The cost of incivility
Tearing ourselves asunder
…Posting early to get ahead of the traffic…
I was accosted in the parking lot at work this week. Thankfully it was just words. A hot mess of words, and these days you never know where that will lead.
It seems that I made a left turn in front of someone who had not yet moved from their stop and they took umbrage. Unbeknownst to me, they followed me into the lot, waited the several minutes it took me to emerge from my car (it takes some time for me to gather myself and get upright these days) and parked cheek-to-jowl behind me.
There are often cars coming into the lot early in the am, most often to ask when the ReStore opens, or if they can drop off a donation, so I thought nothing of this. “Can I help you, ma’am,” I asked. Then she let me have it, verbally. What an incompetent driver I was, how I cut her off, how I should lose my license, how I was a menace to society, etc., all delivered in a profane screech. I stood there, on my crutches, speechless for a moment.
“I’m sorry…you hadn’t moved…” I offered.
“It doesn’t matter, I had the right of way, I was going straight, you are an @#$@*&” she spewed. Her volume was high enough that a colleague came out of the office to see what was going on. Seeing a witness, the woman flipped me the bird, laid rubber and left the lot in a trail of dust.
Several hours later, the latest mass shooting was reported. These are the new days of rage, it seems. Most of these days, it seems.
We need to stop this madness, of course, but I fear that we won’t because we cannot*. Gun violence is a stain on our nation, and it is our unique symptom of the toll of the incivility that we are allowing to escalate. Incivility seems to have penetrated deep into everyday interactions. We are a violent people, and many seem to have shed whatever previously shackled their inner demons.
We’ve all seen the Karen memes, and real-life Karens in action. As the NY Times put it…"A nation on hold wants to speak with the manager.”
93% of Americans agree that incivility is a problem in this country. Tellingly, neither the level of incivility nor the public’s perception have changed much in more than a decade. Also tellingly, most Americans feel it will not get better until the political will to change it is found (see asterisk * above.)
Incivility at work is also rising, spurred by the pandemic, a study found. What to do? Perhaps an ancient mystic can offer advice on how to quell one’s furies:
Learn how to act sincerely from Ali
God’s lion, free from all impurity:
During a battle, he subdued a foe
Then drew his sword to deal the final blow.
That man spat in Ali’s pure face, the pride
Of every saint and prophet far and wide
The moon prostrates itself before this face
At which he spat — this act was a disgrace!
Ali put down his saber straight away
And, though he was on top, he stopped the fray.
The fighter was astonished by this act,
That he showed mercy though he’d been attacked.
When asked why he sheathed his sword, Ali responds:
Illustrious one, I am you and you are I
Ali, how could I cause Ali to die!
Until we (re)learn that we are all one, we will be stuck killing ourselves, slowly and surely. And not softly.
Once again, Al, you nailed it! I'm so frustrated by incivility that I want to bash someone with my cane--which is just what I should NOT want to do. To anyone. Ever. Thank you for the reminder. (I greatly appreciated the TED talk.)
Well said, Al. The only people who can change this dynamic is ourselves.