Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The center-page headline in USA Today, September 15: “What happened to civility?”

Today’s story recounts a House Member shouting “You lie.” He acted like a rude back-bencher in the British Parliament to President Obama during his recent speech on health care. The story then tells about a tennis player threatening bodily harm to a tennis official because she disagreed with a call. Then some rapper jumps on stage and grabs the microphone away from another artist who had won an award demanding that the award go to someone else. I can tell you what has happened to civility. These boorish people lack what we in auditing call “internal control.”

They have shut out that inner voice which warns us quietly not to do certain actions, threaten other actions and say vicious threats. They have tuned out the acoustic trigger which raises the volume for internal control. And our culture encourages this incivility because we tolerate it.

The congressman may face censure and a fine. The congressman apologized to the White House for his boorish behavior, but no real consequences here. The tennis player already had to pay $10,500 penalty but then won a championship after a mushy apology. No suspension or consequences, only further praise for the won championship. The rapper appears to be in continuous apology mode even shedding tears on Jay Leno feeling guilt for his juvenile actions. He said he was just “being real.” No real consequences here either. The more he cries the more his fans adore him.

In my view these boorish people will continue to behave inappropriately because they think they are special; they are above everyone; and they have balloon tight inflated egos. They feel they are very important and above civility. What has caused them to go deaf to their internal control mechanism? They are angry that they did not get enough attention from their parents when they were younger. All three knew they were going to be the center of attention in the news, TV, radio, Internet, blogs, twitter and all the rest. With no consequences for their ill-mannered actions they will strive further into greater boorish behavior.

The story in USA Today ends with a quote with which I heartily agree: “So, no it’s not OK to say, ‘That’s just the way society is today’ and leave it at that.”

And I say society does not have to be like that. And Charity Tillemann-Dick, a young constituent from North Denver, feels the same. Several years back, while a student at Regis University Charity got the Colorado House and Senate to pass a resolution to Congress asking that everyone work for civility in our country in our dealings with others. With Charity let us continue to march up the mountain of accountability and civility in our lives, our politics and our nation.

Society does not have to be like that. Boorish and inappropriate behavior should have consequences.

Along with Charity Tillemann-Dick of North Denver, we all have to work to listen to the inner voice that nudges us to self-control and internal control. We have to encourage our friends and families be civil to each other. Let us start there. This will not be an easy battle to change the culture. But we can do it. I know we can.

It’s a pity we don’t have nuns around anymore in long black habits with 3 foot long rulers encouraging us to be civil.

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