The Peace of La Politesse

I’m not the only person saying this, by a long shot. But we’re not spending enough time in one another’s company. And when we don’t, we tend to forget that there’s a real person at the other end of our communication.

Easy social give and take is anything but easy. Like all arts, while some people are naturally gifted, the rest of us have to practice. I watch people who start or finish a conversation with a soft touch, the right amount of hello and good bye, sweet admiration and firm boundary. It’s really quite lovely. Some long ago Frenchman, (i had his quote on my wall for years, you’d think I’d remember his name) was heard to say that Politeness was like the air in tires, not strictly necessary, but it made the ride a lot smoother. My friend Peg Streep just wrote an article about incivility and drama on the internet. Technology adds so much, I’m in contact with so many more people, reading so many differing points of view… but it is not intimate… and yet we can’t afford to speak with one another in any other way.

One of the pieces of the Steubenville rape case that haunts me is the fact that of all those children none were moved, if not to stop something scary themselves, to sneak away and call the police. That shows a lack of relationship to one self and one another. And a lack of respect. We keep asking questions that start with how long will it take for us to? Well, it’d better start now.

What do you think? what can we do? What does civility look like in a digital age. How do we continue to make the personal, human connections? How do we put the civil back in civilization?


One thought on “The Peace of La Politesse

  1. Hi Gil,

    Up in Vt with your bro…. Snowish.



    I really think (as I wrote in my blog post, link below) that this is an enormous crisis
    that remains unaddressed. For all of the community support that the Internet potentially offers, there is equally the loss of civility, notably among the young but also modeled by adults in public forums. The Steubenville example is appalling but not nearly as unusual as it ought to be. Note that two girls were arrested today for sending
    threatening texts and a threat on FB to the teen victim. The Internet permits us to forget that there is a human being on the other end of the line. Keep in mind that the younger generation, especially those in their teens, spend much more time texting than they do in face-to-face communication. Even when they are face-to-face, they are usually distracted by the texts they are receiving and sending.

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