it’s time to be civil (33)


 # 23. Respect the environment and be gentle to animals. … When we speak of a decline in civility, we usually refer to a crisis regarding established forms of concern, respect, and deference. As we do so, we tend to ignore new forms that take the place of old ones. Maybe the number of youngsters holding onto their bus seats while pregnant women and elderly gentlemen are precariously swaying in the aisle is on the rise. But then so, I believe, is the number of those who treat members of racial minorities with genuine respect. I am not saying that the advances in new civility should make us forget what we are losing. … What I am suggesting is that we don’t forget that the decline is not cutting across-the-board. It may be hard to believe, but in certain areas of our everyday behavior we are becoming more civil rather than less. A shining example of new civility is the remarkably serious commitment to the cause of the environment on the part of an extraordinary number of people from all walks of life.

An age-old component of humanity’s relationship with nature is fear: nature is dangerous, so we must defend ourselves from it. Over the past several decades, this traditional attitude has been eclipsed, at least partially, by one of concern. The new attitude is: nature is in danger, so we must defend it from ourselves. … we think that we are much more of a threat to nature than nature is to us. Only two or three generations ago it was commonplace to describe progress as the subjugation of nature by man. Today we are more likely to think of progress as freeing nature from the lethal embrace of a recklessly wasteful and polluting humanity. …

In the wake of the ecological revolution, it is impossible to be civil without an active concern for the health of our badly wounded planet.

Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni (St. Martin’s Press, 2002); pp.146-147,148

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