Have you noticed how the phrase “civil society” — already an often facile and over-freighted concept — is being hijacked by people who use it to signify a society where people have better manners, are nicer? In The Washington Times a few months back an article on the coarsening of society says ..
Some cultural observers might say the snickering smarm of “Drew Carey” is the least of the worries parents should have today in the arena of civility, what with road rage on the increase, profanity spewing from every playground and school bus stop and, of course, the specter of gun violence in the hallways. Against such a depressing backdrop, teaching children “the magic word” and the golden rule seems hopeless. Many parents do it anyway, hoping the little things at an early age will add up to a more civil society later.
Or take another example from our new president’s election victory acceptance speech …
We differed about the details of these proposals, but there was remarkable consensus about the important issues before us: excellent schools, retirement and health security, tax relief, a strong military, a more civil society. We have discussed our differences. Now it is time to find common ground.
What’s this about exactly?
I have a difficult time deciding if this is just an ignorant bastardization of the phrase and concept. Or whether it points to some deeper shallowness in the movement which often gathers behind the phrase.