There is some controversy about civility in the United States, or more exactly, the decline of civility. It is well-known that civility and civility are social lubricants that enable us to get along and discuss things better.
On the other hand, there are some parties who claim that the concept of politeness isn’t about being nice but is a wholesale rejection of the concept of hostility. In other words people most committed to good etiquette and civility are not committed to justice but are mainly committed to avoiding conflict. The argument claims that a collective culture of politeness can serve to enable very destructive behaviors.
There might be some truth to the accusation that nice people make good Nazis or disable discourse about important civil rights issues. I have family members who quash such discussions by saying “We don’t bring up such topics in our home.” Even if they did allow “such topics” in their homes, they would still be locked into their rigid opinions. So, I don’t buy into the notion that civility enables far right politics.
On the contrary, history shows that radicals of the left or right seem to have wholesale disregard for polite discussion and civility. The rise of Nazism in the 1930s and neo-Nazism in the current era came about by disposing of civility and resorting to crudeness and disrespect of others. History shows us that fascists and Nazis did not embrace civility.
I have long advocated in favor of good etiquette and civility. One of the reasons I write about civility is that I see a yawning lack of civility these days. I maintain that now, more than ever, we need rationality, sobriety, and civility to make a comeback in our social debates. After all, to act in an insulting manner towards adversaries practically insures that your messages to them will be rejected. We need civility so we can more effectively return to the basic foundations of our democratic republic.
The barrage of bickering and blaming of others has gotten the United States and much of the world into a state of instability and violence. We can see that incivility directly leads to anarchy and tyranny.
Some citizens have the mistaken notion that civility excludes peaceful public demonstrations and protests. Of course peaceful mass protests that abide by basic civility have taken place and enabled great improvements in our society. Mahatma Gandhi’s opposition movement against the British Empire was famous for its civility. The strength of civility was also present in many of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century and also those of today.
Progress is impeded by incivility and disrespect of other people’s rights to be heard and live life as best as they see fit. People get along locally and globally when civility is practiced together. To speak and be heard is as important as gracefully allowing others to speak to us and be heard by us.
August is “Win With Civility Month”. I hope people everywhere will embrace this commemoration. To win with civility is not so much to take advantage of others and defeat them in the conventional sense. To win with civility is to advocate in favor of win-win scenarios.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris. “As citizens we have to be more thoughtful and more educated, and more informed. I turn on the TV and see these grown people screaming at each other, and I think, well, if we don’t get our civility back, we’re in trouble.”