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Are We Actually Civilized?

Updated on March 11, 2018
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Peace, harmony, and lifelong learning are Liz's passions. She's outspoken on education and childhood and is an activist in local politics.

We Kid Ourselves Daily

It's true. We like to think of ourselves as civilized. We have a veneer of civilization and civility; codes of manners and laws to keep order. Aha! Gotcha! We apparently lack the ability within ourselves to maintain that veneer without threat of punishment in one form or another.

We must be told, lest our parents scold us, to say "please," and "thank you." We must be taught to allow the elderly lady the last seat on the bus; we are made to listen patiently to Uncle Bertrand's one-thousandth telling of the same tired old joke. We get into trouble in school for fighting; for pushing and shoving; for bullying; for throwing spitballs.

When we reach adulthood, it does not stop. There are so many laws to enforce behavior that no one person--no, not even those whose job it is to uphold said laws--can possibly remember them all. Actually, when you think about it, most laws are made in an attempt to legislate two traits formerly believed to be common: sense, and decency.

Beauty--and Apparently Manners, Too--Are Only Skin-Deep

Every so often throughout the year, we read of mob scenes in public places, most often in shopping malls. The behavior is shocking and shameful. It goes against every single thing we were ever taught by anyone.

The trigger event is usually a sale of some vastly coveted item, at an insanely reduced price. People line up in tents and lawn chairs overnight to be sure to be the first ones in the door when the store opens.

Unbelievable! There is no item on this planet worth such shenanigans.

Then, when the doors open, all the chatting and camaraderie of the temporary tent city evaporates faster than a drag racer can run the quarter-mile. All of a sudden, it's everyone for themselves as a mad dash is made to be the actual first person through that door.

What's with this "me first" attitude, anyway? What happened to our carefully cultivated "manners?" Out the window marked "greed," that's what!

Even more ironic and disgusting, is that a good deal of this selfish, rude, callous and outright mean behavior happens around the December holiday season--much touted for its spirit of goodwill, peace, and happiness.

How easily we shed our civilized masks.

Is This Really Necessary?


Fighting Over Poor Values

The most recent such fracas involved some popular brand or style of shoes. I didn't pay attention--I don't care. It does not matter. The point is, these shoes were on sale. Apparently, they "normally" sold for $180. Wow. These are tennis shoes; sneakers we're talking about.

What the heck are they made of? Gold and Platinum? I don't think so. They are ordinary, garden-variety tennis shoes. Or running shoes. Or cross-trainers. Or whatever modern fancy terminology they want to apply in the interest of driving up the price. They are still just tennis shoes/sneakers. You know--a rose by any other name... etc.

Crowds went wild; stores were trashed; people fought; people were trampled and injured; supplies ran out; customers took it out on everyone in sight; customers who had successfully made a purchase were attacked and robbed of the shoes in the parking lot.

What the hell is wrong with everyone??

I don't care what you call them--there is no pair of shoes on the planet worth that kind of money, or worth fighting over. Not one pair. Not even if they have some fancy-shmancy designer's name on them. (Those are probably made for the designer in some overseas factory for pennies on the dollar anyway, while said designer laughs all the way to the bank.)

If it's not shoes, it's cell phones, or a jacket; the 'what' doesn't matter so much as the principle behind all of this nonsense.

We have created a society with expectations we cannot live up to, or maintain."


Peer Pressure At Its Worst

That's all this was about: the latest "Must Have" item. Says who? These were adults, not children or teenagers acting this way.

They were the ones succumbing to peer pressure. The very same peer pressure against which they preach to their kids. (No wonder the little darlings are confused!)

Why that particular shoe? I have no doubt that the store was stocked with hundreds of other shoes. Who told them; who issued a military edict that they had better not arrive home without that specific shoe? If it was their kids, we as a country are in far worse trouble than I could ever have imagined.

Since when do the kids get to rule the roost and make these kinds of decisions? When I was growing up, I wore what my mother told me I could wear; what my parents could afford.

There was no arguing about it. If I didn't like it, I didn't have to go out and play with my friends. I could stay inside by myself. That's how it was then. That's how it should still be. Today's kids have far too much influence on purchasing power for their ages.

Parents have forgotten a very simple word: "No."

Do You Think It Ends With Fights Over Merchandise?

It does not. We are but animals walking upright, wearing a costume of civilization. Civilized, we are not. We fight, we bicker, we bully, and we call people rude names. Vultures fighting over a chunk of meat; lions fighting over a mate. We are no better.

The least insult, or perceived insult brings out a storm of rage, sometimes verbal, sometimes physical. Attacking others is not civilized behavior.

We humans have a major flaw of desiring more than we have. We always want more, and better than the other guy. Why? So we can gloat? So we can feel superior? On a small scale such as seen in the episode I described above, it is shameful.

On a larger scale, folks, we call it war. War comes in many shades and styles. Gang members have "turf wars." Excuse me? Fighting over "turf" they do not even own! How stupid is that? Entire countries have bigger, far worse wars: always with the threat of global annihilation hovering.

The other major human flaw lies in self-righteousness. Wanting to feel that our particular set of beliefs is better than anyone else's, be they political or religious or moral. That is bad enough, but the problems really begin when those folks feel they somehow have the right to force everyone else to feel the same way.

Where does it end? When is enough enough? When will we learn to be truly civilized? My husband, who holds a Master's Degree in Social Science puts it succinctly:

"We have created a society with expectations we cannot live up to, or maintain."

Just think: if everyone simply went about their lives, minded their own business, forgot about trying to 'convert' anyone else, was happy with the property they already had, stopped passing judgement on those who are "different," war would forever end. Civil unrest would cease. Mobs would not fight over sale items.

Although it is frequently scoffed at, treated as a whining piece of nonsense, I still have to agree with Rodney King, asking, "Why can't we all just get along?"

© 2012 Liz Elias


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