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The Loss Of Civil Discourse

Updated on September 28, 2010
The Death Of Civility
The Death Of Civility
Romans Were Known For Their Civility Until The Empire Began To Crumble
Romans Were Known For Their Civility Until The Empire Began To Crumble

Civil Discourse

Civility refers to the behavior between members of society that create a social code and is a foundational principle of a civilized society. The Romans in creating an empire that expanded around the world put great emphasis on civil virtue. The Romans believed in honest debate, civility in the streets and treating adversaries with respect, even if defeating them in battle.

Historians looking at the fall of the Roman Empire have tried to find reasons why the great Empire failed. Many see the loss of the civil society as a symptom of the loss of civility in general as a major reason for the fall of the Romans. People stopped treating each other with respect. The Empire itself stopped treating those they conquered with respect. What was once a society of of mutual respect for all became a society of overconfidence of complacency. The very values that made the Roman Empire great were the very values that were left behind.

The United States is undoubtedly the most powerful nation on earth. Like the Romans, America's influence spans the world over and for the most part is unquestioned and unrivaled. However, the same symptoms of societal breakdown exist today. Slowly the civility that once existed in America is disappearing.

The Breakdown Of The Road: A Symptom Of The Breakdown Of The Civility
The Breakdown Of The Road: A Symptom Of The Breakdown Of The Civility

The Road

One place where the breakdown of civil discourse is on America's roads and highways. Driving is an endeavor based on trust. When driving, you trust that the others on the road will follow the rules, not drive over lines, and not conduct themselves in a way that puts others in danger. For many years, drivers followed these rules.

However, in recent years these rules have broken down. People constantly cut off other drivers, speed beyond belief and break every rule of the road. Have you noticed how this has even broken down in parking lots? Now people just back out of spaces without looking, cut in front to get to a space and speed through the lots with total disregard of the safety of others.

Bad Customer Service: A Symptom Of The Death Of Civility
Bad Customer Service: A Symptom Of The Death Of Civility

Customer Service

Another symptom of the breakdown of America's civil discourse is the breakdown of customer service.  From restaurants to shopping centers, there is no longer an emphasis on treating the customer with respect.  Instead, generally, customers are looked only at as sales or profits and the only goal is the sale.  Making the customer happy during this process is not a major consideration.

Think about it.  Is the waitstaff at restaurants as eager to get orders right, fill your drinks and be in a good mood as they used to be?  Sure, fast food employees have always been on the lower end of the service spectrum, but this has moved into mainstream restaurants.  The giant superstores no longer even offer customer service representatives.  Instead, they offer lower prices in exchange for long lines and nobody around to help you find anything.  And nobody has a problem making you wait even though you have an appointment.  This lack of mutual respect for people's time and money is a symptom of the breakdown of civil discourse.

The End Of Political Debate:  A Symptom Of The Death Of Civility
The End Of Political Debate: A Symptom Of The Death Of Civility

Political Discourse

There may be no greater example of the breakdown of civil discourse than the political arena. Both political parties spend millions of dollars trying to tear down the other side. No longer do the parties actually debate issues, but instead run dirty ads bringing up every personal problem and lack of judgment any candidate has ever made in their lives.

But in the political arena as a whole there are more symptoms of breakdown of civility. Before the United States was the symbol of freedom and treated adversaries with respect, now we are arguing about what constitutes torture and is some torture alright depending on who it is being used against. When did the United States begin to wonder whether torture was wrong when before there was no question torture is wrong?

Americans Can Learn From The Romans And Add A Little Humbleness TO Their Greatness
Americans Can Learn From The Romans And Add A Little Humbleness TO Their Greatness

We Can Learn From The Romans

The Roman Empire spanned the world and tied the world together with its technological advances and rules of civility.  When the rules of civility began to break down, so did the Roman Empire.

Unlike the Roman Empire, The United States can learn from the mistakes made by a superpower that led to its downfall.  The people can learn from the mistakes of their Roman counterparts, and be humble about winning the civilization powerball and being born into the greatest Country in the world.  We can be civil.  And the world will be a better place. 


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    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Well, calling Obama a socialist is not an example of civility but my problem with both parties is that they do not even debate anymore, they do not try to persuade. Both sides just scream. Loss of civility is a symptom of a falling society so to applaud it because it works is not the point. It works because people applaud it and that is the problem.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      Stu From VT 

      7 years ago

      No doubt much of the loss of civility in the service sphere is due to overwork, low wages, and fear of job loss; at present, employers have the upper hand due to the high unemployment rate.

      But the loss of civility in Congress may not be such a bad thing. While sadly most in the GOP are non-ideological RINO's, at least they are to an extent seeing the dangers of the Democrat's socialist agenda and blocking some of it. This of course is a highly uncivil process (filibusters and House defunding decisions), but it gets the job done. If TPM saturation of Congress increases, things are going to get alot more uncivil; laws and EO's that violate enumerated powers will no doubt face repeal bills, as well as court filings to vacate.

    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Totally agree William, thanks for the comment

    • William R. Wilson profile image

      William R. Wilson 

      9 years ago from Knoxville, TN

      Right on BG. Even if we don't agree with "the other side" we should still be civil and let everyone have their say. This has been a problem as long as I can remember - the opposition party in congress blocks legislation just for the political points it seems. And the pundits just fan the flames. We should watch out - the internet flame wars might turn into real flames sooner than we realize.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Your Hub makes a valid point in a clear manner. I recommend a new book that ties directly into your subject, "The Case for Civility" by Os Guinness. Thanks for bringing this important idea into the limelight.

    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Well, the conservative dig aside (lol) values are needed. They are still there, just not abided by.

      As always, thanks for the comment.

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      I can't agree with you more. Good oh conservative values are needed.

      Thank you for your insights.

      Keep on Hubbing!


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