Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Those of you who have been with me on this blog for a while know that I place a lot of emphasis on what we used to call, in happier times, civility. Civility can be defined as "Polite or courteous behavior; the act of showing regard for others," and synonyms include politeness, courtesy, and graciousness.

If you didn't recognize the word, or the concept, I'm not surprised, because it seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.

You can see what I mean by watching the news and seeing the utterly asinine behavior of many people at town hall meetings held to discuss health care reform - nobody appears to be very interested in actually discussing anything...they seem more intent on shouting down and insulting people whose ideas differ from their own. You can see the same behavior at almost any other public venue nowadays, from the aggressively disruptive actions of Code Pink activists who try to prevent normal business at military recruiting stations to the morally upright but civilly retarded persons who accost women at abortion clinics.

In the much overused words of Rodney King, why can't we all just get along?

As a nation, we face daunting, interconnected problems that defy simple solutions. Much as we might wish, there aren't going to be silver bullet answers that will deliver affordable health care, rebuild the economy, stop mortgage foreclosures, get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, or bring rigid Islamists out of the seventh century and into the 21st. Finding answers to our problems requires the detailed discussion of complex topics most of us don't fully understand and the evaluation of options that will never satisfy everyone. And because everything is interconnected, anything we do to solve one problem may make another worse. How do we figure out what to do?

We've replaced honest discussion with shouted slogans, and analysis of facts with cleverly twisted misinformation, and we're all guilty. Each time someone automatically and unthinkingly accepts the opinions of a talk-show demagogue, each time someone immediately believes the worst of a person who is presenting an idea, we all lose. Each time some populist blowhard blames the government (imagine those two words uttered dripping with scorn) for every ill, it automatically polarizes the discussion and prevents honest and thorough debate.

One more time, what is Bilbo's First Law?

Don't let anyone do your thinking for you.

Examine the facts, think the issues through, and be prepared to discuss them civilly. This is the essence of participative democracy. If you want your decisions made by howling mobs, or imposed by a dictatorship that can't get anything done any other way, keep on keeping on. We'll get there.

Have a good day. Be civil. It's not hard, and you might even enjoy it.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

6 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

We're a nation of Fruitcakes! The cosmic baker's took us out of the oven a little to early....

And I stand by that Jimmy Buffett lyric!

Leslie David said...

...and that's why we're as crazy as we are. I agree.

Mike said...

I just found out I spelled dinosaur wrong in the comments on my blog. Makes me want to go holler at somebody.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe civility is taught anywhere anymore, except perhaps in the US Armed Forces. And we need it today for the same reason it arose (as chivalry, a word distantly related to cavalry) in medieval Europe--it's how to keep armed and dangerous people from escalating a small accidental bumping in an elevator into a shootout!

Since parents don't seem to teach civility anymore, it's possible that "manners" may have to be a required subject K-12, nationally. Sort of a "No Child Left Uncivilized" Act will have to be passed by our Congress. Considering that our Congress is half the problem, what are the odds of that happening?

Eminence Grise

Gilahi said...

Unfortunately, people are lazy and the binary approach is just so much easier than actually thinking about something. Witness our former president stating that you were "either with us or against us". No room for common ground, no room for discussion. I find as I grow older that almost nothing is really that black & white, but it requires some consideration to arrive there.

Wv - manteres: When George W. Bush was elected the second time, I cried real manteres.

John said...

Don't read my blog for a couple of days...I'm just going to copy this post and use it as my own.

Naw...everybody would know that I didn't write it--but it is one of those posts that I wish I had written!