Civility

civility1
"Even Slugbug can be enjoyably played without resorting to slugging anybody."

Yes, The Muse and I continue to enthusiastically play Slugbug every time we're traveling together in the car, but we maintain a certain civility when engaging. We do not, for instance, actually slug each other, like a six year old might. Yes, we do observe the catechism, "Slugbug, no slug back," but only to preserve the essential form of play. Some days, The Muse quite joyfully skunks me, spotting a hot half dozen before I spy my first. Other days, it's me holding her underwater, reveling in my easy accumulation. Honest, there's no underlying malice. It's just a game for us.

I hold open doors for whomever follows me inside. If an adjacent driver signals to change lanes, I make it my business to open enough space for their shift. I expect similar civility from those around me, but I won't hold my breath until I receive it.
I think of myself as having been properly raised. I think myself lucky to have been instructed in the fine art of civil engagement. Not everyone was so fortunate. Some seem to live by the First Come First Served Rule, which counsels one to take all they can carry before someone else comes along to deny them their due. These people see no harm and certainly no foul if another has to go begging because they got into the line first, while civility insists that we're all responsible for each other, not just for Number One.

Civility presumes a certain generosity, as if we inhabit an abundant world with ample resources for everyone. The civil share and share alike, refusing to hoard regardless of the possible personal privation. They ask if anyone else around the table has their eye on that last bite of pie before helping themselves to it. Of course they say "please" and "thank you," as if it matters, but only because it does. Small incivilities irk me most. The swerving through traffic attempting to gain some advantage strikes me as ferally uncivil. It also clogs traffic. The neighbor who allows their dog to run loose to poop in my backyard demonstrates the sort of civility ordinarily reserved for the exclusive use of slavering wolverines. We're all together here, and really should be.

Competition seems to encourage stiff-arming civility in the service of winning, whatever that means. All is not even remotely fair in love, war, and commercial activity. Some seem out to take mean advantage, chuckling loudly to themselves as they wander away from the table. This can feel absolutely humiliating to anyone sworn to always play fair. Some days, it seems as though the bastards hold an absolute advantage, and perhaps they do, depending upon the game they play. Nothing says that I must play the same game they engage in, let alone by their rules. They will spin scarcity yarns, frightening small children and other inherently decent people, trying to goad them into forfeiting the only real advantage civil society has ever held. The flimflams understand that they can only win when someone else loses, so they try hard to make as many into rubes as they can. Misery does, apparently, crave company. Play Slugbug with them, and you will get your shoulder slugged good. You might even begin to engage to get even, by then you will have lost all opportunity to ever civilly win again.

It seems an endlessly hard lesson to learn to turn yet another cheek. Some days it seems as if I'm called to turn an infinite number of cheeks, though I only have two, four if I drop my pants in their direction. I've lately taken to trying to be the last person to board the airplane. I notice that I'm often nearly the last to get off the plane on the other end of the ride, too. Those who wrestled their way on ahead of me gained little advantage for their extra effort, but perhaps they only sought some psychological payback, something nobody else could have ever seen. The great competition has always been between civility and incivility, and like competition in any arena, it amounts to a deadly social disease. We do not now nor have we ever inhabited a zero sum game. Later arriving birds find plenty of unadvertised worms still crawling around. Even Slugbug can be enjoyably played without resorting to slugging anybody.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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