Coufal's remarks on civility
redoak at forestmeister.com
Tue Oct 26 09:04:55 EST 1999
I read with great interest the essay by SAF President James
Coufal entitled "Civility" on the SAF web site at
The call for civility is a noble effort, but we must keep in
mind that it works best when the 2 sides of any debate are more
or less equal in their political power. When they are not, the
fact is that the stronger side will often attempt to bludgeon
the weaker side with their wealth and power and access to the
media and politicians.
We all have a right as American citizens to play the game of
politics, and history has shown us that it is seldom a nice
polite game as we'd all like. Most progressive movements in this
country didn't get anywhere by being polite. We didn't politely
ask King George to take his thugs back to that tiny island off
the coast of Europe; Abe Lincoln didn't politely ask the
southerners to end slavery; the modern civil rights and enviro
movements would have gained nothing by being purely "civil" and
Civility is one of the tools of those in political struggles,
but not the only one. That's just the facts of life about how
politics really works. I commend Jim's call for civility, but
let's just remember that one side of the environmental debates
is always far more powerful than the other side; or perhaps Jim
has some solution to equalize the contestants?
Civility is nice, I like polite people. Believe it or not, I'm
polite 99% of the time- but don't anyone dare argue that
civility is ESSENTIAL in all political debates. The pro gun
lobby loves to tell us that the first thing that new
totalitarian governments have done is take away people's guns.
The second thing they do is insist they nobody challenge the
authorities, in any but the most polite, civil manner; or else.
But this America, and we have a right to NOT act polite, if we
so determine that other means are necessary. No less that
Socrates told the young of his day in Athens to challenge
authority and he didn't say to do it with great civility.
Obviously the forestry "party line" didn't consider the Sierra
Club's book "Clearcut" to be polite- I consider it wonderful. If
that was impolite to the party line, we need more of that.
It is never considered polite to point out the massive failures
of the other side, no matter how you try to sweeten your
language. A lot of very polite people have been ignored by those
with the power and wealth- many have been murdered like Martin
Luther King- who was on the polite side of the civil rights
battle, with the Panthers taking the tougher line. Civility
should be tried, and if it fails other techniques should be used
to make a point.
Until you can make incivility unconstitutional, it will continue
as a free act of a free people. Better to deal with those acts
of incivility than any attempt to force civility upon people who
have been ignored for too long.
Joe "Che" Zorzin
The Politics of Forestry
"Monstrous in its hold upon us, the bureaucratic mind
is sustained by the self-perpetuating mechanics of government
and the claptrap of its own rhetoric."
"Kafka's Bureaucratic Nightmares" by Jack Matthews
"We human beings don't look very much like a tree, we view
the world very differently but down deep at the molecular
heart of life we are virtually identical to trees."
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