What Kyle says about the death of our civility
A radio personality returned to the air this week after time out to recover from an unfortunate incident arising from a social disability before now not previously categorised – he is, I have concluded from the incident and his lack of remorse, ‘civically challenged’.
The ‘civically challenged’ person is so self-absorbed or insensitive as to be oblivious to the social and cultural impact of his or others’ egotistical or crass behaviour.
He or she behaves in a way that weakens civic virtue and sensibility. A pattern of such behaviour can desensitise others to the harm being done, normalising what in a moment of shared reflection would obviously be deemed unedifying at best.
The basic condition is compounded by an instinctive defensiveness that, when the offensive behaviour is highlighted and there is the risk of embarrassment or shame, allows him to dismiss critics as humourless and priggish and ‘politically correct’, rendering self-reflection, therefore, as unnecessary.
Of course, it is not just the disc jockey who thinks morning radio is better for broadcasting a masturbation competition, or dismisses an unexpected disclosure by a child of sexual abuse as one of possibly many sexual experiences, or who commends concentration camp life as a weight loss option, that I have in mind in establishing this new category of social deficit.
I am thinking also of the egotists who keep our Police and accident and emergency units busy as a result of their regular drunken binges and unquestioningly assume the cost of their ‘fun’ should be borne by the public, or the attention seeker who wears a FCUK t-shirt to the supermarket, or the foul-mouthed parent at the football match who put his coprolalian outbursts down to passion for the game.
There is also a form of ‘civically challenged’ character that is essentially one of passivity.
It was recently expressed in the mindless betrayal of a bashed off-duty police woman left lying in her blood whilst people journeyed on their way to work – our very own Kitty Genovese experience.
The civically challenged, of course, sometimes hold positions of power and influence in business and professional life.
They can be seen in the TV producers who pass off Big Brother voyeurism or slogans like ‘bring back the biff’ as harmless popular culture.
They can also be seen in the bonus fixated businessmen who have recently destroyed the life savings of so many.
The condition at its worst has recently been portrayed in the self-absorbed character of Professor John Halder, played by Viggo Mortensen, in the film Good.
I do not put the idiocy and offensiveness of the on-air comments of our now returned morning DJ, of course, in the same category as the ultimate betrayal of morality and personal responsibility by the character Halder.
They do, I think though, sit at one end of the spectrum of the character type I want us now to describe as ‘civically challenged’.
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