Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Yesterday, I lunched at a local restaurant with a congenial group of friends. About midway through the meal, an out-of-town visitor at a table in the front of the restaurant created a ruckus. Obviously, that person was unaccustomed to the relaxed movement of life in Cajun country and voiced uncivil complaints and demands for McDonald type service. We were sorta’ discombobulated about the behavior of this person and began to talk about the times we had been in a group dining out, and a person in the group asked that perfectly good food be taken back to the kitchen because it was cold or because it had too much salt, etc. We agreed that on these occasions, we had felt discomfort and embarrassment for the chef, the server, and the restaurant because of the complainer’s actions. I might add that it’s hard to believe that anyone would complain about the food or service in Acadiana, a place where meals are celebrations.

Incidents like this and even greater uncivil acts aren’t uncommon in today’s society. Most of us feel pretty vulnerable in the face of unwarranted attacks from those uncivil people who witness to their own character with acts of bad will. It’s amazing how many books and columns are being written about the lost art of civility and how stressed people are about the lack of respect and concern that is being shown for one another in many towns across the country. Incivility seems to define the character of our postmodern culture. I’m talking about the loss of charity, humility, consideration for others, and personal responsibility for the building of civil communities. Oh well, we shrug and say, “It’s the age of The Ego,” or “we’re the ME society.”

In today’s culture, consideration and courtesy are anomalies. We don’t seem to possess the wish or will to honor one another, and if my words seem preachy, see for yourself – turn on the television set and watch it awhile, thinking about the phrase, “honor one another.” What you’ll see is a lot of bickering, name calling, and cynicism in public discourse and debate, in news reportage. As Mark DeMoss has said, “It’s virtually impossible to have constructive dialogue or to inform and educate people in an uncivil environment.” He’s talking about the prevailing climate of contempt rather than the art of civility. Christians on the right and left behave so badly that a recent statistic revealed non Christians between the ages of 16-29 think that Christians are insensitive to others (Jonathan Merritt writing in The Huffington Post). For example, again, turn on the television set and watch the diatribes of Christian evangelists.

We often ignore daily discourtesies like the woman in the restaurant, tolerating vulgarity and violence as if we were watching actions that occur on another planet. However, at least one table of ten gray- and white-haired women, who care about courtesies and consideration, had a lively discourse about restoring the art of cooperative engagement, otherwise known as the art of civility. This art has as its basis, The Golden Mean, which seems to be a bit tarnished nowadays.
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