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Tom Scotus

Enforced Civility

Flickr Image By: Mike MozartMy wife and I recently boarded a city bus in Thunder Bay. I was surprised to see that about two thirds of the seats were designated as "priority" or "courtesy" seating for the elderly, the pregnant, the handicapped and parents with infants. From what I've been told, about a third of city buses are now set up this way. The rest only have about six seats that are specially designated.

In any case, a young couple, with the biggest baby stroller I've every seen, boarded the bus. "Somebody's going to have to move," the mom said, rather impolitely. Three young women promptly gave up their seats. I'm not sure if the mom even thanked them. My sense is that she felt entitled to have their spots. After all, the transit service has signs posted all over the city, ordering people to "Give It Up" – that is, give up their seats to those designated as deserving special treatment.

The last time I was in Toronto, I noticed signs near the bus driver that warned passengers not to abuse public transit workers. Apparently, spitting on, swearing at or assaulting transit workers has become common there. I also noticed that the transit vehicles are much more littered than they used to be.

When I was growing up in Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s, there was no "priority seating" on buses, streetcars or on the subway. Yet, I remember seeing many people voluntarily give up their seats for others. There were no signs, warning passengers not to abuse transit workers because, I assume, such episodes were rare. I never saw or heard of such incidents back then.

The more we lose a sense of social morality, the more laws and rules we have to create to enforce civility. But, if civility is enforced, is it really civility and is it really appreciated? People should be taught to behave decently by their parents, schools, churches, and by the example of others. Our standards, in this regard, seem to have greatly lowered. For example, I never heard a teacher use the F-bomb during my 19 years of education. However, recently I heard two female teachers use it. One even told me to f*ck off.

The root cause of the erosion of civility in our society is our abandonment of true Christianity. Divorce, sexual immorality, pornography, filth on television, in books and in movies and the promotion of a hedonistic, self-centered attitude are its bitter fruit. All the laws and rules in the world will not give us the kind of civility we once enjoyed. Only turning back to God will do that.