I read a lot from all sides of an argument. I have noticed that people are less civil with each other today than ever before. Part of this is because we are not taught fundamental civil discourse.
Let me boil this down to just a few key issues:
- You are unlikely to change minds. People have spent their lives developing the opinions they hold. Many of them may be unquestioned beliefs, while others may have decades of experience behind them. Regardless, a few pithy sentences are not likely to suddenly make someone say “I’ve been living my life all wrong for these past 30 years.”
- The goal of politics is not to convince but to find common ground. I may be a right wing conservative. And you may be a left wing liberal. We may not agree on what we should do to improve health care, but we both agree that what we’re doing now is a bureaucratic snarl of epic proportions. It serves no-one well. Where can we find other aspects we can agree on? Is it possible for us to agree enough to build something we can both live with?
- You are not going to get everything you want. Nobody does. If you aim for getting everything you will get nothing. Politics is the art of the compromise. The point is to get enough of what you need.
- Utopian notions lead to Hell on Earth. Do you think anyone wakes up in the morning and says “How can I screw up the rest of humanity to make me a king?” No. No-one but the pathologically insane would say that. But many people have raped, pillaged, and murdered others in the name of a utopian vision. If your politics has some sort of magical utopian thinking, that is a huge red flag that should make you stop and ask who is going to die for that vision to happen. Warning: It May Be YOU!
- Terrorism against people doesn’t work. The use of force to bring people around to your way of thinking is not going to work in the long run. It will result in significant retaliation. Those who use such methods rarely succeed. For example, while we may revere John Brown, the Abolitionist today; his methods were those of a terrorist. His acts probably set civil rights efforts back for many decades.
- Heckler’s vetoes do not work either. Sure, you can interrupt that speech from some right or left wing extremist. You can shut them down. But you won’t be removing their opinions from the public discourse. And even if you make it completely illegal to say such prohibited things, you can’t stop people from thinking them. They will organize in secret and then they will surprise you when you least expect it. The result will not be pleasant.
- Freedom of speech is not a right for the public to respect you or even listen to your opinion. You have the right to be wrong. You have the right to be profoundly ignorant. You have the right to be hateful. You have the right to be stupid, funny, intelligent, disgusting, obnoxious, blasphemous, nonsensical, and any other sort of speech. But nowhere does it say that anyone has to listen to you.
There are many who post things with expectations or implicit assumptions that violate these issues. You can expect the world from your audience. But they don’t have to give you anything. And if you attempt to force people, they will do their best to ensure that it costs you.
These are some of the key foundations of modern civilization. Study them. Consider them. And realize that the next time you call someone names because they do not agree with your world-view, that you’re not making anyone’s life easier. Not even your own.