On civility

Merriam-Webster defines civility as:

polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior.

The interwebs are filled with anything but civility today.

For most of the rest of the world, watching the discourse coming from not just Washington DC but the United States in general most likely lies somewhere between reviews of the worst theatre production ever and an unthinkable reality show capturing a mass of petulant, pouting, spoiled brats hurling food, mud, insults and anything else at one another (check out the comments in the link). What’s worse is that those actors this very large schoolyard bully fest don’t have the slightest inkling what they are actually fighting about anymore, other than that the other side is just ‘wrong’ and ‘immoral’ and they are not.

There is scarcely little in the way of public displays of civility between waring factions in the US anymore between politicians between friends and even between family members at times. What happened?

I’m not a member of any political party in the US or elsewhere. I can see merit in many positions (although I confess that I do find most of what the Tea Party spews to be utterly incomprehensible and unconscionable). But, I don’t 100% agree with any party on every single issue. Who does? I’ll certainly entertain policy outlines and listen to agendas which attempt to solve a problem or provide a solution to an issue which faces us all and which keeps human rights and dignity at the forefront. I’m open to debating issues as long as it doesn’t become personal and attacks are not launched at a party or class or group of individuals categorised as ‘the other’ or those ‘who are to blame’.

We are all humans. We are all guilty of some sin or another just as we all have good within us. And, frankly, we should all share a portion of the blame for the situation in which we now find ourselves. No one is infallible. No one is above reproach.

But, increasingly and especially at the moment, having any sort of discussion is like sitting several centimetres from a tinderbox doused with a litre of petrol and a burning match dangling ever so closely to where the tinder is just beginning to smoke. Sparks are flying ever so closely and we all seem in danger of erupting fully and violently (I include myself in this — I am under no illusions to those who might think otherwise). It’s a little frightening to me. As much as I love to discuss policy and politics, there are many moments when I’d rather not since I know the inevitable flame wars will ensue.

Again, what happened?

If we cannot create a safe space in which to voice our concerns as well as our ideas and solutions, we’ll never find common ground and we cannot hope to find a happy medium. If we ever hope to regain that greatness and promise of a brighter future for our children and grandchildren, if we are ever to begin to address the most pressing issues of our day, we must regain that sense of collective good. To do that, we must keep discussions civil and even-handed, and we must remain open to alternatives.

I’ll do my best. Will you?