The Illness in our Land

In 1993 M. Scott Peck published a book entitled, “A World Waiting to be Born.” The subtitle was “Civility Rediscovered.”  As I’ve been re-reading it this past week I’m almost amazed that 17 years later, Peck’s words seem to be prophetic, almost presentient.  As I read the newspapers and watch some of what masquerades as “news” on TV, I realize this perhaps is one of the most important “missing pieces” in our culture today.  We’ve forgotten what the word “civil” means.  Or we don’t care.  Or we bought in too deeply to the craziness of Howard Roark* and things like “ethical egoism.”

In other words… for too many people in too many places, it truly is “All about me.”

I’m just wondering  – if there really isn’t anything like “altruism”… then why do we think our culture has anything of lasting value?  Another one of those things I just don’t get.

Like what’s wrong in the first chapter of Peck’s book:

“There is an illness abroad in the land.  On Monday, January 29, 1990, The USA Today newspaper carried a full-page advertisement.  Tiny print in the left lower corner identified the advertiser as Dun and Bradstreet (D&B), a large financial analysis firm specializing in “The Fine Art of Managing Risk.”  Otherwise the entire page was devoted to four brief sentences in bold type:

I’m 30,000 feet over Nebraska and the guy next to me sounds like a prospect.

I figure I’ll buy him a drink, but first I excuse myself and go to the phone.

I call D&B for his company’s credit rating.  Three minutes later I’m back in my seat buying a beer for my new best friend.”

Something is seriously wrong.”

(A.W.W.T.B.B., p. 3)

I agree… and if Peck thought this 17 years ago, how would he imagine the lack of civility in our culture today?  It is an illness; my question is will we allow it to be fatal?

(* =  Google him… you’ll figure it out.)