Why we need to be more civilised

The world feels like a depressing place at the moment.  Shootings in Orlando, the rise of Trump, refugee crises, dubious rhetoric in the Brexit debate – the list goes on.

We’re about to launch a new Life Squared booklet soon called ‘How to be civilised’ which examines some of the lessons that we can draw from the Holocaust for our own lives in the modern world.

Some of the lessons are stark, but are becoming more relevant by the day to our lives and the turbulent modern world we live in.

For example, one lesson from the booklet is that the smooth, co-operative surface of civilisation that we all skate upon is very thin, and can be shattered with relative ease.  We shouldn’t take our civilised, relatively peaceful society for granted, but cherish it and work tirelessly to protect it.

Another conclusion is that it takes effort – both as individuals and as a society – to be civilised and compassionate, and the booklet argues that we need to work much harder to build more civilised, compassionate thinking and behaviour into our own lives, and into the fabric of our society – from the ideas that overarch it (such as the political and economic models we choose to govern us) through to the institutions that help it work (such as what we teach our kids).

Many of the terrible events that are taking place and worrying ideas that are becoming more more popular at the moment have something in common – a lack of civility.  By this I mean a failure to see ourselves not just as individuals but as part of a wider (global) community of people and a failure to put in the effort needed to coexist with people in a harmonious, civilised way. When we fail to put the effort into preserving this civilised society, bad things can happen – as we can see now.

Conclusions like this may seem fatuous in our current age of aggressive individualism, but I’m increasingly coming round to the idea that it is the rebuilding of our lives and societies around simple but important values such as compassion and civility (that we will explore fully in the forthcoming Life Squared booklet) that will help create the better society most of us are looking for.

Keep an eye on @Life_Squared in the coming weeks to see when the booklet is published – it will be free, as ever, to download.

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