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Is civility dead?

Are civility, good behavior and manners relics of the past? I read occasionally in some London papers and even American ones of the distributing decline in social graces and correctness.

Well, I got a local example in Jeddah last Friday at a sandwich shop when a customer came in and hurled abuses at the counter clerk. This young man used vulgar terms and then just walked away. The clerk smiled at me and said that there were many like him and that the staff had got used to them.

You see examples of the decline in courtesy and politeness almost twenty-four hours a day. There are hundreds of such incidents: a car parked right in front of your driveway or some bloke blowing the horn late at night or early in the morning to announce his arrival seemingly oblivious to the fact that people have cell phones now.

And, of course, the lack of care, courtesy and even common sense exhibited by drivers on the roads in the Kingdom is well known and often leads to tragic consequences.

So where does all this leave us?

As someone recently remarked, “religion” for all these violators is only in the mosque. Their pious looks quickly turn into glaring stares when they are out jostling, pushing, breaking lines and disturbing others.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the hallmarks of our society today.

So how then can we recapture some of our pristine values? The mosque imams are not the ones to turn to. Their focus is only on teaching without reference to everyday life. They forget that spirituality is far more needed than religiosity. And besides many of them do not possess the communication skills to relay written plans and programs.

Schools are the first stop. A well-planned education system that incorporates knowledge and character building can ensure a more civil society in the next decade.

Here the media should also play a role and together with sponsorship from major companies, a program should be initiated to rethink and reshape our behavior. It’s no use discussing the ills of our society in closed rooms.

We have to act. We cannot play the role of parents, as many of them need parenting themselves, but we can mentor young people individually or on a national scale to improve societal behavior.


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