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Civil War: Civility in a battle

Updated on January 17, 2011


Should civility be a primary goal for the political forces in today’s world?

What are the results that can be derived from civility?

Do these results align with, support, or further the actual primary goals of today’s political forces?

What are the primary goals of today’s political forces?

There are actually many different views as to what the goals of the two main political ideologies of today are. And there could be a huge discourse if not several volumes written upon that. But in short and based upon the actions and agendas of most politicians in office (please note I said actions and agendas – not published rhetoric and propaganda), the overall, generalized goals are:

Liberalism basic goal

Empowering the government to be the provider for the common good and welfare of people, with the authority and control lying in the hands of the elected.

Conservatism basic goal

Downsizing of government and empowering its citizens to be the provider for the common good and welfare of the people, with the authority and control lying in the Constitution and laws with the final approval by vote of the people.

I know these are very simplified and colored by my understanding, but whatever the goals of the two factions are, they are in direct contradiction of each other. They are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. There is a conflict in the pursuit of the goals by the factions.

So how does civility effect the accomplishment of the goals? Perhaps defining civility will help to discern the role of civility in this conflict of ideologies.


According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. archaic : training in the humanities
  2. a : civilized conduct; especially : courtesy, politeness b : a polite act or expression

Synonyms: amenity, attention, courtesy, formality, gesture, pleasantry, politeness

According to Google

  1. Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
  2. Polite remarks used in formal conversation.

Civility is a manner for interaction, conduct or communication. It would be best designated as an available tool for an interaction, conduct or communication. Civility is a showing of respect for other people. It however should not be applied to mean anything further than that.

If indeed civility is added to the goals of the political factions, it must be given a level of priority in relationship to the other goal or goals. That is the goal of civility has to be ranked above or below the other goal or goals. If it were deemed the most important goal, then all other goals would be forsaken in order to achieve it. If it were ranked secondary to any other goal, then it would have limits to the extent of its pursuit. There could be a time when the practice of civility would no longer be prudent or wise, for to do so would put the primary goals in danger.


If two teams are participating in a tug-of-war, and the agreed upon rules say that each team may use only 5 players (and of course the goal is to pull the other team past the dividing line), then everything is considered fair if both sides follow the rules. However, if one side decides to break the rules in some crafty fashion, like other team members pulling on other team members to help, the other side is most likely going to lose. In order for that other team to remain competitive, they will have to compensate in some fashion outside the rules as well. In other words, if winning is the most important goal, secondary goals may have to be sacrificed.

I am not proposing that cheating is a worthy tactic. This is strictly for illustration. In fact, this might not be the best example because the rules in this sense are part of the competition. Breaking the rules would normally give the victory to the other side by default (or at least result in a penalty of some sort). But in the political arena, this is not so. The rules for one side seem to be different for the other side. And if the rules push the advantage in the other direction, then changing the rules to regain the advantage is in order. All of the spectators have different interpretations and concepts of the rules as well. And then if the officials are missing calls… well, it all gets quite complicated, doesn’t it?

A lot of attention to the secondary goals also draws attention away from the main goals. So this too could be a way to gain the advantage by using fallacious arguments. So it is possible that in this instance the introduction of a “call” for civility is simply an attempt to regain advantage by creating an animosity toward the other side of being cruel and evil through unfounded accusations. That is in essence a fallacious argument – an Ad Hominem, specifically. It is an attempt to discredit the points, issues, arguments or policies by attacking a person or group associated with them. It is illogical – there is no basis for the conclusion. But, if the advantage swings, then the tactic was successful – for a while.

Civility is a good, honorable and worthy trait for all people to have. Civility doesn’t sell newspapers or increase ratings. So, one thing is for sure: there will not be any civility coming from the media


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      Tall Paul 7 years ago

      I like that analogy!