Adrienne BoettingerFriday,16 August 2013

The Snap:

In this divided country, most people agree something’s gotta be done. We can’t keep going on this way, saying we’ll address critical problems tomorrow whilst zooming headfirst into a crisis of epic proportions. We need to reform entitlements. Not Social Security and Medicare (but someone should definitely fix those before they run out of money). I’m talking about people walking around feeling like they’re entitled to behave however they want, whenever they want — regardless of how many crimes of jackassery they commit. It’s time for some damn civility.

The Download:

A few years ago, cars in my county started sporting bumper stickers that said “Choose Civility.” I first saw one when trying to flip off the car next to me with both hands. I was horrified to see myself in the rearview mirror; how enraged I was at someone who tried to cut me off, juxtaposed with the idea of civility. Maybe those crazy yuppies were onto something.

By and large, people are awful. The lack of manners and common decency on full display most days is enough to make Emily Post homicidal. Local news coverage urges kids returning to school to be polite to teachers and fellow students. However, it’s not just kids that are manner-less. For example, I was recently assaulted in the back of the knees by an errant 10-year-old with a shopping cart; his mother just chuckled and said “what am I going to do with you,” while ruffling his hair. I had visions of running them both over with my own cart but decided to “err in the direction of kindness.”

That idea of being kinder to people is maybe-not-so-amazingly one that has gone viral thanks to the 2013 convocation speech by George Saunders at Syracuse University. He said of all the crazy things he’s done in life, he most regrets moments when he failed to be kind. He encouraged graduates to “seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.”

That’s great for those graduates and others who view or read the speech, but what about the rest of society? Maybe we should take a page from Papa Fidel’s handbook. Sure, he did some pretty awful things but one good thing he did was drastically improve Cuba’s literacy rate. The illiteracy rate before Castro took over: under 24 percent. Since taking power, it’s been nearly 100 percent. How did he manage this? Children were taught not just to read and write but to teach others to read and write. These children went home and taught their parents, grandparents and communities; a literate society was born.

So sure, teach schoolchildren proper etiquette or what Miss Manners calls “the voluntary bargain we make to live peacefully together.” And then children, go teach your parents. Respectfully, of course, but teach them to put down their mobile phones when engaging in real life activities, be patient with others around them, and be present for all the things that really matter in life.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

KMSP-TV Minneapolis-St. PaulThe BlazeSyracuse.comBaltimore SunUNESCOWired, Image Credit: Flickr


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