Like in war, words are the lethal weapons of politics. Civility, on the surface, is often antithetical in the battles for political or idealogical supremacy. But I learned from the “Art of War” that the best victories are the ones attained without waging a bloody battle.
Passionate resistance and fierce ferocity is easily mistaken for strength; but true strength and valor lies in the moral and spiritual grandeur of restraint, forgiveness and compassion – even to the worst elements of our society.
It is normal to sometimes frown at the very idea of unconditional love; but it is always unwise to hate anyone. Why? It takes too much of our vital energy to hate another. I learned from Mark Twain that “anger is like an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” To avoid self-destruction, it is worth learning the delicate spiritual art of showing compassionate unconditionally.
My observations of our discourses (in The Gambia, and yes! very much so in the USA) the last few months had me questioning my long held convictions that our capacity for love and compassion is enough to overcome all negativities thrown our way. At times I wonder if the best means to confronting bigotry, racism and tribalism is anything other than passionate resistance and fierce ferocity of the kind directed at one. Or is it better that when greeted with aloof intellectual absolutism and condescending attitude, masquerading as civility with equal pretense to project intellectual superiority and a class act of righteous indignation, or with disdain and profanity?
I occasionally ponder if there is any use in trying to have a civil conversation with political and idealogical zealots that are hell bent on tearing down any common sense rules that will facilitate a civil discourse with their belligerence and demagoguery. Or rather, is it just better to ignore them with contempt and pretend that engaging them is beneath you?
Worse still; how can you have a civil conversation with people that are completely oblivious and contemptuous to the basic ethics of any normal conversation? Example; allowing each party to make statements, ask questions and giving the other party an opportunity to respond. Or how can you reason with people that are simply not interested in hearing your ‘words of reason and compassion’ and will meet every word of empathy with profanity?
Also, how do you engage in a constructive discourse with people who are impervious to facts and contemptuous to any reason and logic that don’t support their politics or ideology? Their only interest in every discourse is to hear the reverberations of the loud protestations of their griefs and vexations.
The very idea of bigotry, racism and tribalism are so noxious that one often feels that the participants of such vile displays deserve no treatment of civility in any decent society. We sometimes have opponents in our discourse that are so consumed by hatred and enmity that we render them to be beyond salvation and assume that they deserve our contempt. But that’s perhaps only our own superficial judgment.
Sometimes, giving a political opponent a way to save face could open up for them a new window for more vitriol or bigotry; in other words – you’ll just be giving them room to destroy the decent etiquettes of society. Even wisdom would dictate that the doctrine of civility shouldn’t be a suicide pact for the destruction of society. Tact is therefore indispensable in dealing with a political fanatic.
After endless wonderings in the ether world and reflections in solitude, I came home to my firm conviction the way to most effectively confront fanaticism is with empathy, compassion and love. Within these spiritual elements, civility is inexhaustible. It is not for us to force others to accept our kindly gifts of goodwill and benefaction; it is only enough that we give them out sincerely.
To be continued……