Our increasingly uncivil cities
“Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.”
- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, poet 1689-1762
What is wrong with some people?
Last week I witnessed two disturbing examples of awful behaviour – and I’m sick and tired of our increasingly uncivil cities.
In Vancouver, a street person was playing Frisbee catch with his small dog on the Robson Street section closed to traffic, with dozens of people nearby.
When the dog barked at him to throw the Frisbee again an ordinary-looking man suddenly shouted, “Shut your fffing dog up! You stupid ffffer.”
And he continued F-bombing, clearly very agitated at just a man playing with a dog.
Then when a big tractor-trailer truck was trying to navigate a left turn from a side street onto Marine Drive in south Vancouver, it blocked six lanes of traffic.
The truck driver couldn’t get past two stopped cars but once they realized that, both backed up to let him through.
You would think he’d be grateful for the help – but not at all. Once clear, he vigorously gave them a middle finger through his open window and yelled, “F-you you fffers!” as he angrily drove off!
Unbelievable. And I’ve often witnessed similar public blow ups.
So why are some people so uncivil?
Public relations firm Weber Shandwick has studied civility in the U.S. annually since 2010 with increasingly bad results. Its 2016 survey found 84% of Americans have experienced incivility and 75% believe it’s at a crisis level, while 90% say it leads to intimidation, threats, harassment, discrimination and violence.
And three-quarters of those blame politicians, followed by social media at 69% and news media at 59%.
An amazing 97% said the U.S. president should be civil – but Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump obviously isn’t listening, nor are some local politicians.
Last week in our Legislature, Speaker Daryl Plecas met strong resistance for ruling that B.C. Liberal opposition MLAs can’t question NDP cabinet ministers with insulting nicknames like “minister of intimidation.”
What’s the civil solution? We are – 75% in the study said setting a good example is essential.
Or as American novelist Henry James advised: “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”
It’s time to make our cities – and society – more civil.
Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman