EXCUSE ME, A LITTLE CIVILITY PLEASE?
The erosion of civility can be seen by looking through the window of a taxi late on a Saturday night in the city.
The Daily Telegraph has reported on the culture clash between “angry white females and migrant taxi drivers”. Photograph by Sam Ruttyn.
In one corner – the drunk, outspoken, scantily-clad young woman.
In the other – the male taxi driver from Central Asia or the Middle East.
It’s become a battle of the “isms”: the women accused of racism for being culturally insensitive; the drivers of sexism for taking offense at forthright Western women. Now, the taxi industry has developed ‘cultural training’ to avoid passenger conflict.
It’s a sad indictment on our society that we need lessons in common courtesy. “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything,” Mary Wortley Montagu wrote back in the 18th century.
Now, everywhere you turn, people are itching for a fight:
*A federal Cabinet Minister tells a shop owner to “f#@k off” because she doesn’t have enough pies.
*Protesters display ‘Ditch the Bitch’ placards at anti-carbon tax rallies.
*Celebrities like Russell Crowe, Barry Hall and Nick D’Arcy blame “brain snaps” for violent outbursts.
*Commentators call an Olympic swimmer “fat”, while silver medal-winners are dubbed “failures”.
*A 20-year-old man is stabbed in an unprovoked road rage attack in Sydney’s southwest.
*Instead of sorting out their differences, work colleagues threaten legal action.
*Talkback radio hosts prey on the fears of their listeners to vilify the vulnerable.
*Trolls spew hate from their dark suburban caves.
The comments section following the taxi story on www.news.com.au is a case in point.
“Nothing classier than these drunk slappers!” wrote Slap Town of Slapper Land.
“Send ‘em (the drivers) back to where they came from!” wrote another. Anonymity sharpens their poison pens.
This level of aggression is stifling sensible debate.
Where does it come from? Is it a lack of civility shown by some public figures and politicians that gives the cue for others to behave badly? Or are they merely mirroring the anger that’s already out there?
Whatever it is, it’s clear we need a circuit breaker.
In his new book, Hope, Tim Costello calls for a heightened level of public discourse – dare I say it – a return to political correctness.
He believes, by avoiding racist, sexist, and homophobic language, we follow the better angels of our nature.
In contrast, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is pledging to water down anti-discrimination laws. These are the same laws under which News Ltd. columnist Andrew Bolt was prosecuted for offending fair-skinned Aboriginal people. Abbott says it is impossible to have a test for “hurt feelings.” He says they interfere with the “fearless pursuit of truth.”
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