Recent Conference on Civility Falls Short on Specifics

A few weeks ago, the fourth annual Community Conference on Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue was held in Linda Vista at the Joan P. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice on the USD campus.

The event was attended and promoted by educators, civic leaders, politicians, students and concerned citizens in order to foster civil behavior in San Diego and presumably everywhere else in the world. While the intention of this gathering was decent and honorable, the scope of solutions, recommendations and historical context fell short of expectations.

Perhaps the leaders of this forum ought to have enlisted the bountiful knowledge found in the academic disciplines of history, social-psychology, social philosophy and sociology. After all, it was during the Middle Ages when a citizen’s social status was linked to their behavior and civility. Today the opposite is true being that anyone of reverence may comport themselves through bad manners with social impunity.

As far as I know, the conference failed to explore how personal psychology and emotional intelligence factor into the civility equation.  There was scant mention of human feelings such as envy, jealousy and hopelessness and how these affective behaviors translate into incivility. I like to use the example of personal appearance upon civil life and the contradictions within our society. Everyone wants to stay fit and healthy with a great body, yet as we become older being in perfect form subjects one to hostility and disparaging remarks by way of the jealous and envious. How counterintuitive have we become by striving for and attaining  the very positive result society so desires and then being chastised for such an accomplishment? This is incivility.

All behavior has consequences. Across the board, from the pulpit to the White House, we are all judged by others. A civil society recognizes the intent of sometimes aberrant behavior in terms of consequentiality. For example, a first generation American with a history of prejudice and discrimination in their family makes a conscientious decision while sitting on a local town council to support a politician of comparable upbringing. Unfortunately, this is against the rules and the offender is punished by banishment. This type of scenario falls under the philosophy of consequentialism. On a much broader scale, this is what occurred by the Catholic clergy in condoning the carpet bombing of Dresden during WWII. Simply stated, it is somewhat akin to the ends justify the means theory.

When all is said and done, the lifeline to civility remains one’s emotional intelligence coupled by good parenting. And yes, public education also has a role, but some things will never change such as human emotions of envy and jealousy. Also, we ought to remember that when we become emotional and point out bad behavior and incivility, we are often the double victim as most folks resent being preached to unless by way of the divine.

Be nice, do good deeds and don’t be a stranger as we at The Clairemont Times value your participation.

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