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Not a Quote of the Day…
…but perhaps a timely quote from Anton Chekhov. It seems that the current youth coming up through the college ranks consider the word “civilization” as a kind of totem of all that is evil. Yet here in the United States, we see that when you remove the foundational elements of a civilization, the chaos that fills the vacuum doesn’t shore up the holes, it simply expedites the collapse.
For all our flaws (such a tired saying that has become thread worn) as a nation, we Americans for a long while shared an idea of what it meant to be a good citizen, a civilized person. Now, we have people who want to divide us over pronouns. When I read this quote earlier today, I thought, “it’s as if he were living today.” This only cements my opinion that human nature is the constant, no matter that clothes, haircuts, technology, and governments change.
Published in General
Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:
1) They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable … They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don’t make a scandal when they leave. (…)
2) They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye. (…)
3) They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.
4) They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. To lie to someone is to insult them, and the liar is diminished in the eyes of the person he lies to. Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors. (…)
5) They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others. They don’t play on other people’s heartstrings to be sighed over and cosseted … that sort of thing is just cheap striving for effects, it’s vulgar, old hat and false. (…)
6) They are not vain. They don’t waste time with the fake jewelry of hobnobbing with celebrities, being permitted to shake the hand of a drunken [judicial orator], the exaggerated bonhomie of the first person they meet at the Salon, being the life and soul of the bar … They regard phrases like ‘I am a representative of the Press!!’ — the sort of thing one only hears from [very minor journalists] — as absurd. If they have done a brass farthing’s work they don’t pass it off as if it were 100 roubles’ by swanking about with their portfolios, and they don’t boast of being able to gain admission to places other people aren’t allowed in (…) True talent always sits in the shade, mingles with the crowd, avoids the limelight … As Krylov said, the empty barrel makes more noise than the full one. (…)
7) If they do possess talent, they value it … They take pride in it … they know they have a responsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And they are fastidious in their habits. (…)
8) They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility … Civilized people don’t simply obey their baser instincts … they require mens sana in corpore sano.
And so on. That’s what civilized people are like … Reading Pickwick and learning a speech from Faust by heart is not enough if your aim is to become a truly civilized person and not to sink below the level of your surroundings.
— Anton Chekhov, from a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886, A Life in Letters
Well, I have to disagree with #1.
I can think of a number of situations in which being tolerant, gentle, courteous, and amenable would not be the correct approach. Jesus Himself did not always act in these ways.
I think that there are times when being intolerant, harsh, and brutally direct is the right thing to do.
Do you disagree?
“Oh, OPEN THE DOOR and come in!”
still gets me, ~50 years later.
This one indeed describes today’s left to a tee.
It does depend. As a rule, behaving in a civil manner is the default is better all around. I’ve seen enough videos of activists being “intolerant, harsh, and brutally direct” of people just holding a sign that questions the dogma around trans issues or abortion, and of course they feel they’re doing the right thing. Sometimes being “intolerant, harsh, and brutally direct” is apt for someone in your own circle who needs redirection.
Today downtown there was an unhinged street preacher walking up and down the sidewalk shouting at passersby; he was “intolerant, harsh, and brutally direct.” Someone who took offense at his language and volume confronted him in a somewhat more subdued style, but his words could be characterized as “intolerant, harsh, and brutally direct.” It got dicey and led to more shouting. Civility would have been preferable.
Me too. I wore those grooves smooth in high school. I even had the mysterious three-sided album.
Unfort. the 3-sides thing didn’t translate to CD. They just have all the tracks, un-mysteriously.