Civility Lost

April 01, 2004

While this isn't by any means scientific, I have been using the responses to my resume campaign as a way to measure the loss of civility in our society. Once upon a time, when you sent your resume to a company, you could expect to receive a letter in response. At the very least the human resources department would acknowledge receipt of your mail, and would indicate how long they would keep it on hand.

Oh, how times have changed. In the past two weeks I have sent roughly 50 resumes to companies across the country. Some of these were sent as e-mail attachments, others through job posting boards. All had an individualized cover letter tailored for the particular position in question. Other than a few automatically generated "we've received your mail, do not reply to this e-mail" responses, I've heard nothing back from any of the companies.

I understand that in these litigious times, companies take the path of least action so as to limit their legal exposure. But I think it is a sad statement indeed that fear of legal action should keep civility out of our society. I wish there was some pre-agreed upon way for me to indicate to them that I am responding to their offer of a job opening in good faith. That I am not playing legal roulette, hoping that they'll blunder and leave themselves open to legal action.

As politicians use more and more wedge issues to separate us into smaller ( and therefore less influential ) blocks of people, and as the news media frightens us daily with fear based reporting, we have become less trusting of each other. Our lives are centered around "us versus them" thinking, and we dare not be friendly with "them."

The loss of civility that comes with the fear of others is apparent every where in our society today. You see it on the highways, in supermarkets, and at little league games. We all feel trapped and helpless in some way or another, and we take those feelings out on strangers; because strangers have done it to us.

When did we become a nation of people obsessed with getting even? Why is it considered okay, expected even, to take out our frustrations on innocent bystanders? Until we as a society stop reacting to feeling afraid, feeling fear, with anger towards others, we will not regain any of the civility we've lost.

And without civility, we we lose that which we call civilization.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.