Senseless Incivility. Fatal Disrespect.
When I spontaneously treated myself to a chick flick last Saturday evening – something I haven’t done for years – it never occurred to me that I might be taking my life in my hands. Nor did I wonder about my destiny the last time I went to a shopping mall, attended a street festival or jogged through a public park.
Those days are over. Recent global acts of brutal, seemingly random violence have changed everything, at least for me.
It took me a long while to learn to trust society following my years as a forensic death investigator. After examining thousands of maimed bodies, notifying hundreds of people of the unexpected loss of a loved one, and trying to piece together the details of countless inexplicably senseless deaths, I can now see that I came away somewhat tainted. After all, when someone’s life is centered around death, what else can you expect?
What I began to realize, about half-way through my career in forensics, was that I was witnessing a much, much larger death – the death of civility. As crimes became more vicious, the people committing them became less accountable. It was always something or someone else’s fault.
Since leaving the profession almost a decade ago, I have gradually stopped looking over my shoulder and questioning everyone’s motives, words and actions. It’s not that I was overly suspicious; it’s that I lived in a completely different reality than most other individuals I knew. For years my norm was to be lied to, confronted, and challenged by perfect strangers, many of them criminals. Most of the people I spent my working hours with had been murdered, taken their own lives, succumbed to unbelievable forces of nature, died in an accident, or were grieving.
But I also experienced incredible moments of grace, where – after delivering the worst blow someone would ever receive in their life – I had the opportunity to hug and hold shattered, distraught human beings up by the heart strings.
I have slowly let my guard down. Not all the way, mind you. I doubt that I’ll ever enter a concert hall, hotel or airplane without naturally taking note of the closest exit, a habit I developed decades ago. I still double-check windows and doors, watch my back, am hyper-vigilant about my personal property, and watchful over the people I love.
But shopping? Going to a movie? Attending a community carnival? I’m pretty chill.
That said, I must admit that during a trip to Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t help but remember the horrific sniper incident a few years back. And when I was dining at a table next to a blinged-out shifty-eyed dude who was simultaneously working 4 cell phones in a swank Vancouver restaurant recently, I suddenly recalled a story in that morning’s paper about gang-style shootouts that were happening in the area. Frankly, in both of those circumstances I felt ever-so-slightly on edge.
It doesn’t need to be that way.
Fatal disrespect is omnipresent. Believe me, I’m not here to preach Pollyanna do-gooder BS to change the world. But for goodness’ sake, we have to do something. Because somewhere near you – either in your own home, down the street or in the local cyber-café – someone is zoned out in front of a screen or clutching a handheld device and virtually killing other people, or birds, or cartoon characters, with their thumbs … and loving it.
You cannot convince me that that behavior hasn’t changed our society. Hollywood, electronic game-makers and any variety of “Super-Heroes” have all glorified and profited from rudeness and death. Sadly, incivility and disrespect sell. And kill.
It’s not just the entertainment industry that plays a role in all this. We have let our ability to courteously communicate with one another slide as quickly as we’ve lowered our collective standards regarding our behavior in public, at home and on our roadways.
The fine lines between normal, naïve and nuts are becoming increasingly blurred. That’s why I’m suggesting we all do our part to make a positive change. Too many good, innocent people are being scared and scarred, and far, far too many people are being slaughtered by partaking in pastimes that simply gave them pleasure, like going to a movie, studying for exams or celebrating with friends and family at a neighborhood block party.
Beginning right now – this minute – please become an ambassador for civility. I’m not talking about just being nicer or more easy-going. What I’m suggesting is that we all decide to embrace mutual respect as a foundation on which we stand. There will always be “my” way and “your” way of doing things. Let’s find “our” way. A way that leads us towards more accountability, sincerity and brotherhood, rather than providing countless avenues of forensic fantasy for deranged, volatile individuals to spend their utterly messed-up lives on.
This challenge isn’t up to a government to fix – we must stop playing that blame game. What we’re dealing with is far too big for that kind of thinking. This isn’t someone else’s problem, it’s ours. Yours and mine. Face it; we all played a role in creating these circumstances. Let’s put our hearts and heads together and our differences aside to find realistic solutions. We’re smart enough to conquer this, don’t you think?
Civility is not about rules and regulations, it’s about character and conduct. Those are two guiding principles we can build from. I’m willing to stake my life on it. Are you?
Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO™, a speaker, writer and executive consultant whose mission is to reverse rudeness and create courteous cultures. Sue helps individuals and businesses gain confidence and earn respect.
©Copyright 2012 Sue Jacques ~ The Civility CEO™. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share as long as the message is intact and the writer is credited. Thank you.