The World’s Most Needed Commodity – Civility


Wandering the Web for more than a decade, I have continually searched for the definitive commodity that people need in order to foster superior interaction. In short, better public relations, or to coin a new term for our business philosophy, “Civility in all things relating to people.” Somehow, perhaps fortuitously, I ran across an article on the New York Post – International Herald Tribune edition – entitled In Search of Dignity. As author David Brooks puts it:

“Today, Americans still lavishly admire people who are naturally dignified, whether they are in sports (Joe DiMaggio and Tom Landry), entertainment (Lauren Bacall and Tom Hanks) or politics (Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr.).”

In a 21st Century world where rudeness, conflict and a host of other seemingly endless maladies, the one thing that is so hard to find is civility. Those of us in social media and networking experienced enough to know, have undergone a constant barrage of what might be termed “digg type hate attitude”, or in my own terms “a rather common and basal attitude” with regard to how we treat other people. In short, the Web and the real world are rude and undignified, almost not fit for human habitation.

cherry tree George Washington civility

George Washington, The Cherry Tree and Other Tenants

The author I mention, Brooks, treats this subject with more flavor and flair than I could possibly ever aspire to, but the gist of what the man is pointing out is that Americans, and more appropriately all human beings, admire dignity. For those of us in social networking, amidst a new generation with apparently no social guidance, the “landmarks” of dignified pusruit may appear very obscure. However, the arguable point here is still the same, sooner or later excellence will be recognized. Brooks applies the “broad brush” of philosophical journalism to President Obama with regard to his apparent dignity, but however we disagree with Brooks or even Obama, we must recognize that civility, as Washington might have put it in his discourse “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”:

“Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.”

Without being overly pessimistic, and paraphrasing what Brooks is saying in this fine article, the effects of our lost dignified manner are everywhere to be seen. The long and short of human interaction in this and even previous generations, is that people simply just do not know how to act – period. The simple logic of this situations demands a simple conclusion, which I am sure the educated reader can surmise. We are not headed to anywhere, as sentient human beings, we could possibly ever want to go. To quote Brooks still another time, and in considering how Washington and other such figures lived their lives, such examples have never before been needed so much.

“They were designed to improve inner morals by shaping the outward man. Washington took them very seriously. He worked hard to follow them. Throughout his life, he remained acutely conscious of his own rectitude.”


For our company, and in our lives as “Web people”, me, my partner, and our associates have been accused of everything from “hate journalism” to downright idiocy. All the while simply wanting a better set of rules, to allow people the dignity of truth (at least an attempt at it), or simply another view of how things should be. From Gaza to the halls of power in Washington, we critique so many things, not because we are ourselves perfect, but because the world can be a better place. We are ourselves imperfect, and subject to “course” interrogatories and etc. However, if people were a little more diligent in their reading, imbued with a little more civility, and predisposed to consider that morality might be a good thing, then our job – the world’s course – and all of our journeys might be easier.

I applaud Brooks for bringing back to light these “old world” views on civil behavior. Though I do not agree with all his opinion, the essence of the problem and the solution are correct. In order for us to work things out in this world, we need to act correctly. This simple reality is beyond cries for freedom of speech, free video on the Web, or a host of other, more selfish perceived needs.

We need more than anything to act correctly towards our fellow man, and in the end, for ourselves and our fellow man, to be more dignified from within, and in the eyes of God. Public relations is, as we say all the time, about how we interact with one another. The root of good relations resided in our own behavior first. A great article by Brooks, read it.


  1. Frank J. Oswald says

    I liked your post, Phil. Civility is sadly on the wane, particularly on the Internet. Just last week I actually had a vulgar Twitter exchange with a Chicago Tribune Reporter. Raises an interesting question: Do we have multiple standards of civility, depending on the medium in which we are writing? I wrote a brief blog post about the exchange, if you’re interested:

    • Phil Butler says

      Thanks so much Frank,

      We have become a very rude society Frank. As you say, some standardized rules that are taught to everyone are needed. I liked your ideas and insights in that post you suggest a lot too. Basically, if we all think about other people a little more, follow the golden rule better, then much of this would disappear in a short while. It seems no one wants it to though, or at least that is how it appears. It is just as easy to be kind as it is to be cruel and rude for me. It is however, difficult to undergo extreme animosity or rudeness over the long haul. Maybe we are all just getting tired? Or lazy?

      Thanks for your comment very much.


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