Cal called me out on me pointing out the Swearing Festival Celebration of Profanity event with a link to his article on civility in the public political discourse.
But really, does it prove his point? Or does it parrot the use of calls for civility to mask indecency?
I’m going to make a case that it is the latter.
[Ick, Politics. I can’t help myself. I’ll spare you from it with the jump.]
Civility and Decency in Politics
Calls of civility in our political discourse are as common as a cloudy day in Seattle. It really is nothing new. The danger is when we use calls for “civility” as a way of protecting statements that are basically “indecent.”
It is because it is easy to confuse the two that this attack is so effective. Read this old article by Sadly, No! on the “civility please” defense of indecency.
Here is a quote:
[George F. Will] uses “civility” to mean manners masquerading as morals, a category of form referring less to the rule of law than to the rule of etiquette; it is more an unspoken social, rather than ethical, code. Correct behavior may make the good possible, it is not goodness itself.
By contrast, “decency,” which Will belittles, actually is about morals…“Decent” connotes a tempered moral position, one that carefully avoids righteous absolutism; it also suggests compassion and patience. The word is precisely the opposite of elite condescension, the opposite of hauteur.
I have no doubt how history will account us for the actions our country has recently visited upon the world. None, whatsoever. The only reason I’ve stopped blogging politics is because I have faith that our system will recognize the obvious… eventually.
If I didn’t have this faith, I’m sure in the name of decency, I would resort to some very uncivil words about our President.
I’m notorious for my use of cuss words in my talks. People make a game of keeping a “profanity counter” almost every time I open my mouth.
But don’t just hear, listen the next time. It is obvious that variations on “fuck” are my favorite word in the English language, but have I once told a person to “fuck off” and dismiss them without trying to understand where they are coming from?
That’s the difference: I may be uncivil, but I’m not indecent.
No matter how passionate I get, I remember I’m just advocating PHP, not torture.
Living in San Francisco
I’d never hold the civility of a Southerner against them. In many ways, I admire their ability to be polite in the face of such crassness, just as I am amused to see how a Canadian reacts to my talk—“with a little jump every time you swear” is how someone once put it. But I can’t live long in San Francisco if I hold people’s lifestyles against them—I’d close myself out to too many interesting people and experiences.
Sometimes they test my (conservative) boundaries.
When our boundaries are pushed, we call that art.
Your morals, my morals
When you claim that I, East Coast boy now living in the West Coast, should be held to your standards of civility.
That is indecent.
6 thoughts on “Using calls of civility to mask indecency”
I too stray from blogging about politics. I even avoid talking about them in public. I always feel like I will say something uncivil about our president.
When I heard that yesterday was Election Day in the San Francisco, part of me thought that it was already 2008, because I have been bombarded with talk of the new presidential candidates. Meanwhile, I am totally clueless to what our president is doing.
Great blog post.
I was one of them that kept an f-bomb count during your presentation at ZendCon – http://caseysoftware.com/blog/zendcon07-day-1-part-2-afternoon (24 for the record). But then afterwards we had a handful of political-type discussions in the hallway and despite our disagreement, I think we were both completely civil.
Jay Severin out of Boston calls it: Disagreeing without being disagreeable.