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The Loss of Civility – Part I by Jason Ivey

Last weekend, a production assistant working on a big car-chase movie in New York was trying to lock up a street (that means diverting or closing sidewalks off to pedestrians either for safety or to protect the shot) when he was intentionally head-butted by a man who was in a hurry to get to a paint store. The head-butt sent the young PA to the hospital (with a possible broken nose) and the man who committed the assault was arrested.

The people in my business were appalled that someone would use physical violence against a young PA, while sticking to their belief that we “have a right to be there.” (There’s a more arrogant version of this attitude in the business known as “cinematic immunity.”)

The story made the news, and in the reports that I read, the media chose to report what happened, then to make the story about how film and television shoots are disruptive to neighborhoods, and how many New Yorkers are just fed up with the constant intrusion and taking over of highly-valued parking spaces. So, you see, there was some justification to the head-butt.

Then on Monday, we had the case of the JetBlue flight attendant. This story was amusing to me for the 30 seconds it took to digest all of the details, but then quickly became the Story of the Week, complete with more information than anyone should care to know about Steven Slater’s (sad that I even know his name) family, his personal life, where he lives, etc. The moronic reporters who can’t think of anything better to do now follow this guy all over town.

What was most disturbing was reading the number of responses by people who considered him to be some kind of hero. I understand the “take this job and shove it” mentality to a point (it used to have a nice anti-authoritarian-in-a-blue-collar-sense ring to it), but if this is what passes for “heroic” then we are in deep, deep trouble.

In both cases, what got lost was the magnitude of the responses to the perceived wrongs. There is also little to no discussion about the general loss of civility in everyday life, to the point where lashing out and either physically attacking someone who stands in the way of someone else in a hurry (as in the head-butt case) or cursing out an entire plane-load of people gets treated as a vicarious fantasy by others who have wanted to lash out in similar ways but just haven’t had the nerve. The story becomes “Yeah! I’ve wanted to do that too!” instead of about the injuries caused by behavior that crosses the line of what should be societally acceptable. These were just two examples that I found from the last week, I’m sure we can all come up with others, as they can be found in the news on any given day. The guy who gunned down a dozen people over perceived racism takes this to a whole other level.

Every time I see stories like this, I think about how further and further divided our society has become, to the point where we’re all bothering and annoying each other to such a degree that physical violence gets treated as a justifiable response to all of this rudeness and under-appreciation of someone else’s daily toils. One person’s incivility gets answered with an even greater level of incivility. Take that! There are those among us who are promoting more and more separateness and segregation through multiculturalism, amnesty, and the introduction of a sharia society, not to mention the current everyone-is-a-racist obsession. “Differentness” and “separateness” has been celebrated to the point where any sort of common culture is unrecognizable. The dumbed-down, celebutard part of the culture has dragged down the language we speak and the manners we use. All of this is leading us to a more primitive form of discourse, where people feel assaulted wherever they go and feel justified in striking back. New York has always been a tough city because a cross section of the world was crammed into one tiny island, and people were forced to somehow make it work. But now these divisions and fissures are deeper and spreading everywhere.

Part II coming…


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