optional

Something’s been lost in the way of public civility.

It still shows up in spots here and there but in general there has been a loss in the way society sees and measures the value of its behavior. Part of it stems from the rapid pace of our lives and part of it is cultural. I heard recently on a radio program of how Chinese tourists scramble to take pictures in Canadian sites and saw no issue with blocking the right of way of others. This is reality in their country because the sheer number of people in China necessitates that you make your way in whatever method possible.

The world is a mixture of cultures and each has its own set of public standards for what is acceptable. Once a family moves to a new country those sets of behavior aren’t always adjusted to suit which is why some immigrants are sometimes testing the patience of some nationalist protectionist interests. If they look different it is even more appealing to single them out for attack.

I remember being in Hanoi a few years ago and watching our client behave like a dictator in front of his staff. There was nothing docile or respectful in his tone and his employees cowered before him in a way I had never seen here in the West. I was told this was normal in their culture where more senior bosses were able to do this and expect respect without question. I found it very distasteful.

We can look to the fractioning of the traditional nuclear family as also playing a role here and the manners we were taught at home by our parents are suddenly open for liberal interpretation. The way we eat or whether we give up our seat on the bus for an older person have been left as options depending on how we feel that day. Add to that a mix of distinct cultures with youth that has been increasingly left to their own devices, and the results will be anyone’s guess.

The way our societies will adjust to this fast-paced change, where rules are made up along the way or even ignored, will challenge many who expect some level of predictability.

Even the office of the American presidency has never seen a boor like the current occupant in that he ignores civility in favor of the obnoxious tantrums of a toddler who must get his way. To many this is debasing the expectation that your highest public official should be subject to the highest standards.

Apparently, everything is now optional and the more we get used to it, the more it becomes the new normal.
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