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What's Wrong with Society?

Incivility and Self-Absorbed Behaviors Run Amok

I've thought a lot about where we're headed as a society. It seems things are getting worse in so many areas that I wonder whether civility can ever be regained. I'm using the word "civility" in a broad sense, not only to mean good manners, kindness and empathy but how we treat others in a variety of circumstances. 

In the past few weeks we've learned about criticism of Ellen Degeneres and Vince Vaughn for shaking hands with President Trump. Whether you like him or not, President Trump is a human being and shaking his hand, even if you disagree with his views and sometimes bad choices (i.e., his character), is simply an act of kindness. We don't have to respect the person but we should respect the office of the President of the U.S. 

Today, we see police men and women disrespected yet their role is to protect society. A seemingly large and growing number of citizens hurl expletives at police and even throw things at them, and now we see some killed in their cars or the streets.

Others are disrespected such as teachers. These are people who are charged with educating youngsters and making us a better informed society, which is essential to healthy political discourse. Why would anyone go into teaching, especially in public schools, when they risk being cursed at and even exposed to violence?

We seem to have a self-absorbed society. All too many people think only about themselves. What's best for them is the mantra, not how can they be contributing members of a civil society. This is evidenced by the "selfie." It's all about them, all of the time.

We have morphed into a society that has no idea about what ethics is. Right and wrong is relative to each of us. I may believe it's wrong to shout down a speaker, even one with whom I disagree. Another person may think it's fine to do so to show our displeasure, but they never think about the fact that others may want to hear the speaker. Groupthink takes over and if you disagree with the prevailing view, you may be canceled on the internet. Incivility

Things have gotten worse in our large cities. The level of violence in cities like Baltimore and Chicago is scary. Are we at a point where it may not be safe to walk the streets in some cities?

Between 2011 and 2018, San Francisco experienced a massive increase in reported incidents of human feces found on public streets. In 2011, just over 5,500 reports were logged by the S.F. Department of Public Works; in 2018, the number increased to more than 28,000. Civility in society is unsustainable with these problems.

Homeless people living on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Miami are also relieving themselves on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Miami, turning the city’s core into an outdoor toilet, merchants and residents have said.

In Los Angeles, 58,000 people do not have permanent housing and are living beneath freeways, on beaches and in tent cities. 

I could go on but by now you get the point. If you don't, then things are worse than I thought. 

When did we lose our humanity as a nation and why? This is a complicated question and one for another blog. Suffice it to say that selfishness, a lack of a moral compass, no role models in society and all kinds of negative behaviors on the internet and social media sites, not to mention in television and movies, have created a nation of narcissists. 

Like any disease, a collective narcissistic population can't be treated until we first recognize the problem. It's like addiction to alcoholism or drugs: first, admit you have a problem; next, understand the root causes; third, commit to changing your behavior; take responsibility and make amends. And, then and only then can we begin to change the declining morality in our society.

Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on January 16, 2020. Dr. Mintz is an award-winning blogger. His Ethics Sage blog was recognized as one the top 100 in philosophy (#23) by Feedspot ( He recently published a book Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior that is available on Amazon. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities on his website: Follow him on Facebook at: