Monday, May 15, 2006

Anger and Civility

Last week I was on about anger (and good writing that expresses it). It seems to be a big topic these days. Today I was referred to a posting by Chris Clarke (whom I happen to know from long ago, though he probably wouldn't remember that) about civility. He makes the excellent point that civility isn't appropriate in some cases:
My point: it is not civil to discuss things quietly and collegially while people are dying because they canĂ‚’t afford medicine. It is not civil to speak in even, chuckling sardonicism as one beleaguered wild place after another is paved for profit. It is not civil to calmly raise logical arguments against torture, against kidnapping, against using nuclear weapons on civilians to show our resolve.
All good points. On the other hand, the title of his posting is "Fuck Your Civility." While that is attention-getting, it also plays into one of the difficulties in the blogosphere. Some of the cleverest and best-researched blogs I read are marred (IMHO) by a tendency to swear and call people names. Some of it comes across as immaturity, some as incivility. But a lot of it is just rudeness, and you can't create any kind of meaningful dialogue by being rude.

And that's a bit of a dilemma: You can get people's attention by swearing or name-calling, but you're not likely to engage them in a productive way thereafter. The trick is to find a way to get attention without alienating.

Tough one, that.

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