On a cold, rainy day, I am more than happy to be in my home, with the heat on, watching a movie on my smart TV while making an online purchase on my tablet, and drinking hot chocolate made with milk I bought from a store two miles from my house (which, of course, is open 24 hours a day). Oh, and please don’t forget that I drove to said store in my car, while listening to satellite radio. We enjoy so many luxuries in this modern age. Many people would say that this is what makes us civilized. We no longer have to trudge through dirt walking great distances, keep fires burning in every room for heat, or head to the outhouse every time nature calls. We benefit from ever-advancing technology and manufacturing, as well as an ability to share ideas across the globe. But, is this all that makes us civilized? I propose that this is only part of a civilized society. Our treatment of one another makes the definition complete.
The way we interact with each other, whether in-person or online, gives great insight into our level of civilization. With the disappearance of many of the formalities of decades past, we have also lost the decorum that marked a civilized society. No longer do we bow or curtsy when entering the company of another, but we also don’t make eye contact, listen, speak with respect, or value the dignity of others. We don’t often write long, flourishing letters telling of the events of the day, but we also don’t use kind words in the modes where we do write. We hold our own opinions very high, and this has become the reasoning for one person to demoralize another. The Internet is teeming with videos of people screaming at one another, violently fighting, or humiliating another person. Social media is being used to bully, insult, prey on, and demean people who have differing opinions. Television and movie stars are using their influence to insult and belittle people who don’t share their political and personal beliefs. It has gone so far as to become a regular occurrence to see news of a person being removed from a public place for angrily attacking another person who dared to see an issue from another point of view.
It is absolutely all right to have firm beliefs and opinions, especially if they were formed through study and experience. It is not all right to attack, in any way, people who don’t share in them. If you feel strongly about your opinion, why is it that you can’t listen to the opinions of others? Are you afraid they may be able to prove you wrong? Listening to the opinions of others doesn’t mean that you agree with them, it just means that you are civilized enough to engage in a polite discourse. Having a debate should not include raised voices, violence, threats, or insults. If you are civilized enough to listen to others, you may learn something you didn’t know, or realize another point of view. If this doesn’t happen, you have simply solidified your already established opinion. It’s a win-win.
So, while we will probably never go back to the days of carriages riding through the streets or men wearing coattails, we can definitely bring back a polite society where people speak with respect and kindness.