Our Reputation as a Civil Nation
In our Civility in America survey this year, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans believe that the USA is losing stature as a civil nation. This is worrisome. Although our survey was focused on Americans, I found it interesting to read this morning in the WSJ that the Chinese government is worried about their civil-nation reputation too and is intent on doing something about it. In Beijing, 40,000 people have applied to the “Be a Splendid Beijinger and Welcome APEC—Civilized, Polite Passengers” competition to honor the 100 best-behaving bus and subway passengers. [Not sure how that would fly in Manhattan] Volunteers or guides, 8,000 of them, await passengers at the stations and shout out “I try, you try, together we work hard for a civilized Beijing. I’m gifted, you’re gifted, together we make our harmonious society even more splendid!” The winners will get pre-loaded subway and bus cards worth $10. And this initiative is taken quite seriously.
Beijing has a “civilization index,” which is conducted by the Office of the Capital’s Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization to help residents mind their manners. The index has been steadily increasing since its start in 2005. It includes whether people are littering or keeping the rings on silent on their cellphones. Examples of people behaving civil-ly cited in the article included someone helping to carry luggage and another who brings soup to give out to the volunteer guides who help keep order on the subway stations .
Just this week, I noticed an act of civility here in Brooklyn at the subway station. It was pouring down rain and I saw a man helping a woman carrying her stroller and child up the many stairs to the street. I figured it must have been the husband but then I saw him turn around and go back down to the platform to catch his train. He was pretty wet too. Impressive.
But that was this week’s exception. In the article, one of the executives at the Spiritual Civilization Office said he is proud of their progress but “continuous civilization efforts” are necessary. Same here.