Run around Howard County, Md and you'll see these little green bumper stickers that say "Choose Civility in Howard County". I started noticing these a few years ago and I pretty much ignored it until recently. It always stuck me as a bit odd since HoCo is pretty civil to begin with. Then all of the publicity surrounding the campaign started coming out. Okay, so I now know where it's coming from and what the library is trying to push. What do I do about it? I read the book.
What first stuck me about the book Choosing Civility was that it started out just fine. It basically said, "Wouldn't it be great to be nice to people for a change?" to quote the late Douglas Adams. However, there was something that didn't sit well with me. Perhaps it was the tagline of the book, "The Twenty-Five Rules for Considerate Behavior". I don't know about you, but for me, whenever some says "rules" I tend to run away. Rules are dictating behavior or ways of thinking. In a sense, it's what the blue collar conservatives complain about when talking about "those liberal elites" or "the PC brigade". It's what people rail against Columbia about when they talk about what they can or cannot do to their house. Nevermind that it's really making people to go through a process and talk about renovations and so forth. But then that's another story.
Getting past my mentality about the title, I got down to really considering what it's saying. As I said, it started off nicely. It was talking about being polite and courteous to those around you. That's all very nice. I like to say "please" and "thank you". I like holding the door for someone. I even make sure that I use the right fork with dinner. (A little sarcasm here, but what the heck.) What really got me as I read further and further into the book was that it was not so much about an etiquette guide a la Miss Manners, but a tirade against what the author sees as improper behavior intruding on his own private space. It's almost as if he's telling people how they should behave to conform with his view of the world. As if he's saying that he's right and the world would be a better place if people just do as he says.
To me this is the paramount of uncivil behavior. It's the arrogance of Forni that turns me off. It's the arrogance of the "Choose Civility in Howard County" campaign that's perpetuating the problem of an ever increasing uncivil world. As a child, I read Aesop's Fables, Mother Goose (even the Richard Scarry version) and the other parables concerning the world and more importantly, behavior. The bible can even be classified into this category. The problem is taking what is written as the absolute, unbending truth. What the childhood stores taught me was to come to my own conclusions about what's right and wrong. The stories treated me like an adult in some sense. Choosing Civility teats me like a child that needs to be told what to do. How uncivil of them.