Civility and Its Limits

I came across an interesting piece on the currently hot issue of civility that points out, properly, that civility is not a virtue in itself, but a social contract to make it easier to get along in groups.  It also points out that we have certain obligations in maintaining the social contract:
"When someone targets one of your people over something that turns out to be innocuous, it’s the accuser that needs to be disciplined. Anything less is a betrayal of the good people for whom we are responsible. You cannot conserve civility by constantly acquiescing to the uncivil."
Civility is a tool, not a end in itself, therefore proposing that we are beholden to it is inappropriate.  We are obligated to stand up for one another, though.

It's quite good. Give it a read.


Grim said...

What civility, on our side, is doing is a crucial part of the process of allowing one side to be comfortable letting the other side exercise power over it. The incivility of that side -- the Left -- is a first demonstration that they are very much no longer comfortable with the power being exercised over them.

It's analogous to the point made in Ivanhoe by one of the heavies, who nevertheless shows a degree of respect to a fellow knight in chains. De Bracy remarks that “he whose hands are tied should have his tongue at freedom." The Left currently is completely out of power, aside from a few state governments or city governments. Their hands are tied; so they are using their tongues, and should be allowed to do so.

The ideal response, to which the Trump administration is not inclined, would be to patiently endure their complaints and then reply softly in a way designed to encourage them not to fear so much. The soft answer turns away wrath, and so forth.

But it is hard to be patient, and some things go beyond mere speech -- and that is the danger of the hour. There have already come points at which patience is insufficient, such as the baseball shooting. To cast aside civility of response, though, means moving instead to main force as a regular thing. That will stress our Republic beyond its tolerances.

Texan99 said...

I've been working very hard on Facebook, where I'm not anonymous, and where because of my political experiment I've now got many contacts who are only acquaintance, many of whom disagree sharply with my politics. I'm trying to avoid snark and sarcasm. I'm being particularly careful to be strictly truthful and to avoid exaggeration. When I'm responding to an inappropriate comment, I sometimes decline to reach the content, instead pointing out that until the style gets civil I'm not going to engage. Even then, I don't insult in turn; I just insist on civility before I'll respond. It seems to be working. I find it stilted, nothing like a free-wheeling discussion, but in that context it's necessary to be more careful and formal. I'm also trying to adapt my message to a broader range of intelligence and education, and to be more patient.

Nevertheless, quite often I can't break through. All I can get back is furious personal attacks. I try to use it as a lesson to myself: don't do that, because you can see how ineffective it is. It positively makes you WANT to disagree with the unpleasant person. I've got an in-law behaving badly at the moment and am trying to apply the same lessons there: keep it factual, keep it civil, no personal attacks. If you have to deliver a harsh message, tone it down and stick to the bare minimum that's just and necessary. We'll see how I come along.

ymarsakar said...

Breitbart's hit back 1000 times harder always seemed to work well.

Whether that is wise or unrighteous, is a different topic. I notice that most humans have a certain threshold for pain or difficulty. Even if they are experts at dishing out trash talk and other things, there is always a way to escalate it past the violence spectrum tolerated by most of humanity. Because they always have a pain and difficulty threshold. Thus if one faction overrides another faction's pain and difficulty threshold... the response is natural: raise the stakes.

In internet speak, when people see trolls, troll the troll harder than the troll can troll the world. It's a kind of hammer vs hammer, fire vs fire, poison vs poison strategy. On a very simplistic level it works because it doesn't require any complicated cunning. The Anti Left fights the Left not by becoming enlightened but by learning from Alinsky, who also taught the Left... see, easy.

douglas said...

"To cast aside civility of response, though, means moving instead to main force as a regular thing"

I didn't read the piece as promoting casting aside civility at all- rather, I saw it as an attempt to convey that civility isn't a moral good in itself, but an agreement- and like any agreement, those who violate it must be held to account- and sometimes, some seemingly un-civil actions may be the result- but we don't think that inappropriate in most spheres.

I particularly admired his admonition to defend the truth before civility, as it is of far more importance.