How to Decrease Divisiveness and Increase Civility in Our Society
July 23, 2018
Our society is being torn apart by bitter divisiveness and raging incivility. Politics, now the center of our lives, has filled our hearts, its toxic unending demand for change—always more change!—as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. And our political opponents? We dehumanize them into mere obstacles, nothing more than road bumps impeding society's progress toward our vision of utopia. "The ends justify the means," we self-righteously tell ourselves as we wage wars of personal destruction. And anger and rancor escalate and escalate and escalate.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Politics doesn't have to cloud every interaction in our lives. Civility doesn't have to be taboo. People can be people, not always divided into political allies or foes, but simply people. And some means can be rejected, their cost too great to justify or to ever actually lead us to the ends we desire. But to achieve this, to decrease the divisiveness and to increase civility in our society, we cannot continue as we have been. We need to make room for those who disagree with us, room to live, room to breathe, room to remain human despite different opinions of life and its meaning. Here are three steps you can take to provide others that room:
1. Minimize the scope of politics in society. Politics is “us” vs “them”. It is inherently divisive. It is also completely unnecessary in the majority of our life. Reject it where it doesn't belong. Shrink its scope in your own life and encourage everyone else to do the same. The more we hear, “Politics isn't welcome here”, the more civil and less divisive our society will become.
2. In those limited circumstances where politics are appropriate, direct your fire at the ideologies and beliefs you disagree with, not at the individuals who currently believe in those ideologies and beliefs.
3. (Related to #2) When individuals disagree with you, treat them like potential converts you want to persuade to your way of thinking. Do not treat them like monsters you want to skin alive, stuff, and mount on your wall.
If we each personally do this, then we each personally will contribute to a better society, but these steps are meant to be taken by you, the person reading my words, not just by the people on the other side. Pointing the finger at others doesn't help. Setting an example in your own life of the right way to live is how to make things better.