May 6, 2014: A Civil Concoction

Global Civility Awareness Month

Modified Excerpt from “Tuesday Morning Love” the book, Week 10: A Civil Concoction

images (4)“Que sera sera, whatever will be – will be; the future’s not ours to see.”

The lyrics of this old Doris Day song often encourage me to want to see more, though the question of any day now is transparently, “what are we seeing?”

I did not want to believe my eyes while sitting on a crowded train with standing room only, heading home from the office one day. Three rows of seats ahead of me was a man (not a gentleman) sitting in one seat with his baggage in the other and while a pregnant woman with a toddler was left standing during most of the ride.

I thought…surely this man is going to stop reading his newspaper and give up his seat to this woman. But that did not happen at all. After minutes of observation, another passenger and I simultaneously stood up to accommodate the pregnant woman aboard. Needless to say, I was visibly disturbed for the remainder of that commute.

More often than not I am disturbed by the public behaviors of people everywhere I go, from the lack of basic manners to the lack of fashion countenance. Passing through environments where vulgar language is being exchanged or bearing witness to the disclosure of uncensored body parts with sagging pants is indeed, no sunny walk in the park. And so it seems, the more modern we become with technology, verbal exchange and even fashion, the more negligent we transpire to become with regard to civility, genuine concern, and consciousness.

As the song goes, “The future is not ours to see.”

But in fact, it is. It is ours to envision, assimilate, and amend. The manifestation of self-awareness on an individual level will awaken the necessity for respect on a universal level.

Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored. (Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders of the Institute for Civility in Government)

What are painfully obvious are the continual immoral acts of incivility around our world. Much of the society in which we live has settled to accept – and to some degree – conformed to these relentless acts of character assassination, cross identity differences, mass aggression, and the extreme epidemic of rudeness. The lack of civility among the young and often lack of integrity among the old continue to run the gamut.

On a recent episode of Bravo TV’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta Reunion, two star cast members [Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams] battle it out in an un-amusing brawl in which Kenya “ignites” the catfight by waving a scepter, followed by screaming through a megaphone placed in Porsha’s face. I’m certain that many fans viewed this occurrence as some form of “quality discussion” but what began as evening entertainment quickly and sadly ended in a physical attack [and arrest] between the two.

The lack of human rights liberties continue in Nigeria, as Nigeria’s Islamic extremist leader threatens to sell the nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast, three weeks to date.

In the year of 2010, a series of civic atrocities occurred including: A student in Lafayette, Georgia that pulled an unloaded firearm on another student in a dispute over a Twinkie cake; at South Hadley High School in Western Massachusetts, a 15 year-old girl committed suicide after intense stalking, name calling, harassment, threatened physical abuse and relentless bullying from other high school “mean girls” who even after her death, did not demonstrate any regret or remorse for their actions. Instead, they used Face Book to mock her death. A 40 year-old Charter school teacher in Houston, Texas was fired and arrested for attacking and repeatedly hitting, kicking, then banging a 13 year-old pupils head into the wall of a school bathroom – an incident where the remainder of the teachers and many of the students stood around and watched. An angry man missed a flight connection and threw his suitcase at an eight-month pregnant airline employee. And the beat goes on.

The tragic reports of incivility continue to rise covering the pages of newspapers and magazines across the world and we bear witness to many of these behaviors in countless numbers, from public figures to everyday folks alike. Rudeness, the lack of human dignity, the use of vulgar language, character assassination, and misdemeanors have reached an all-time high, while charitable giving and acts of philanthropy have declined. But if we’re going to continue to wander around in a state of sheer unconsciousness, while assuming it is all out of our control and the only thing we can do is view it from afar and accept whatever happens – then we really can’t seize any opportunity for powerful transition and positive change.

A sense of morality fosters an act of civility which internally guides us in how we respond in and around the world. The end result of this then becomes transparent in how we view ourselves, our bodies, and our minds – and others. When we honor and respect ourselves, we honor and respect others in the same manner. We can heighten our self-awareness and heal our world by resigning our ego, respecting multiculturalism, exercising civility, practicing etiquette and honoring the human rights of others. True civility takes into account the humanity of other people with whom we are engaged. It challenges us to embrace change, make connectivity, and cultivate accountability because we have certain moral responsibilities to one another.

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” – Mahatma Gandhi

As an etiquette and life skills consultant, I have witnessed the decline of basic manners in the world, from road courtesy to classroom chaos. But I also see the rewards in the work I do. From time to time, I wonder if my work gives meaning; if anyone’s child is really paying attention in my class. I have been afforded divine opportunities to engage with many youth and young adults of both genders, ages and from every walk of life. Whether they are from an under-privileged community or the most poised of culture, something remarkable happens. Once the season of workshops has ended, one student, somewhere, will always return to express their personal level of gratitude for how my teaching has made a difference in their life, inspired them to excel, or simply helped them to consider a more adequate way of thinking, behaving or speaking. They are grateful because I believed in them but more importantly – because now, they can believe in themselves. While I take no credit for this intervention, I do take a moment to be thankful, clear, and silent. Only then am I able to see how the smallest of steps bring about the biggest of rewards.

We are all travelers on the same spaceship of life. The earth beneath our feet is our Earth. It belongs to all of us. The air we breathe is common property too. Yet we spend so much time drawing distinctions, defending divisions, and delineating differences from countries to culture to color. We go bananas for borders and boundaries…“That’s my property – that’s yours; this is my land – you keep out!”

An act of true civility requires compromise, collaboration, connection and real change. We need to build bridges not walls in our communities and we need to concoct an ingredient that is civil, peaceful, and promising.

Just because others may not employ the best of pleasantries does not excuse us of being courteous and aware. We can rectify the acts of incivility in our world by starting with ourselves. We can change. We can serve as better examples for our young and seek advice from our elders who possess wisdom. We can modify the way we treat each other because civility begins – within each of us.

Yes, the future is ours to see – and to save.

Always Choose Civility.

Love and Light for your Tuesday!

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