In listening to a tape on the Buddha which quoted a phrase of his; ‘the bonds of civility are fraying’—signaling a danger to social order—I realized that speaks to our culture. The bonds of civility refer to the invisible agreed upon ethics and etiquette which support civilization. Our world is under a great many stresses . . . covid pandemic, climate change, and society’s polarization to name a few. They strain our ability to cope.
During WWII the U.S. pulled together magnificently, but that unity of purpose has long since disappeared. Today we are divided, polarized, and implacable. The multiple crises are magnifying our unrest. We are in peril. The demise can be seen in everything from the increase in gun violence, to disruptive passengers on airplanes, to most pointedly—the fight over mask wearing to prevent the spread of the covid pandemic. Covid is an airborne virus which is spread by coughing, sneezing, talking, and simply breathing. It has been demonstrated scientifically that wearing face coverings sharply reduces the spread. We don’t know who is carrying the virus and masks are to protect the general population (as well as the self); it is in the interest of supporting civilization that it is done. To make it a personal rebellion, demonstrates an unwillingness to support the public good for selfish reasons. Even as a very young child during the war effort, I was aware that ‘everyone must do their part’ . . . we fail our children by not conveying that message.
Society’s polarization has increased by a deliberately manufactured lie—that the election was stolen—which is being peddled as ‘Truth.’ Although proven to be a lie, it is still being supported by many. Few thing can be more dangerous to social order than a significant falsehood be loudly proclaimed as truth.
The ‘bonds of civility’ are rooted in morality. Morality is defined as: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood . . . leading to a system of values and principles of conduct. Morality’s roots are inherent in human consciousness, but it requires nurturing—we choose to keep it flourishing . . . or don’t! When we fail to choose for the greater good, we are fraying the bonds of civility.