samwik: "But it seems to me that without something stronger (and more standardized) than an individual's family and school, there is not enough self-sustaining momentum for respect, civility, manners, whatever we call it (that which allows us to connect progressively)."

If you come up with that "something stronger" you'll convince me.

Meanwhile, I think we learn the manners of the culture from our interaction with society as a whole, and mostly from those parts of it with which we have most contact, usually family and school.

Ethics is a deeper issue which benefits from a good deal more consideration. As for the much vaunted guidance of religion, it cannot be relied upon as a source of inspiration or example.

I would return to Ellis' "Golden Rule". Thinking on that frequently, meditating on it, and practicing it, would no doubt be of far more worth than paying credulous and absent-minded attention to the speeches and sermons of dubious wise men and preachers. It probably doesn't have the same "feel good factor", though; nor does it provide the illusion of belonging to a righteous and morally elite club.
"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once" - John Wheeler