The Lost Art of Civility

The Lost Art of Civility

I am world weary from the last few days. Or maybe tweetweary, to cobble a phrase.

It’s time to push back from my  social media world. NOW. I’m not a broad explorer, limiting my internet curiosity to news aggregators, Twitter and Facebook. I should be reading with chapters.

Events like the Super Bowl (can we use the words now?) and the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman just seem to bring out the chippy side of humanity.  Every Tom Dick and Mary feels the compulsion to evaluate and eviscerate ads, football players, addiction, and performances. Snap. No points for style or logic.

It’s the 21st century Colosseum: thumbs up, thumbs down.  Sometimes the judgment comes in 140 characters. Or less. Other times the player/singer/actor/commercial gets the full tilt cycle of news/blog or FB posting, with a parade of hostile comments agreeing or disagreeing.

There are observations that show grace and wisdom, and reflect a thoughtful process.

On the other side, there are knee jerk, cruel, dismissive snapshots.

These are the ones that depress me.  Pith is fine, but it is not a substitute for clever or thoughtful.  In an ideal world, we can combine the intellect with the heart.

Perhaps my years of teaching English and reading legal briefs made me overthink everything, but I prefer that bad habit to under thinking everything.

Yesterday my twitter feed clogged with play-by-play ridicule.

Manning: lame. Seattle: thugs.  Dylan:sell out.  Budweiser: saccharine. Coke: unAmerican. Obama:dominated by O’Reilly. Namath: PETA target. Snap. Snap. Snap.

I enjoy a clever observation, a play on words or a joke. I appreciate news updates. What I saw yesterday was lazy, often lacking in observation, consideration or context.  AP: did you need to send an alert that Hoffman had a needle in his arm when found? Hostility for immigrants was disguised as patriotism.  Scorn and snark bubbled over.  Perhaps placing an Obama-O’Reilly conversation in the midst of a football battle encouraged the adversarial in us. It invited us to take our disparate corners and rage on.  It takes more work to find common ground, but it is a better place to dwell. And I think we should feel free to have NO opinion on…most everything. Or at least to not express it until it is well formed.

What makes me the saddest when I scroll through the feeds is the lack of empathy.  Hate speech is generally tucked in the comments section, but yesterday it was loud and proud. Have we traveled so far from the notion of a world singing in harmony that America the Beautiful in a choir of languages offends ? Must we select a truth in the Woody Allen debacle when we cannot know the particulars?  Do we need to condemn a heroin addict, rather than show sadness for his losing struggle or his family? Do we honestly know if an ad is a failure, just because we aren’t going to buy a Chrysler? Doesn’t Dylan get to license his music? Is judging others the only thing that makes us whole? Or superior?

We are programmed to have opinions.  Some are worth little, emanating from shallow study, an absence of introspection and pre existing bias. Others are the product of intellectual rigor, and deep observation. The processes get equal space on the good old social highway. They do not deserve equal consumption. Or respect.

I have a long list of books waiting for me.  I’ll transfer my time.

Last night I turned off the computer and the game,  and traveled to Downton Abbey. Civility is the skim coat that my Yorkshire friends put on their animus. Dowager Lady Granthame’s snark and pith has  clever construction. I like that in a diss. Even when she might be dissing someone like me: “Some people run on greed, lust, even love. She runs on indignation.”

Sorry for being indignant. I still say it’s better than hostility.

Come on back to my snark free zone. Please. Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.



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