Why would anyone behave with incivility towards another human being? The definition won’t tell you.
in·ci·vil·i·ty | \ˌin(t)-sə-ˈvi-lə-tē \
1 : the quality or state of being uncivil
2 : a rude or discourteous act
Does looking at the definition of the root word, civility, help?
noun plural ci·vil·i·ties.
1. courtesy; politeness.
2. a polite action or expression: an exchange of civilities.
3. Archaic . civilization; culture; good breeding.
Nope! So what is the basis for civility? Why do most people generally treat other people with respect? Well, one reason is that we are afraid of each other. We are the meanest, nastiest, most dangerous creatures on Earth. When one of us harms another, most of us will at least consider revenge. However, if the prospect of vengeance alone was enough to maintain civility amongst us, we probably would not need government. In fact, because we are so cantankerous, vengeance often leads to a cycle of violence. When both sides seek revenge for the other side’s acts of vengeance, it takes a powerful government to bring the violence among us to an end.
So is government the basis for civility? No. Government is just a tool. Government is just a means for maintaining order. When unscrupulous people run it, government becomes the worst offender against civility. Don’t we have numerous of examples of governments terrorizing, brutalizing, and enslaving vast populations? What we do with government — how our government functions — depends upon what those in control believe.
So what is it that Americans believe? Why do we expect America to be a civil society? Since it is probably one of the most quoted passages ever written, I suppose it has become trite. Since so many have died defending the idea — the concept it communicates — that’s a shame.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (from here)
That passage is, of course, from the Declaration of Independence. Why would we believe all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights? We share a Christian heritage. There was a time when almost all Americans had a much greater familiarity with the Bible and took what the Bible says seriously. So they had a shared understanding of certain concepts.
- We belong to God, not each other. We exist to glorify God, not some great man.
- We were made in the image of God. When we sin against — wrong — our neighbor, we sin against our Lord.
- God gave each of us a free will. It is up to each of us, man or woman, to choose to obey Him. Even those who have never heard of the Bible know in their hearts when they wrong another. We each know in our heart the meaning of the Golden Rule.
- We each have a right — an obligation — to protect ourselves and each other, but vengeance belongs to the Lord. We expect our government to punish miscreants to deter crime, but God’s judgement is the ultimate judgement of our souls.
- Jesus summarized the Old Testament law with two commands: love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and love your neighbor as you love your self.
So it is that our Declaration of Independence speaks of a government tasked to protect the rights of all men, not just the rights of a select few.
So why then is incivility on the rise? As a nation we have failed in our duty as parents. We have not made certain our children know the Bible says, that they have actually read and studied it.
In addition to being the Word of God, the Bible is a historical document. Unfortunately, instead of reading historical documents, learning for themselves what these documents say, it has become the fashion for schools to tell students what to think about the past, to use carefully crafted textbooks to make certain students learn politically correct beliefs. As a consequence, secularized schools teach very little about the importance of our Christian heritage.
Unlike previous generations few now receive a decent Christian education. What would that involve?
Luke 9:23 New King James Version (NKJV)
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his crossdaily, and follow Me.
Take up our cross daily, a brutal instrument of execution? Why would anyone want to do that? It doesn’t sound appealing to sacrifice ourselves for others. So we send our children to public schools where they learn to esteem themselves, how to be coddled and babysat for life. Instead of learning how to be obedient to God and learning to love and serve each other, they learn how to be served. Looks like a good deal, but it leads to tyranny. When most citizens demand to be served, and few are willing to serve, that allows demagogues to buy the votes they need to become tyrants.
Consider what President John F. Kennedy expected of Americans.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. (from here)
When we vote for what politicians can give us, they can buy us with a pleasing little prize. What do we get as a result? The tyranny of the majority. Instead of a constitutional republic that recognizes individual rights, even the rights of the minority, we get the absolute rule of the majority.
Because it is democratic, majoritarian rule sounds reasonable, but tyranny of any sort quickly leads to plain old tyranny, Nazism and Communism are just modern examples. When we do not love our neighbors and respect their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no one has any rights.