The Alphaville Harold has published an op-ed by FoxM Ember. (10y/07m/10) Using the title I copied, The Loss of Civility. The loss of civility and the inability of people to debate controversial issues and move discussions forward to a rational solution rather devolving into profanity, name calling, and locked threads has long been a concern of mine.
I think Fox’s article for the Alphaville Harold is an indication that others have similar concerns and are seeing a similar loss of social abilities. Fox feels the anonymity of the net and virtual worlds adds to the problem. Fox is likely correct on that point. But, other than pointing out the problem nothing is said about how to correct the problem or trend.
I think the nature of the problem is much more insidious and serious with important far reaching consequences. I am of the opinion that we are seeing aspects of this problem in the loss of statesmanship in politics and an increase is racism (DoJ v. Adams). The use of childish and intellectually dishonest debate tactics and the acceptance by so many and the influence those tactics have is chilling. In politics intellectual dishonesty is often a deliberate propaganda tactic to confuse, mislead, and divide the ignorant. I assume those tactics are effective because people don’t recognize; illogical arguments and debate tactics, intellectual dishonesty, and propaganda or they may simply be ignorant of the tactics and behaviors.
I thought something needed to be done about the loss of social skills some time ago. I learned long ago that one can do little to change the world without first changing one’s self. Next is understanding others. One must go beyond the words of a discussion, as there is usually a lot more in play than just the words spoken or written.
Deciding what is under the words and why another may be motivated is risky. Responding to what may be under the words of another is almost always a revealing projection/transference of our thoughts and feelings on an issue or about the speaker/writer rather than an exposé of the speaker, which is why understanding of self is so important.
There is little we can do to directly change others. Others change because they choose to in response to outside stimuli and personal experiences. By changing the stimulus we provide, we can effectively can induce change others or at least draw out a different response. It then becomes a matter of whether can we do so without engaging in the poor behavior we are hoping to raise to a higher level. That means we have to understand the behavior, tactics, and skills used in rhetoric, discussion, and debate.
For years I’ve participated in the Myst games community. I saw waves of bad behavior and flame wars move through the community. It was in that community I started a discussion (Standards for Discussion and Debate) on the subject of how to change the quality of discussion on those forums. The ideas, concepts, and resulting information are applicable in any social setting. Anyone can join the discussion to figure out how to implement change and to gain an understanding of intellectually honest and dishonest tactics used in discussion. It is, after all, a matter of whether you want to do something to make your worlds better places.