Civility in Hunkertown #11

The Price of Shock

When one looks at The Rules of Civility that George Washington so closely abided by, many of the more general and universal guidelines are at the beginning. Thus we find the third rule addressing what seems so prevalent in our news media – shock and the capitalizing on it.

3. “Show Nothing to your Friend that might affright him.”

Commentary: Fright or shock of this nature has its place in the spectrum of communication.  “Shock value” can have its place in marketing or stopping a transaction, or moving it in a new direction.  But, it has no place in civility, especially with those who you are either friends or want to cultivate as such.  Whereas civility is a process of smoothing a continuum of communication, shock or fright is disruptive and will, in fact, create greater uncertainty in the transactions that may follow.

So much of our news media has the attitude, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Hearing or being shown images of a gory incident has the initial impact of immobilizing us temporarily. For those distressed, the next habitual instinct is to turn away, close one’s eyes or ears, or both. And there are some who become mesmerized and need to see it again and again or wait for the next chapter in the story. An idea can have similar effects, especially if the idea or what is expressed offends our basic sense of morality. Some will thus actually feel physically sick in just hearing what is said. But there are others who, having similar views, may become emboldened to do what is shocking because what has been a buried negative tendency has become sanctioned. Thus, the alpha dog may go for the kill, but soon after, the other emboldened ones in the pack will join in the carnage.

Because so much of what we are contending with these days is shocking, whether it be at the environmental, biological, social, or political levels, fear and the exhaustion of the ongoingness of such trials, creates reactivity which in turn, keeps the embers from the shock burning. Thus it may be that the advice of Dr. Andrew Weil to limit our daily news intake is one antidote in order to slow down and smooth the way for more civil responses.

With respect to being in Hunkertown, strive to not shock children and loved ones with too much “reality.” For it may be that what you are presenting is still tainted with your own reactions to shock unresolved. Remember the first 3 steps of wise action: Step Back, Assess, and Reflect. Take a couple calming breaths. Focus on LOVE and the intention to benefit all. THEN, speak.

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