#829 – Dick Bernard: "Return to Civility"

In my little corner of the universe, two topics dominated last week: 1) the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” speech (Jan 8, 1964); and 2) Gov Chris Christie’s situation in New Jersey (top headline on front page of USA Today one day last week: “I am not a bully”).
Neither poverty nor bully-ness is over in this country, but as things go, the news will soon be on to other daily outrages: that seems to be what the term “newsworthy” means these days.
Early last week I happened to notice a little book in my office:
Return to Civility001
I’ve had Return to Civility for a long while (copyright 2007), and it’s a collection of tiny pieces of advice to make our world, close by and everywhere, a better place, through our own actions.
I picked up the book, and the first page I came to is the one which follows. It struck me because recently a good friend had complained about a picture I’d taken at a funeral, and published as part of a previous blog post. It was nothing to be (in my opinion) offended about: just a picture of some people, including my friend, all perfectly respectable, none labeled in any way, just part of a group of folks at a funeral. It was the first time I’d heard the complaint, and told my friend that. But…there it was as a piece of advice about returning to Civility*.
(click to enlarge)
Return to Civility002
The original Return to Civility was co-authored by 16 staff members of the well known Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis MN.
Every piece of advice is simple, yet profound: just flipped to #111, “Learn when to keep quiet”. Then #214, “Stick to general, uncontroversial topics early in a conversation.” For the 14th day of 2014, “Don’t answer your phone if you’re engaged in conversation with someone.”
The rules are only suggestions, of course, and as with the conversation about the photograph at the funeral, not always clear and precise.
Nonetheless, if we are ever going to get past the dominance of Bully-ness in leadership (I’ve heard it called “country club behavior” by someone else, who knew what he was talking about), we’re going to have to take the idea to heart, call people on inappropriate behavior, and as is common policy in our schools (Bullied MSBA Journal)001, to take the issue of bullying on – yes, in a civil way!
* – Given the same circumstances, I’d probably take the same action – the photographs – again. Indeed I have, subsequently. But the complaint did cause me to give thought to the entire process of complexity of relationships in this ever-more exposed society of ours.
Related post here.

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