Summer evenings with a cool breeze blowing are an ideal time to sit outside, enjoying talking with family, friends, and neighbors. It is a great time to sit on a front porch reading a book. When you go to bed, that breeze through an open window feels wonderful.
Unfortunately, too often, these times of relaxation and enjoyment are needlessly interrupted. These interruptions lead to us asking a few questions. Are we a less thoughtful, less civil society today than we used to be? Does the well-being of our neighbors matter less? Does our indulgence in our own entertainment override the peace of mind and enjoyment of quiet of those around us?
Unfortunately, we would have to answer those questions with, “Yes, we are a less civilized society than we once were. There are more self-absorbed, thoughtless individuals than existed a generation or two ago.”
It is surprising how much profanity we hear in public places these days. It doesn’t matter how young the server waiting on a table or serving at the bar. It doesn’t matter who is sitting at the next table – families with young children or a group of senior women out together.
One of the most common complaints law enforcement handles involves the disturbance of the peace of others – music blaring away in someone’s house or apartment or outside. Music thumping through the walls. Music blasting through the neighborhood.
We enjoy an afternoon on the golf course. It is a time away from the stress of work enjoying the day with friends. The golf course is a quiet place – until the people with a radio blasting from their cart drive up. They are oblivious to how their self-centered entertainment disturbs the day for others forced to listen.
A beautiful summer’s day at the lake, relishing in the warmth, sun, and water, is disturbed by the music blaring from a passing boat or one parked offshore.
A car driving down the road, the bass so loud that its thump can be heard blocks away and, when it passes on the street, it rattles your windows – the driver without a clue of the impact on the peace of others.
In all these cases of thoughtless entertainment of self over the impact on others in the community, society has a fix. Laws have been passed, and rules set in place to force people lacking the character to be considerate of others to turn the volume down, or not play it in places where they force it on others.
Of all the inconsiderate infractions forced on neighbors that take place in communities throughout America, it is barking dogs that police most often get calls about. These calls pull them away from more meaningful work. What a waste of a law enforcement officer’s time to have to give a call to, or walk up to the door of, a dog owner who is too clueless to realize that his or her animal has been barking for 15 minutes straight or longer.
The dog’s owner might be gone for a while, sitting inside watching TV, talking on the phone, or deep into their social media. In each case, the impact of their dog’s barking on the neighborhood doesn’t enter their mind.
Barking dogs are more than a nuisance; when one persistently barks every morning, afternoon, or evening for days or weeks, it can lead to angry confrontations between neighbors that sometimes turn violent. Recognizing the potential consequences of not ensuring the peace of mind of those who must deal with a barking dog, most cities have implemented ordinances to address the problem.
A few years ago, the City of Wadena passed an ordinance prohibiting dogs in some parts of the community from barking or making noise between 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. Of course, the dog owners went crazy about how impossible and unnecessary such a law was – but what drove the community to implement such a law? Barking dogs and dog owners who didn’t address the problem on their own.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or harbor a dog that habitually barks or cries. Habitual barking shall be defined as barking for repeated intervals of at least three minutes with less than one minute of interruption,” one city ordinance reads.
The ordinance allows a police officer to enter a yard to remove a dog if there has been at least one previous barking complaint.
“Concern and care for others’ feelings are virtues we seek to instill in our children, yet they are sorely lacking in many adult Americans today,” Dr. Kaitlin Luna wrote in an article with the title “Speak of Psychology: The decline of empathy and the rise of narcissism.”
“There’s scientific research to back up the notion that Americans are caring less and less for others. For instance, one study found a steep decline in empathy among young people from 1979 to 2009,” she said. What we know about the years since that study is that the internet, social media, and politicians have made our society even less civil.
While we are born with an innate degree of empathy toward others, it is also a trait that is nurtured or neglected. “Parenting, the schools, the community, the environment, the culture can have an influence on empathy as well. The context matters, along with the genetics,” Sara Konrath, Ph.D., an associate professor and director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Empathy and Altruism Research, told Konrad in an interview.
Without a doubt, most people in the community are thoughtful and considerate of their neighbors. Music is played low in their apartments or quietly outside so that the neighbors are not forced to listen to it. In their vehicles, their music is played just loud enough for them to enjoy, but not forced on everyone within three blocks. They make sure their dogs do not bark endlessly, or repeatedly.