|P.M. Forni, the Director of the Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, in his office in Baltimore in 2007. “Acts of violence are often the result of an exchange of acts of rudeness that spiral out of control,” he said. - Credit Andy Nelson / The Christian Science Monitor|
P.M. Forni, Who Argued for ‘Choosing Civility,’ Dies at 67 – Dec. 7, 2018
P. M. Forni, a professor of early Italian literature who became a leading exponent of civility in our own discourteous times, died on Dec. 1 in Towson, Maryland. He was 67. His wife, Virginia H. Forni, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Forni was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore when, in 1997, he became the principal founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, which not only examined the importance of civility in human society but also encouraged the practice of it on campuses and in communities through campaigns with bumper stickers, buttons and speaking programs.
Dr. Forni, who directed the project (now known as the Civility Initiative) for many years, also wrote two books on the topic, “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct,” published in 2002, and “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude” (2010). “The first book is how not to be rude,” Virginia Forni explained in a telephone interview, “and the second book is what to do when other people are rude to you.”
The 25 rules he set out in “Choosing Civility” were not particularly surprising; they included “Speak Kindly” and “Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence).” But they resonated. The book, which has been translated into German and Italian, is still frequently cited in articles and speeches, as is its follow-up.
Civility, to Dr. Forni, was not just a matter of learning and observing rules of good manners. It was something with very real consequences. Civility means less stress, which has advantages like improved health, safer driving and more productivity at work.
Lack of civility, he argued, is also more than a matter of semantics. “Acts of violence are often the result of an exchange of acts of rudeness that spiral out of control,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 2007. “Disrespect can lead to bloodshed. By keeping the levels of incivility down we keep the levels of violence down.” But Dr. Forni didn’t necessarily have a sky-is-falling view of the current state of human interactions.
The word “civility,” he noted in “Choosing Civility,” “derives from the Latin civitas, which means ‘city,’ especially in the sense of civic community.” Thus, said Daniel L. Buccino, who now directs the Civility Initiative, Dr. Forni considered the subject from the long view. – By Neil Genzlinger for the NYTimes
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