14 April 2013

A Plea for Civility

"When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency."

Samuel Johnson

"As citizens we have to be more thoughtful and more educated and more informed. I turn on the TV and I see these grown people screaming at each other, and I think, well, if we don't get our civility back we're in trouble."

Emmylou Harris

“Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners...”

Pier Massimo Forni

I recall having cautioned you all that we have entered a period of hysteria several times. I saw this phase coming years ago. And here we are.
1.Exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement.

2.A psychological disorder whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms, selective amnesia, susceptibility to autosuggestion.

At other times I have referred to what follows from hysteria as 'the madness.' That is when hysteria is driven into action, sometimes by those who would seek to use that madness for their own ends. And as you recall I often say, 'the madness serves none but itself.'

I have read some things today on the web from fellow bloggers that were utterly 'over the top.' I am not talking about those sites that seek to whip up hysteria in order to provide them a following and 'clicks' for pay because that is to foolishly expect the unexpected, that is, civility from sites that serve their own ends, often political but always commercial.

There are professional people who make a living doing this on television.  Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh come to mind.  Most of the others are legitimate shock comedians and their humour is dark, but sometimes rather funny.  But these others are just vile people pandering to what is most ugly in the human condition.

The bloggers I follow are people from whom I would expect better, because I can tell from their writing that they are informed, most often sincere and intelligent.   And I am disappointed.

I think that saying to one of the mothers of a child that was killed at Newtown that they are an "incompetent and defective sack of meat -- your son is dead because you are unfit to be parents" because they have spoken out in favor of gun control laws to be completely over the top and inexcusable,  even by today's remarkably low standards.

And although it ought not to matter, I happen to be a long time gun owner, and have participated in regional matches, albeit in my younger years.  And my son carries on in this. I don't speak of this much because it is not relevant to what I do intend to talk about.  And I am in favor of background checks and licenses for things that can pose a danger to other people in their use, like airplanes, automobiles, and firearms.

And although I know that markets are made up of differences of opinion, remarking on the fairly heavy handed bear raid on the precious metals sector by saying "Where the fuck is your Gold Messiah now?" is a bit much.   I mean, really. This is analysis?

I can look at the record and see how and where the selling came from as well as these others. And the rest of what follows is about as insubstantial and based on mere opinion rather than anything approaching analysis. I found the sneering takedown of those who are following a long term strategy to be particularly obtuse. Are we all not supposed to be day traders now? 

I think the system as we knew it is changing. And the lack of reform in the financial markets is going to break the confidence of the public.  And those who make their living off the markets may give some mind to speaking out for reform, or learn a useful trade doing something else. Not everyone remembers what the 1970s were like for trading, but some do.

I won't even respond further, because I only do so with public figures speaking out in favor of policy. And sometimes I do use humour and satire. That is what I do. That is what it is called when the weaker party like myself takes on the more powerful. When the more powerful figure takes on the weak the same way, it is just bad manners and bullying. This is why I get so incensed sometimes at the way in which powerful figures beat up the little guys, even while they are taking advantage of them.

I am even breaking a long standing tradition by commenting directly on what other bloggers say. Things are tough enough without those who are operating outside the mainstream fighting amonst themselves, and I probably won't do it again.  That is how formidable I think things are going to be.

I know that people who speak out for and against some thing get abused sometimes by those who hold the other side of the opinion. I get it. And since I happen to be a center progressive I get it a lot, and sometimes from both sides at the same time! For me that is why spam filters exist, and why I do not take the time to monitor comments on my site, preferring to take them privately instead and use what is factual and ignore what is not. Lashing out at those who attack you with ridicule and viciousness merely takes you down to their level where they will beat you with the energy of excessiveness.

I think there is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there. And it is going to get worse. And in such a time it is even more important to stick to the facts, maintain your composure, keep a cap on the rhetorical flourishes and excesses, and remember that if you do not know what will happen, that the other guy might be right as well. Age has taught me that those who see things in pure black and white are often just color blind and nearsighted.

It is those who can proceed calmly and with serenity who will pass through this period relatively well, and even if they do suffer some unavoidable misfortune, they can do so without regret.

"So let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof."

John F. Kennedy

And if you wish you can aspire to something even higher,  probably not fully achievable as a goal based on my own experience, but worthy of an attempt as a way of life.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Mother Teresa