Monday, May 02, 2022

What Happened To Civility?

Canadians used to be famous for their civility. The roots of that civility are a little hard to trace. Robin Sears writes:

Perhaps it grew out of the need to pretend to show respect to Canada’s Indigenous peoples, so as to beguile them into suicidal concessions.

Another thread in our effort to maintain a harmonious social tapestry must have been the often painful relationship between francophone and anglophone Canadians, and the need to manage mutual concessions on an ongoing basis.

It is evident in our remarkable, if unfathomable, success at growing from an all-white, somewhat racist and socially rigid community to the most successful multicultural nation on earth. Surprisingly, we are in overwhelming agreement that adding nearly five million immigrants and refugees a decade — more than ten per cent of our population — to Canada is a good and necessary thing.

But that civility is disappearing:

So why are we so frivolously throwing away the social civility that makes that possible? We can blame Americans, social media, too little civics education and more. More usefully, we might examine why over-the-top insults are so appealing to most of us, when directed at a hated target, or why Trudeau knows that when he uses insulting invective to attack his opponents, it’s a political plus for him. And then putting ourselves in the shoes of those under attack — especially the young and the vulnerable — before spitting a slur at someone who offends us.

There are all kinds of examples of the uncivil and the cruelty around the world these days. But Sears suggests that we turn to Shakespeare to find the reason: " The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Image: Quote Fancy


the salamander said...

I think there’s a connection re Civility under cannon fire via The Attention Industry Plague Fleet. In this new era there’s a lot at stake in the partisan political moneypits & symbiotic Mainstream Media, Social Media.. like all sorts of embedded remora in the form of backroom advisors,Data Haulers, law firms, paid pollsters think tank wankers, PR firms.. bots, trolls & on along the symbiotic Partisan Packworld

None of those are full on Kumbaya types.. rather all too often, rude crude proud of it bullish pompous & even other novel posturing.. They’re the Plague Ships & crews of ‘Conservative’ Partisanship .. Civility ?

Bill Malcolm said...

I always thought our supposed civility was due to a lack of national and personal self-confidence. Too timid to speak up. But I remember being blown away by a group of loud-mouthed old ladies of the blue-rinse set in a London Underground giant 24 person lift elevator at Russell Square Station -- not every station had escalators in 1971. These old girls cackled and swore like troopers, and told the lift operator to bug off when he asked them to quiet down. Damn Yankees, I thought. Well blow me down, didn't it turn out they were from Hamilton! Rude as you'd want, and not a good quiet little doggie like me, a Canadian grad student abroad.

Mostly myth, this politeness tag we gave ourselves, I think. Generally, we're just normal and not American.

The Brits were just as polite as we were in my experience of those days. But American tourists sounding off around the Russell Square tourist hotels was a continuous occurrence. They got quietly ripped off and ridiculed in the local restaurants as well, which was a hoot to watch. Well, the staff were used to them after years of "serving" them, a new batch every weekend.

Smooth Italian waiter. In comes a loudmouth with a voice like a foghorn with his long-suffering wife: "Whaddya mean, you ain't got no hamburgers?! What kind of a joint is this?" "We do have beefburgers, but not hamburgers, sir." "Goddam it, give me a beefburger and fries, then." Wifey cringes. "Yes sir. What type of food are these fries you want?" "Jesus, like those fries that guy over there is eating. Are you dumb?" "Oh, you mean chips, sir, I see."

Then five minutes later, the waiter comes back with a hamburger patty and chips on a huge plate. "What the hell is this? I ordered a hamburger and fries!" "Yes sir, this is a beefburger and chips." "See that guy over there, he's eating a hamburger, fer Crisake. Are you trying to make fun of me?" "Ah sir, that's a Wimpy. See here on the menu, where we list everything? Beefburger in bun, our famous Wimpy." That American went apoplectic. And the crowd literally roared with laughter at him in his distress. Damn Yankee fool. The restaurant was run by British Italians who knew just how to deal with people who thought the world was their oyster, never said please and thankyou, and who figured everywhere was a carbon copy of downtown Peoria. Canadians had much more clue about realizing they were actually in a foreign country and that maybe, just maybe, "things" were different. They asked polite questions and got straight answers. I loved my time over there, never had a problem.

As you can tell, I enjoyed that restaurant scene, and in my mind's eye, can replay it to this day. What a hoot. And that family restaurant was actually really darn good, because most restaurants around were pretty grotty a la British food of lore. Hence my presence there, often. And yes, in those far off days, Wimpy was the term in England for a hamburger after the Popeye cartoon guy, J Wimpy Wellington. Those Brits were just not willing to be taken for granted, no way, no how by some uncouth American. So let's say not that Canadians are particularly polite in world terms, but generally we're not like Americans, who are more likely to be the exception. Saw them acting that way all over Europe in my backpacking trek, not all, but enough that you certainly noticed.

Owen Gray said...

I think you may be on to something, sal. Both you and Andy Warhol, who said that we all sought our fifteen minutes of fame.

Owen Gray said...

That's the vision of Canadians I prefer Bill. But over the weekend -- at the Rolling Thunder farce -- I noticed a Tea Party Flag -- Don't Tred on Me! -- on Parliament Hill.

Trailblazer said...

Whilst there is much blame to go around, the USA influence, particularly after Trump is becoming a defining moment in Canadian attitudes and actions.

That Canadians now mimic so much of the USA is disturbing.


John B. said...

That's right. Toronto needs more people. And we love it! That's a lot of shovel work for one lousy assumption burial.

Owen Gray said...

Indeed, TB. Fools -- and those who follow them -- are doomed.

Owen Gray said...

Toronto has never been popular in the rest of the country, John.