I am longing for glimpses of civility.
“Let the Wookiee win” is an amusingly pragmatic solution on film, but in real life, how do I deal—especially in the immediate setting of daily life—with someone who begins from a presumptively inarguable, nay, an aggressive and adversarial, stance? To those who know best, people who are convinced of the legal, logical, or even moral rectitude of their positions, any contrary or even slightly variant ideas and approaches are inherently impossible. A challenge to an atom of it is an act of war on the whole.
In these situations, all communications, responses, and interactions are, from the outset, likely to occur in the form of avoidance, delays, dismissive patronizing, and bait-and-switch tactics, and are nearly always adamantly declared someone else’s choice, fault, and sinister plot. Rather than moderating over time, those with such attitudes tend to move only further toward insults, bullying, and threats of legal or even violent action. There is no possibility of reasoned discussion or compromise; only 100% I-win-you-lose is the acceptable outcome.
Sure, easy to say just don’t go near those guys. But that’s the voice of people who have experience and/or foreknowledge, not to mention alternatives.
We’ve been dealing with this kind of extremism and incivility on every level in the current world social climate, but it almost seems we’ve become so accustomed, if not inured, to it that it’s only when such attitudes and behaviors fester to the surface in our own bubbles of daily life that we return to the painful task of making sense out of this pernicious non-sense. Yelling louder doesn’t fix anything. Threatening worse and hitting harder might force the weaker of us back into the corner for a while, but what then?
Really: I’m asking. Because what’s become clear is that every one of us touched by the toxins of such attitudes tends to become poisonous, too. It seems easy to tell when somebody else is being unreasonable, intractable. Crazy, even! But if the response is to simply dig in, shore up, and become more convinced of our own rightness, even to the point of cherry-picking information and sources of it to back our own claims, aren’t we all just becoming equally crazy in our own extremism?
My head’s spinning. I’m hungry, thirsty, desperate. For moments of silence, of kindness. Space in which there’s no need for chosen sides or declared allegiances or power plays. I’m looking out toward the great distances of space and looking for a star that lights the way to greater warmth and wisdom than I’m sensing under our own sun right now.
All that’s certain is that I had better figure out how to re-civilize myself or I won’t even recognize civility anymore when I do see it in anyone else.