Civility can be defined as formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour or speech. Synonyms would include courtesy, politeness and good manners. Spending time on social media, as well as interacting with people in various scenarios, one is tempted to wonder if civility isn’t dying out and on its way to extinction.
It can be argued that civility is a pillar for sound education and learning. This is because it takes a great deal of civility to hear others out even when they push ideas and concepts that are foreign or antagonistic to those held by one. Have a look around. All the great institutions of learning have at least one defining characteristic – they inculcate and impart an attitude of civility into their pupils and students. Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oxford, Columbia, etc. Great learning and great education do not exist apart from an attitude of civility.
This is why it is sad to observe the Nigerian landscape. All sorts of debates quickly degenerate into exchanges of insults and snide remarks. It appears that as a people – even the most and best educated among us – we are largely incapable of debating and arguing ideas, issues and concepts without stooping low to insults.
Once upon a time, literary and debating societies and activities were prominent in our educational institutions. The idea was to build minds that understood how to stick to arguing pointed issues while remaining polite and non-offensive towards opponents. Back then, it was important to be proper in speech and attitude towards others, regardless of what positions they held.
Today, those who believe and argue differently from what we believe in are regularly called fools, idiots, morons and all sorts of names. It is interesting to note that the name-calling has not resulted in helping anyone improve their thinking or upgrade their knowledge. It merely fuels the drama.
What happened to those ideals of civility that we once held important? Can we get back to them urgently?