- People fighting for power and those in opposition who want more of the resources.
- There are those who want more development (often at taxpayer expense) and those who want to remain with the status quo.
- People of color that want equal rights to a public education and those who fear allowing them in the district will bring crime and violence. [Inspired by this past weekend’s This American Life – well worth the listen… http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with]
- Parents who fear for their daughters’ reputations and girls who want to express themselves. [Circumstances and hindsight will determine who is correct in their stance.]
- People who want HRC for President and those who want her in jail.
- People fighting for an oil pipeline to transport Bakkan oil and people standing for the purity of the water that a leaky pipeline would destroy.
Just to mention a few.
In the current political race, it seems there has been less civility than ever. But, like crime, is civility actually at an all-time high apex? Is it truly that we live in a world where people are more polite, more compassionate than ever? Is it just the non-stop, instantaneous possibility for information that makes it feel like there is so much more strife? Or are we just being more open-minded, accepting everything as it is and allowing it to be in the open for all to see (and judge)? This reminds me of a favorite saying of my husband Dan’s: How far can you open your mind before your brain falls out?
Is it that our media focuses on the drama, allowing people to be rude and outspoken, to dish out all sorts of outrageous nonsense in the name of entertainment, that we find it OK to be assholes? Or have we always had this asinine behavior but now it’s just more in our spheres of consciousness? Does that make it worse? Or are we revealing it, thus increasing awareness and hopefully causing many to realize this is NOT the way we want to live? Is this free-for-all of rudeness bringing about a transformation to peace?
I believe that self-awareness and mindfulness make us more aware of incivility, especially our own. And, in awareness is the awakening to the non-productive and negative aspects of uncivil behavior. Our awareness is the first step to making a change in our own lives to improve how we interact. We can each take steps, once aware, to treat the other with compassion and love rather than hatred and intolerance. As a believer in Karma and the Three-Fold Law, I find that what I give out comes back and in knowing that I want compassion and love, I know that is what I need to give. I am not perfect in living this but I feel I am making progress in being less antagonistic. [Danny may occasionally disagree!]
And I do believe that the more open-minded we are, the less judgmental we tend to be, the more accepting and tolerant and thus, the more civil. Being open-minded involves some level of awareness that we just don’t know it all. An ability to say, “I don’t know” is a good start to having an ability to be civil. It is in knowing for sure, with complete certainty, that we do not allow the other to have his space for a difference in opinion.
Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.
~Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders, Institute for Civility in Government
From the Institute for Civility in Government website: Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.
And civility begins with us.
Some friends of mine recently got together to discuss Civility and one of the quotes was a proverb: A civil question deserves a civil answer. I agree. I think we learn much when we come together to discuss ideas, as long as we have a respect for each other’s ideas, especially when they differ from our own. The U-Group where Dan and I participate is a wonderful opportunity for this kind of sharing. We sit with friends, read ideas/quotes on a topic, contemplate these ideas in silence, and then discuss them with a single person holding the floor while the others listen intently. This space is sacred in that it is full of love and acceptance for all the ideas and words shared. It is a place where each of us can develop a new understanding within the self.
However, I think often these days many of us are not asking civil questions but questions that provoke, questions that give us an opportunity to expound on our own opinions without any true curiosity regarding any possible difference of opinion. One of my favorite sayings is that the goal of any argument should not be success but understanding. It seems many of us are too focused on success and reassuring ourselves that we are right, than in trying to dig deeper into an issue to find a bigger understanding. I am learning more as I age that it is better to listen to others than to share in conversation because I then gain more information than I already had. And often, my opinion is nonessential. I find also that, even when people ask for my thoughts, sometimes there isn’t truly an openness to hear them. I’m pretty blunt at times so perhaps it is just that I dish it out a little too strongly! But I do find that people are often open to me, in sharing and listening, I think because I tend to be relatively non-judgmental.
In this day, it seems many are quick to judge and condemn. This is discussed in-depth in a recent book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Ronson delivers a good read about the way public shaming has come back to life (think Twitter remarks and FB posts) and, like the whipping post of the past, has resulted in much undeserved punishment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillory He tells a few compelling stories of those who have been quite publicly shamed that give insight for consideration. His stories are based on talking with these individuals and it’s interesting to hear the different responses to the shaming experience. We see it all the time on FB – quick responses on posts, condemning or criticizing the ideas or actions of others. But who are we to jump on another for some slight failing? Are we not all human? Do we not all fail in small ways each day? Can we not have a bit more compassion for the fact that we’re all doing our best, or at least trying? Sure there is an occasional outright attempt to be shocking or rude. But doesn’t this behavior indicate a real suffering that perhaps may need attention? Perhaps we should keep in mind that each of us is dealing with our own personal struggles every day and sometimes these struggles do not allow us to perform at our best. When encountering someone being uncivil, sometimes a reflection on what horrors they may be facing helps me have compassion even with the most angry, abusive, or combatant of foes.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/02/the-camels-with-hammers-civility-pledge/ Found this to be an interesting read on the subject.
I find that I am the most impolite when I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT). Years ago in recovery, I learned about the HALT methodology to check myself for balance to realize where I might need to adjust. It is a good personal check-in to determine when I may be not taking care of myself which, in turn, means I am also more likely to be taking things out on those around me. I also need to take care when I am feeling fear or stress, which also inhibit my ability to keep a clear mind.
Inner civility is another space for contemplation. How civil am I to ME? Is it possible that my level of inner civility drives what I am capable of with others? Does that give me a small pause in considering the impolite person? Is he, in his inner dialogue, completely inhumane to himself as well? How hellish a life must that be? Perhaps I can have a moment of compassion for him.
My Youtube channel recently had some comments going back and forth. The video was of the DAPL Protest site in Cannon Ball, ND. It was a video I took on arrival at the site as I was transfixed by the power of song and dance being used in the non-violent action. The argument in the comments was ridiculous nonsense with one commenting that the music and dance were horrible and the other pushing back against the pro-oil stance of the initial commenter. Both were disrespectful and immature. As I contemplated this later, and thought back to my own experience of “being the asshole”, I realized this: The path of incivility is an easy downward slope, but when you later realize that we are all human and deserving of respect, it’s often a long, painful trudge back from the valley.
The Community Ed movie this week was Tangerines, presented by Ken Howell who reminded us to not confuse this movie with Tangerine (a story about a transgender sex worker who finds that her boyfriend/pimp is cheating on her). The movie, followed by discussion, was a beautiful opportunity to reflect on the nature of war and human civility. In this film about war-torn Georgia, a scuffle results in two soldiers sharing a small house together with a local man, Ivo, as they recover from their battle wounds. One soldier is Georgian and the other Chechenian. Enemies in the fight. Both had lost comrades from their side. And during their recovery, groups of soldiers show up to visit Ivo’s house, with interesting outcomes. The personal interactions are beautiful and heartening though left somewhat open for interpretation (like all good art films). My take-away from the movie was that, if we could all just enjoy a meal together, we’d find our common humanity and some level of civility with each other that would end all war and conflict. If we could all just stay in the moment, simply and quietly enjoying common ideas… that we need love, that we can serve each other, that we all want a better world for our children… we could find peace. I urge you to put this film on your To Watch List as the characters are well played and the story well told. It also will give you a look at what Harn life is like – the similarities were striking at times… a simple life of tea and soup, woodstove and woods.
I’m looking forward to that life.