Sunday, March 4, 2012

Such is the state of American civility in 2012, as individuals – increasingly, it seems – defy convention and claim the right to define their own behavior. Some are just doing what they see being done around them – in the ubiquitous, often-weird entertainment industry; in the frequently immature and sometimes violent world of sports; in the tempting anonymity of the Internet, where each aberration-gone-viral seems to become the new norm.

Manners empower people to demonstrate respect for others, to avoid inflicting the unintentional insult, to defuse the kind of confusion that leads to conflict and violence. The mannerly know how to make good apologies when they mess up, as they inevitably will. And – as with the well-placed snub – they know how to deviate from convention as a means of voicing their concerns.

The greatest threat to civilized behavior? Technology, say the experts – in particular, on-screen lives that get people out of the practice of the more socially demanding face-to-face relationship.

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