What Should Be Done About Gun Violence?
Leadership & Ethics Go Hand in Hand

Regaining Civility in the U.S.

CivilityWe Have Lost Our Moral Compass

Civility! We need to become a more civil nation. How many times have you heard it? Too many times. Forget civility, we need to become less rude in dealing with each other. We can't regain our civility until we realize we have become an abrupt nation of disrespectful people who care little about anything other than ourselves. Of course, I don't mean all of us. But I fear the percentage is getting close to crisis levels.

People no longer say 'thank you' or 'excuse me' when they want to express their feelings. My pet peeve is when I am sitting in a movie theater in a tight space, or on an airline, and "neighbor" passes by me without saying either one. They have no qualms about stepping on my feet or worse.

We no longer talk to each other -- we talk at each other. We know longer listen first and then talk to be understood. Our minds are trained to say what's on it without giving thought to whether our words might hurt others. 

I could provide many examples of the decline of basic values of kindness. Just think of situations where a group of people do not want a speaker to speak. They want to take his or her First Amendment rights away from them. We see it on college campuses, on the streets, and in the political arena.

The Internet is a breeding ground for rudeness. Trolling behavior exemplifies it. People feel free to say whatever they want to whoever they want whenever they want. No one seems to think about the consequences of their behavior on others. No one seems to care.

We can blame violent video games, explicit television shows, You Tube videos, and so on. The real cause is the breakdown of the family unit. Recent census data shows that while the majority of America’s 73.7 million children under age 18 live in families with two parents (69 percent), this is compared to 88% in 1960. That's about a 25% drop. 

During the 1960-2016 period, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent and the percentage of children living with only their father increased from 1 to 4 percent. The percentage of children not living with any parent increased slightly from 3 to 4 percent.

What's happened is one parent has all the responsibilities for child rearing in all too many cases, which means they come home from work tired and, perhaps, stressed out. It's hard to focus on manners and civility when all you want is a glass of wine and some quiet time.

But the truth is that's only part of the problem. Kids are unruly in schools so teachers have become cops. Increasingly, fights break out in our schools between students and even students on teachers. This is no way to educate kids.

People feel disconnected to their neighbors. They don't say hello or even nod their heads. Who can blame them. We all fear what may happen to us in the streets given the ever-rising tide of violence in the U.S. 

Fear and inconvenience. It's all about the fear -- fear of something happening to us we dread. It's easier not to get involved. Inconvenience; we don't want to go out of our way for a stranger. Who has the time for it? Who cares about it? No one would do the same for me.

Is there an answer to the ethical dilemma of having lost our moral compass? I ask myself this question almost every day. All I can say is it's far less likely today than ever before. But, we have to try -- each in our own way. 

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 28, 2018. Dry Mintz is a Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Visit his website at and sign up for his newsletter.