laws”. (from Wikipedia)  In 1664, he wrote this:

“He knows not how to rule a kingdome, what cannot manage a Province;
nor can he wield a Province, that cannot order a City;
nor can he order a City, that knows not how to regulate a Village;
nor he a village, that cannot guide a Family;
nor can that man Govern well a Family that know not how to Govern himselfe;
neither can any Govern himselfe unless his Reason be Lord, Will and Appetite [over] her Vassals;
nor can Reason rule unless herselfe be ruled by God, and (wholly) be obedient to Him.”

Know many (any?) in city or state or national government where self-control and self-government are key attributes of their personal lives?  For, as Grotius says above, if they do not know how to govern their own lives, they will not be suitable nor qualified to govern the lives of others, nor should they be given the opportunity to do so.

In a previous post, I lamented that I see little hope for this country.  We are headed towards anarchy.  “Freedom” to do whatever you want (in government and in personal lives) will get to a point where chaos will finally reign and there will not be enough police nor national guard to keep law-abiding citizens safe.  If the “thin blue line”, law enforcement, is all that is keeping us from chaos, we are already doomed; there are not enough police to keep the peace.  Unless self-control and civility are actually taught in preschool to graduate school, from family and church, and modeled in leadership at all levels of government, “what one generation tolerates, the next abuses” and that abuse will affect the daily lives of all of us.

“When a culture abandons moral vision, anything that will be dared will be permitted” (anon) and, I would add, eventually be applauded, which we are seeing today.  Just listen to any newscast or watch any media and you will find this is true.

Buy the book and see where you may have failed to be civil to your family or neighbor.  Then determine to become one the red cells in the bloodstream of our democracy, exhibiting attitudes and behaviors of self-control, bringing the oxygen of civility to the other parts of the body you contact, keeping alive not only our freedom, but our very way of life.

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