So where has “Civil Discourse” gone?April 27, 2016 by Bennett Tanton | Be the first to comment »
“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”
– George Washington
Ok, what is civil discourse? Civil discourse is engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding. I should not have do define civil but I will. Civil in this context means courteous and polite. So there we have it. “Civil Discourse” means courteous and polite conversation in its most basic form. This is something in this day and age that’s severely lacking in the public realm. So why? When I ask this question my gut tells me there is one huge issue that is causing this lack of civil discourse. There is more to this issue but this is the base of it all and that is respect, or the lack there of. It is very difficult to have a meaningful conversation between two people if there is a basic lack of respect. Psychologist Kenneth Gergen describes “Civil Discourse” as “The language of dispassionate objectivity.” Dispassionate means “unaffected by strong emotion or prejudice”, objectivity is “the state or quality of being objective.” Objective in this context is “not being influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.” In his book Social Construction in Context, Gergen states “it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences.”
So with everything above said, how do we move forward? There is a basic lack of respect running rampant through this country. Lack of respect for police by people and people by police. A lack of respect for people of all races – take your pick. Basic lack of respect for religion of all denominations. No respect of social class, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. Everyone is blaming everyone else for their problems and using those problems as an excuse to behave badly. That kind of behavior shows a complete lack of respect for the most important thing there is: YOURSELF!!!!! If you lack the self respect to be honest with yourself, how can you have the clarity to judge anything else? In this culture we are so self absorbed you can just hear the underlying whispers of “Worry about you, ignore the community they can’t help you, they won’t help you. Go out and get yours at all costs.” This is destroying our culture. The U.S. is a melting pot of religions, races, and nationalities. Nationalistic rhetoric is also fueling this degradation by separating us even more and fueling hate.
“We need to in this country begin again to raise civil discourse to another level. I mean, we shout and scream and yell and get very little accomplished, but you can disagree very much with the next guy and still be friends and acquaintances.”
-Leah Ward Sears
When was the last time you had a civil discourse with someone that apposed your views? I bet for most of you it doesn’t happen often and when it does, it degrades faster than garbage in the hot sun. Then you will blame the other person for losing it when you either start yelling at each other or fighting. Especially in this election year, politics are a hugely divisive force. People will get physically violent over supporting a candidate – are you serious?! Getting into a fight over something someone says that they probably can’t or won’t do is absurd. Because at the end of the day their best interests are not yours. THEY WILL SAY ANYTHING – THEY WANT YOUR VOTE!!!! If you want real change, take lobbyists and special interests out of the process as well as pass real campaign finance reform and term limits. Then we can talk about candidates that care. As soon as you take the monetary gain out of politics you will get people that really care. I’m not saying there aren’t people in politics who care and truly have the people they represent and their interests at heart, but they are a minority.
See? that is one of my opinions about the current climate in our countries politics and it was politely put forward. I will gladly talk about it civilly with anyone that feels so inclined, let me know!
So, how can we begin to fix the mess that has been made of our country? First off stop listening to the fear mongering on all sides. Nothing good ever came out of fear. Find good people to surround yourself with as hate will infect you if you surround yourself with it. Family, friends, co-workers if they spew hate filled speech and correspondence tell them it’s an issue with you and explain to them why. If they respect you they will respect your wishes. This has nothing to do with free speech. If you can’t get your point or opinion across without spouting hate, I have nothing for you and neither should you. You can say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean anyone will be listening. I’m not talking about being politically correct either. You know hate, you can feel it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Lastly you should calm down, take a deep breath and respect other people. If you give respect you will usually get it back. If you don’t, then these are people you ignore – don’t play into their misery. Be kind. The saying you get more with sugar than with vinegar is completely true.
These opinions are my own. If you disagree feel free to let me know. I will get back to you, but bring it in a civil, educated manner. Use this as practice!
“Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.”