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Alone…so alone, reason 2 for incivility today

“A frightening number of our neighbors are feeling so alienated, isolated, and anonymous that they can be rude with no remorse or fear of reciprocation.” Giovinella Gonthier, from ‘Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace’

“Anonymity is our constant companion.” P.M. Forni, from ‘Choosing Civility, The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct’

“We have no fellow passengers; we are in this struggle we call life for ourselves alone…If we are alone in life, why bother to be polite?” Stephen Carter, from ‘Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy’

Loneliness is an emotional state in which a person experiences a powerful feeling of emptiness and isolation, of being cut off, disconnected from, and alienated towards other people. Wikipedia

We live among strangers. We shop among strangers. What ties do we have to the community in which we live?

Some of us came from small towns and rural areas where everyone knew our family; some of us still live there. Today are those places cohesive communities where people still know their neighbors?

Erosion of community
Family was the ultimate community, the support system. Today family members are scattered. I have seven first cousins living in four states. One has disappeared. When do I see the others? Funerals. My husband of almost 35 years has 16 living first cousins. By my guess about some of them, they live in 13 states. There’s one cousin, and maybe two I’ve never met. (Is that unusual?) Add divorces that alter and affect the family more.

“Because of the well-documented decline of the structures that traditionally helped sustain moral norms—most notably the three-legged stool of family, religion, and the common school—we enter the market or politics with flimsy moral armament. We lack the tools to consider what we should value or should want, to say nothing of how we should act, and thus more and more tend to follow our impulses.” Carter

Where do you find community and support today?
A religious community is at the top of my list because there’s hopefully compassion and equality. While you share religious beliefs, you often are very different in occupations, place of residence, interests and other demographics.

Your workplace is may be a community, but how many fellow workers do you stay in contact with after one of you leave? A community in organizations, do you think? Carter says we join groups that affirm and lobby for our views rather than challenge them. They do not control our impulses but promise to defend our right to exercise them. Groups such as the National Rifle Association or Planned Parenthood or the American Association of Retired Persons.

Carter says the teaching of both social science and common experience is we are less likely to be rude to those we know well. Gonthier says “We can get by with crudeness or boorishness that wouldn’t be tolerated in a more cohesive community.” I say maybe.

Define civility
We believe we need to distinguish ourselves through achievement. Winning is everything so matter how we achieve it. We struggle every day to establish our identity and leave our mark. Forni says civility is the ability to internalize the notion that how you play the game IS more important than the final score.

To be civil toward others should not depend on whether we know them, should not depend on whether we like them. And sometimes to our credit, we rally around those who’ve suffered that we don’t know. But then some of the people we work with a lot are really uncivil to us. I suspect we need to talk about change, about fear, about busyness, about self-importance, about inner peace, about caring for fellow human beings.

I’m very interested in your thoughts and experiences on today’s lack of community.



Lynette - this is so spot-on!

Jane Jacobs wrote about this loss years ago - about the loss of the community within the large city, the sense of belonging and mutual responsibility for one another...

There are new attempts at communal living and planned communities to create intentional ties among residents and give that feeling of being a part of the larger group and having an identity as a MEMBER of something.

I just read about a collective of the sort, but where... dang.

Anyhoo - I know when we moved out of the larger city of DSM, I spoke to my husband about the need to be aware of his interactions with others - he wouldn't be anonymous to the gas station clerk in a town of less than 1500 ppl.

We risk becoming accustomed to a transactional relationship with all those around us - today and this minute is all we need worry about, not the longer view of how we move in the world and what part of our identity we display in our behavior toward EVERY person we encounter.

I know, I am rambling... and making no sense, most likely. Touched a nerve and I am off to think more.

- d