Bewildering Stories

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Bewildering Stories Editorial

by Jerry Wright

The Death of Civility

Most, if not all of you, especially if you live in the western hemisphere, have been visually flogged with the pictures and videos of hulking basketball players rampaging up into the stands and fighting with "fans" who they feel "dissed" them. Whether the fans were at fault, there is no question about the fact that multi-millionaire basketball players/thugs have no right to beat up anyone, much less "fans".

Others have beat that subject into submission, but this just allows me to segue into my diatribe. The Dark Age Ahead. Those of you who have read Don Webb's review of Jane Jacob's book understand the five pillars of modern society that are in danger. To this let me add a sixth. I came upon this whilst re-reading Robert A. Heinlein's Friday, currently felt to be one of his lesser books. However, Friday takes place in an increasingly Balkanized world, and during a period of time when Friday is studying all sorts of miscellaneous facts, writings and history, the Boss asks her first of all, "What are the marks of a sick culture?" After Friday delineates many things that we see occuring more and more in OUR culture, the Boss then says, "Friday, I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all."

"I have? Are you going to tell me? Or am I going to have to grope around in the dark for it?"

"Mmm. This once I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named...but a dying culture invariable exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters.. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners is more significant than a riot."


"Pfui. I should have forced you to dig it out for yourself; then you would know it. This symptom is especially serious in that an indidvidual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength. ...Friday, it is too late to save this culture--this worldwide culture... Therefore we must now prepare the monasteries for the coming Dark Age. Electronic records are too fragile..."

Now, take that bit of wisdom from the master, and add it to this: an article in the "Opinion Journal" from Dan Henniger.

There are many interesting points in this article, but one that stuck in my mind was this one:
'Does it matter? Two years after "The Medium Is the Massage," Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black issued a famous dissent in the Tinker case, which elevated the speech rights of very young students and lowered the inclination of teachers to civilize their students. Justice Black warned this would make the schools vulnerable "to the whims and caprices of their loudest-mouthed, but maybe not their brightest, students." So what? They're all stars now.'

I think we are in trouble.

Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories

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