Please see below selected recent civility-related change.
- Civilisational thinking often depends on an idea of separate cultures growing like individual trees in a forest, with their own roots and branches distinct from those of their neighbours. They emerge, flourish and decline, and they do so largely alone. Growth and change are the result of internal development, not external connections. However you explain them, civilisations may seem like natural facts about the world, so that the only questions appear to be how some do better than others or why they clash. Yet they're largely a modern creation, invented by 19th-century scholars to emphasise the superiority of their own nations and empires.
- A team of scientists called for urgent research into the nature and causes of civilisational collapse. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers said discussion of collapse has been dominated, so far, by philosophers and artists, and called for scientists to start studying ‘collapse mechanisms’ and how we can collectively adapt so as to avoid them.
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- Civil society has never had a better time to raise awareness about difficult issues and engage passionate supporters to help find solutions. In partnership with the public and private sectors, civil society organisations can and must create meaningful opportunities that enable people to bring about change, argued the World Economic Forum. Yet, with the rise of authoritarian governments, the space in which civil society can operate has narrowed alarmingly in many countries. However, we are also witnessing the strength of ordinary people and the many ways that civil society organisations can help and support the voices of those facing dire circumstances.
- As part of international Safer Internet Day, Microsoft released the latest results from its sixth annual study Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2022, and a newly updated Digital Civility Index (DCI) score. The survey, conducted in 22 countries, polled teens aged 13-17 and adults aged 18-74 about their exposure to 21 online risks across four categories (reputational, behavioral, sexual and personal/intrusive), their experiences of life online (including during the pandemic) and how interactions in those areas impacted their perception of online civility.
- A study at Carleton University found when people experience incivility at work, they tend to feel less capable in their parenting. Another study at Georgetown University found workplace incivility is rising and the effects are extensive, including reduced performance and collaboration, deteriorating customer experiences and increased turnover.
- Exponential View warned of an increasing “degroundedness” in modern notions of citizenship. The pressure of globalised capitalism and the erosion of critical pillars of citizenship like voting or even knowledge of a country’s political history led the economist Branko Milanovic to ask the rather provocative question: Is citizenship just a rent? The last vestiges of citizenship, in Milanovic’s view, are confined to a stream of income (in the form of benefits) and advantages that “one receives if lucky to have been born or become a citizen of a rich nation”.
- The global Microsoft Digital Civility Index (DCI) improved in 2020, bouncing back from its lowest reading in four years, even as Covid-19 upended the world. A feeling of solidarity during the pandemic among people in some regions, as well as responsible online interactions by teenagers in particular, helped drive the index's three-point recovery.
- There is increasing pressure on companies to use their power and profits to engage with social and political causes. In doing so, companies can help to support the ‘shared civic space’ that enables the private sector and civil society organisations to benefit from a society that respects the rule of law and human rights, at a time when many of these rights are under threat around the world, but as demonstrated by corporate responses to the BLM protests in 2020, there is a danger of corporate activism being perceived as ‘lip service’ rather than genuinely addressing the negative impacts of business operations on civic space, warned Chatham House.
- Emerging technologies and digital tools have created new possibilities for inclusive and democratic civic participation and engagement in recent years. Online platforms, internet providers and software designers have provided important channels for individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination. Online civic space is increasingly important for civil society actors operating under repressive governments, and tech companies form a highly influential group in the protection and support of such actors. There are already numerous examples of such support from large tech firms. For example, Mozilla recently announced a fund to support black artists exploring the effects of AI on racial justice, and Microsoft offered free protection for human rights organisations under increased threat of cyber-attack during COVID-19. Yet the tech sector also presents unique threats to civic space in the form of privacy violations and enabling of state surveillance, microtargeting using personal data, instances of hate speech and extremism, as well as misinformation and disinformation (particularly concerning during election campaigns and health crises), warned Chatham House.
- Microsoft's Digital Civility Index stood at 70% in 2020, the highest reading of perceived online incivility since the survey began in 2016, and the first time the DCI had reached the 70th percentile. Moreover, the equally troubling trends of emotional and psychological pain – and negative consequences that follow online-risk exposure – both also increased significantly. Physical appearance and politics are the primary drivers of online incivility, with 31% of all respondents pointing to both of these two topics as problematic. Sexual orientation was close behind at 30%, while religion and race came in at 26% and 25% respectively. On the plus side, according to this latest study, people seemed encouraged by the advent of the new decade and what the 2020s may hold in terms of improved online civility among all age groups.
- Microsoft's Digital Civility Index stood at 70% in 2020, the highest reading of perceived online incivility since the survey began in 2016, and the first time the DCI has reached the 70th percentile. Moreover, the equally troubling trends of emotional and psychological pain – and negative consequences that follow online-risk exposure – both also increased significantly. Physical appearance and politics are the primary drivers of online incivility, with 31% of all respondents pointing to both of these two topics as problematic. Sexual orientation was close behind at 30%, while religion and race came in at 26% and 25% respectively.
- From transport and housing to food production and fashion, many believe our civilisation is driving climate and ecological breakdown. When Western religions rose to become the dominant forces in Western society, their one God - as well as sacredness and salvation - were re-positioned outside of nature. As historian Lynn White argued, such values laid the foundations of modern anthropocentrism, a system of beliefs that frames humans as separate from and superior to the nonhuman world.
- Standards of civility are changeable, not just across cultures but also across time. As Keith Thomas points out in In Pursuit of Civility, according to Giovanni della Casa, the 16th-century authority on polite behaviour, it was perfectly proper for the master of a household to relieve himself in front of his servants and inferiors and when kings went out hunting all day, they similarly didn’t bother getting out of the saddle to answer calls of nature.
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- A lot of attention has been given to the negative consequences of social media on the human psyche, noted Big Think. Likewise, specific and long overdue workplace issues are under dissection: gender discrimination and sexual harassment, fair pay, and surviving in the gig economy. One lesser discussed yet pervasive topic is now being looked at: incivility. Given all of the incivility in social media, that it seeps into our workplace is not surprising; it was there long before we could tweet out unthinking nonsense at strangers. In some ways we're becoming, by the day, a less empathetic culture. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, pinpointed one major issue arising from rudeness at work: sleep problems.
- Many claim everyone should be treated equally. Yet many (perhaps most) also think we are right to care most about our family, our friends and our lovers, and 82% of charitable donations in the UK are given to the causes closest to home. Should we therefore just accept that our ethics are in practice tribal, or is a universal concern for humanity the bedrock of a civilised culture, asked the Institute of Art and Ideas.
- Ignoring communications such as email is an act of incivility, as being overwhelmed by volume is no excuse to snub a colleague, claimed Quartz.
- Chatham House argued that civil society has proved to be particularly effective at harnessing complex narratives such as climate science, and at leveraging an emerging multi-level governance architecture to create political space for climate leadership. Given today’s challenging geopolitical conditions and the evolving nature of the international climate regime, the thinktank argued further that civil society must now once again recalibrate its strategies to ensure continued and increasing relevance.
- For years, civil society has tended to be seen as liberal: supportive of human rights, democratic reform and the protection of minorities. Often, it is still these "progressive" causes that appeal to younger activists. But today, civil society involves an increasingly diverse mix of people and political goals, with those on the right gaining traction, noted the BBC.
- Civic society organisations like Citizens UK are about people taking action to make their communities better, fairer and safer, believing that the best kind of action takes place with other people in the real world.
- Civility can be dangerous if hijacked for political agendas: many have, for example, expressed concerns about China's grand ambitions for a “social credit system” that would reward and punish citizens based on what their on- and offline behaviour tells the state about their "civic virtues".
- In his book, In Pursuit of Civility, British historian Keith Thomas tells the story of the most benign developments of the past 500 years: the spread of civilised manners. In the 16th and 17th centuries many people behaved like barbarians. They delighted in public hangings and torture. They stank to high heaven. Samuel Pepys defecated in a chimney. Josiah Pullen, vice-principal of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, urinated while showing a lady around his college, “still holding the lady fast by the hand”. It took centuries of painstaking effort – sermons, etiquette manuals and stern lectures – to convert them into civilised human beings. However, an Economist journalist worries that everything our forebears worked so hard to achieve is now reversing. A process that took centuries has been undone in just a few decades.
- The article further argues that Enlightenment philosophers were convinced that the great engines of modernity - urbanisation, commerce and travel - would also spread civilisation. Commerce was supposed to polish people’s manners as well as fill their pockets. The closer association of people with each other would allow the masses to learn refinement. Today those very engines are turning against the civilising process. San Francisco is at the centre of the biggest creation of wealth on the planet, yet its streets are often littered with faeces, garbage and syringes.
- A new book, Games, Powers & Democracies, asked readers to picture a government that measures civic value on a numbered scale, with civic performances tallied on leader boards, like a football match and to imagine civic value was viewed as a game played by everyday citizens, sometimes in competition, other times working in harmony towards a common goal. And imagine that winners were celebrated (and losers blamed) collectively.
- The Kardashev scale, designed by astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev, was created to assess how advanced a civilisation is by taking into consideration multiple factors, including population growth, technology, and energy demands. The idea is that the more advanced the people are, the higher and more complex their energy usage will be.
- Jeremy Rifkin, in his book, The Empathic Civilisation, investigated the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.
- Moving from ancient time until now and covering art, science, philosophy and the human spirit, The Western Tradition is a free series of videos that traces the arc of western civilisation.