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Why civility is a lost cause: Our priorities should be empathy and justice, not politeness

  • calendar 24-Jul-2018
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Why civility is a lost cause: Our priorities should be empathy and justice, not politeness

For many, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s wink after his dramatic speech and hug at the no-confidence motion undercut his message about love and democratic goodwill. Those determined to miss the point claimed that it revealed his gesture to the Prime Minister as a ‘made-for-TV’ stunt. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi played on the wink with a pantomime of his own, and claimed that Gandhi’s hug was a desperate attempt to unseat him. He also mocked Sonia Gandhi’s accent, for good measure. So much for giving civility a chance. The death of ordinary courtesy in public life has been a running theme in the last few years, in India like in much of the world. The capacity to ‘disagree without being disagreeable’ seems like a lost cause in our polarised times. In the last few years, there has been an avalanche of rudeness in our lives. Social media has exposed deep anger and divisions to those who had been previously insulated from it, and loosened inhibitions. Resentments and resistances, once hidden, are now in our face, and some of us are fluttering our fans, because we can’t take the heat. Political bitterness spills over into private conversations, friendships, even family life. But there is something hopeless and ineffectual about those who seek public civility now. They also miss the point, in important ways..

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