Monday, September 21, 2009

The Wages of the Sixties

You'd have thought I'd be tired of harping on courtesy and civility by now...but you'd be wrong. It's still got me riled up and it should have you riled up, too.

It's also gotten to Victor Davis Hanson, an historian and commentator whose website is bookmarked in my link list. I have a love-hate relationship with Dr Hanson, admiring much of what he writes while taking issue with much of his relentless bashing of the Democratic party (Note: I certainly believe the Democrats need a good bashing periodically, but I object to his failure to equally bash the Republicans when they're being stupid). In a recent post titled The Rise of the Uncouth, Dr Hanson traced the source of the problem we're having with civility today to the generation that came to age in the 1960's (Disclaimer: one of those would have been yours truly). He wrote,

"...The truth is that a new generation of boors has come of age without sober, wise people to teach them how to act. A Stark or a Wilson, whether left or right, were Sixties people, a generation known for its hip crassness and uncouthness. The baby boomers themselves abdicated the role of elder statesmen, and instead need in their dotage to be taught before they can teach anyone. The proper censors are in the graveyards, a better mannered generation used to hardship and war, whose legacy of standards we have squandered."

I think this is true, and is worth thinking about. A lot.

When I look at the people of my parents' generation, I see the difference. My parents had standards of behavior that they passed down to us. My Mother would have knocked me into the next zip code for the sort of behavior that now passes for normal...and my Father would have gone to the next zip code, found me, and knocked me back again. Sadly, it appears that many others who came of age in the turbulent sixties didn't care that much.

"a better mannered generation...whose legacy of standards we have squandered."

In his 1998 book Civility, Stephen Carter wrote,

"...having developed integrity as a tool for creating our own moral selves, we must next develop tools for interacting with others. I do not consider civility synonymous with manners (although I do think manners matter). I have in mind an attitude of respect, even love, for our fellow citizens, an attitude...that has important political and social implications. Moreover, civility is a moral issue, not just a matter of habit or convention: it is morally better to be civil than to be uncivil."

Can we all resolve to be civil today? And to hold our elected reprehensives to the same standard? Even if you were born...or they were the Sixties, there's no excuse for the kind of behavior coming from those who should know better, who should be the role models for the next generation.

Demand civility. After all, it's not something hard, like health care.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I agree with the part about squandering standards, there are none these days it seems :(

Anonymous said...

The malelovent influence of the sixties may well destroy America: a democracy more than any other form of government rests on "civility," since political decisions in a democracy are decided by talking, not brute force, as in Afghanistan. If we lose the ability to frame our issues in civil terms, and poltical discourse consists of a former president accusing all those who criticize the current president of being racists, he has committed the equivalent of the nuts that claim that the president was hatched on Mars, since he won't release his birth certificate! Oh linguist, I would love for you to expound on the link between the meaning of "civility" meaning a mode of behavior, and civitas, and democracy, for surely you will do better on that I would ever! For it is in that nexus that democracy lives or dies on the "civility" of its practitioners.

Eminence Grise

John said...

Yeah, what he (Eminence Grise) said.

wv: outshins--what the winner of a Muay Thai match does to his opponent.

allenwoodhaven said...

There is nothing wrong with coming to the conclusion that we, as an individual, are right about something, whatever that may be. Problems happen when we take that a step further and conclude that everyone else must therefore be wrong. For others to accept my way of thinking means I should accept theirs. It is a lot easier tht way!

Society exists because of the overlap tht we all share, in deciding that murder is wrong for example. If one decides that murder is justified, then there are consequences, like arrest, trial, and prison or even the death penalty if society agrees.

For the likes of Joe Wilson and Kayne West as well as, unfortunately for us, seemingly countless others, my suggested consequence is obscurity. Let them be ignored until they become civil. Let us all, media included, point out those who bring us together instead of tear us apart.

Those like Wilson and West do help in one way. As I heard long ago, no one is ever completely worthless; they can always be a bad example.

Somewhat off topic, check out the comic strip "Tom The Dancing Bug" in the on-line Washington Post. ( on the comics page, sorry I don't have a link.) It came out Saturday and will be there all week. The subject is healthcare and, in my opinion, hysterical!

Mike said...

We had a teacher hit a kid today. The police were called (naturally). But I thought in these days, how obnoxious was this kid being for a teacher to lose it and hit him (or her)?