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Time For Civility, Please 25 April 2007

Posted by David in Comment, Conservatives.

“Think of the messages parents give children from an early age. Be careful. Don’t do that. Do it this way. I’ll do that for you. That seems to me a fair summary of most of the messages that government gives the public. We are infantilising people – treating them like children, with the result that many of us are behaving like children. Policy is made for the minority who do wrong rather than the majority who do right.”

Few paragraphs could sum up the present day government than this one, from David Cameron’s speech on civility. Also worth reading is the sketch in The Times. But for all the ease of joking – and such a stance has much opportunity to lampoon – it’s true. As a society, civility has gone out the window. As he says, “We have come to assume, and to resign ourselves to the fact, that civility is on a permanent and inevitable downward slide. This is curious, since in other areas, we assume the opposite. We don’t assume that the economy will get worse.”

Look at the amount of swearing on television and in public, the downright rudeness and ignorance of some people, the fact every law and regulation is targeted for either the most utterly stupid or obsessively law breaking minority. Because one person may do something wrong we are all held back, like school children getting a class detention.

Some wrongly pin the lack of civility on Thatcherism – the creation of what they would call a “me, me, me” attitude – but this is wrong. The “me, me, me”attitude was just as present, even more so, in those out on strike (demanding X, Y and Z from taxpayers and using force to get it) than in those being successful in business. But this is not the cause of today’s problems.

The civility problems of today are not caused by economics, but by a complete attack on social values. An attack where the state takes over and induces a “help us” attitude rather than a “we can” attitude, where individual action to act is held back by over-regulation, and where the old values of decency, respect and civility are sneered and laughed at for being old fashioned, conservative and dull.

The ties that bind us – family, community, the nation, tradition – have been undermined and destroyed by people who detest what they stand for, failing to accept the strength we gain from such ties. “A love of tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.” Without sense of belonging, many – particularly young males – go looking for other groups to identify with, many leading to gangs based on race, religion or other divisions. Without sense of belonging, people are less inclined to help each other.

On the less extreme scale the young do not learn good manners and how to behave, and the rest of us soon give them up. The erosion of values and community also leaves us unconfident and weak. But “It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs“.

How we rebuild civility, I really do not know, it is an organic and natural thing. We can however, at least, stop undermining and attacking it.



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