A Cry for Civility

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:10 p.m.

As of last week, Facebook has been banned in Pakistan.  While this is a blow to freedom of speech, it is also a perfect example of how a world made small by technology is open to culture clashes that can eventually cost people their lives.

The ban is a reaction to a Facebook page entitled, “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” that encouraged people to draw Mohammed on May 20th.  Graphic representations of the prophet are strictly forbidden in Islam, so you might wonder why anyone except a drunken college student would come up with that so-called bright idea. When it comes to religion knee-jerk responses are so easy to snuggle up to, and this was yet another knee-jerk response made in protest of fundamentalist Islamic groups who threatened the producers of the cartoon, South Park, for depicting Mohammed in a bear suit costume.  You may ask yourself if someone else will up the ante with another over- the-top response.  You bet!  Holland has a popular anti-Islam party which according to the Associated Press is one of the fastest growing political parties in that country, and what’s the response to that?  Associated Press reports that, “ …an alleged al-Qaida militant detained in Iraq said he had talked to friends about attacking Danish and Dutch teams at the World Cup in South Africa next month.”  And so it goes…

I blame all this on the loss of a value and a word that is old-fashioned, civility which is a stately way of describing the act of being polite.  Civility on television, radio and the Internet has gone right out the window.  American talk radio is certainly inflammatory which may attract listeners but does more to harm public discourse than anything I can think of.  People interrupt one another without hesitation, and trading insults is the main agenda for all parties.  Call Obama a Communist, a Fascist, Adolf Hitler reincarnated and you will probably attract listeners but as far as engaging in serious political analysis, forget it.  Talk radio sounds like a bunch of bullies participating in mindless name calling.

Civility has been replaced by shock.  Insulting major religious figures may be amusing to adolescents and adults who can’t quite climb out of adolescence but in the end, it has needlessly increased tensions between East and West among factions that are just crying out for a reason to up the ante, and this is all done in the name of profit.  The producers of South Park have to satisfy the appetites of fans who crave that kind of material and this need supersedes any form of common sense.  It’s all about entertainment and entertainment is all about money.

I am not advocating surrendering our freedoms because we are threatened by people for using them.  Art will always call into question our most sacred values and the conflict will always exist between freedom of expression and religious expression.  Yet even the makers of South Park would be loath to call what they do art.

If people are going to wave the freedom of expression flag, then let’s hope that it is waved every now and then with some seriousness, and for a purpose that is just a few notches higher than entertainment with shock value.  If as much effort was put into finding common ground between East and West as in finding fault with another, we might make some headway, and that can only happen if people actually start to listen to one another respectfully.

Maybe civility is as old fashioned as costumes in a Jane Austen movie but without it, we’re all just a bunch of mindless louts shouting at one another and getting nowhere fast.



Copyright © 2009 Somebody's Mother Online All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek. | Bloggerized by FalconHive.