Civility in the North Country and across America continues to erode, and rude behavior is becoming a new normal.
Civility is defined by Miriam Webster as “polite, reasonable and respectful behavior.” Lately we’ve observed several instances of uncivil performance around here. They reinforce recent sociological research that’s been published.
To wit: A young driver inches out onto a narrow Plattsburgh street, her view obstructed by a delivery truck. A pickup truck traveling along the street sounds its horn, giving the motorist the one-finger salute while a female passenger let’s go with a profane tirade berating the driver.
Another: The SUNY Plattsburgh Field House hosts several high-school commencement exercises this time of the year. Getting out of the huge parking lot can be a challenge following any event there, but the behavior of motorists, both young and old, at one morning graduation was unacceptable. Motorists wouldn’t give an inch to allow others to move into the exit lines, causing near-miss collisions and expletive-filled discourse.
The fourth-annual study on Civility in America: A Nationwide Survey — conducted by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick and public-affairs firm Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research — found that 70 percent of Americans believe incivility has reached crisis proportions.
With Americans encountering incivility more than twice a day on average (2.4 times per day), and 43 percent expecting to experience incivility in the next 24 hours, dealing with incivility has become a way of life for many. Additionally, 81 percent of Americans think that incivility is leading to an increase in violence.
Politicians, America’s youth, the media and the Internet are assigned most responsibility for the problem. Most notably, for the first time since the survey began in 2010, the Internet/social media has risen into the top ranks of perceived causes of incivility. Of those who expect civility to worsen in the next few years, 34 percent blame Twitter — a significant rise from 2012.
Researchers look at civility through a generational lens to better understand what the future holds for society. Civility in 2014 reiterates that America has a civility deficit. The overwhelming majority of each generation — Millennials (93 percent), Gen Xers (92 percent), Boomers (94 percent) and the Silent Generation (97 percent) — perceives a civility problem in America.
Although Americans are unanimous about the bleak state of civility, the Millennial generation seems less convinced of a more uncivil future. Nearly one in four Millennials (23 percent) — two to four times the percentage of other generations — believe civility will improve in the next few years.
Let’s hope so.