Thursday, August 28, 2014

Civic Discourse ed 5/1/16


            Note: I used brackets to indicate revisions that are non-trivial. PRB, 5/1/16   

             Excluding personal experience, I know nothing about civic discourse. Searching on the phrase, I found no Wikipedia entry, but referrals to thousands of uses of the phrase. Notable were: 1) Michael H. Prosser, a renowned professor and practitioner and 2) the Eisenhower Institute.
 Before I consider these and other resources, I want to state my hope. I wish to experience 70 % of citizens of the USA who want to communicate with each other doing so without restriction beyond [commitment to collaborate for private liberty with civic morality (PLwCM)]. This is my wish, because in the face of the command, "Don't hurt people's feelings," I have never been able to grasp how a person with a message can anticipate how other people will respond to that message: there [infinite] ways to respond to another person’s heartfelt concerns. But my main concern is eliminating barriers to open, frank, blunt, psychologically brutal, yet non-violent communications aimed at finding compromise--collaborating. Mimicking Albert Einstein, a person debates civic morality with no emotions, hopes, expectations, or other sources of passion, rather with candid collaboration to clarify the issue and understand how to apply physics to determine the most beneficial compromise. That being said, I now embark on my study of “civic discourse.”
                The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) has an entry, “Social Networking and Ethics,”[1] which seems appropriate for this function--online and personal collaboration to establish civic morality based on physics-based morality. I do not, however, think "social" provides clarity, because it often implies preference, as in social circles; rather I would select "civic" to indicate involuntary interconnections because people live in the same city, state, and country [at the same time]. Communications among a civic people seems destined to depend on both the Internet and direct discussion.
                Early topics in SEP include 1) anonymous or pseudonymous identities, 2) lack of a sense of personal contact and relevance, 3) the perception that the website itself would be in control of the communications, 4) risk avoidance by not being blunt. I urge both being blunt and refusing to ignore each other. Other subjects are stated as concerns, including:  “privacy, identity, friendship, the good life and democratic freedom”; “virtues, rights, duties, motivations and consequences;” and “copyright and intellectual property.” The many aspects of privacy,  “contextual integrity” and “virtual identity,” are a concern. Alienation by the social network itself must be considered: how can inclusive participation be assured? The discussion of personal integrity invited by Facebook participation attracts me to that service for this function. However, an independent website might be necessary to avoid affects of Facebook system and management changes. Democracy is addressed, and it is very important to stress that a civic people aims not for democracy but for compromise on [collaboration for] a republican form of government--election of representatives who actually serve the office they are elected to; collaboration to establish civic order; civic morality that establishes the achievable combination mutual no-harm private liberty with domestic goodwill. A key concern is appreciation for each person’s civic opinion on every issue. Finally, the SEP article addresses the question of how ethics is to be determined. The questions are formidable, and expert help will be needed for any online networking. Regardless, periodic conferences seem essential. In the article, I did not notice the phrase, “civic discourse” but did notice “civil discourse,” which might have the same intent. Ethics is to be determined using physics: energy, mass, and space-time, from which everything emerges. Please see the essay Physics-based Ethics: Civic Examples on this blog.
                Turning now to Michael H. Prosser, a quotation in Wikipedia is, “My ultimate personal and professional goal, emerging from a potentially monocultural individual, to a Eurocentric one, and then to an Afrocentric one, followed by an Asiacentric person, and eventually to a multicultural one, is to move eventually to global citizenship. For, as Socrates said, 'I am neither a citizen of Athens, nor of Greece, but of the world.'” While I like his quote for him, for this effort, helping a civic people according to the preamble to the constitution for the USA to actually emerge would be satisfying global service for me, and drawing collaboration on physics-based morality seems essential. To win the reader's support for our work, let me say I want the benefits during the reader's liftime--not in some far-distant future. Let's establish PLwCM in the USA and let the rest of the world react.
                The Einsenhower Institute (EI), a “program of Gettysburg College . . . is a non-partisan, non-profit, presidential legacy organization that develops and sponsors civic discourse on significant issues of domestic and international public policy. Gettysburg College was originally founded in 1832 by anti-slavery theologian, Samuel Simon Schmucker, to educate new immigrants to Pennsylvania. It now ranks among the best liberal arts colleges in the United States. During the 1990s, the institute worked hard to promote a stronger educational focus on public affairs by sponsoring numerous programs that have linked education, scholarship and public policy.”[2] Among pursuits compatible with this one are: “Embody and advance President Eisenhower's model of public policy formation, including the rigorous pursuit of facts, respectful dialogue among stakeholders, and focus on the future; Encourage greater understanding and more responsible oversight of our core governmental institutions by all citizens, along with an appreciation of the intersections of national policy and global issues; Make optimal use of the College's extensive alumni network in fields related to leadership and public policy; Partner with like organizations, especially the other Eisenhower legacy organizations, in support of its mission.” Help from the EI[3] would be invaluable.Our work would add focus on posterity--children, grandchildren, and beyond.
                A new view opens when we research “civil discourse” instead of “civic discourse.” It prompts the searcher to consult the dictionary. “Civic” means of or pertaining to citizenship; civil (that's circular). “Civil” means of, pertaining to, or consisting of citizens, but usages 6 and 7 entail conformity. First, 6) of, or in a condition of, social order or organized government; civilized : civil peoples and 7) adhering to the norms of polite social intercourse; not deficient in common courtesy. Thus, “civic” implies “about citizens” and “civil” implies behavior according to “social order.” The first implies personal liberty and the second implies conformity. Conformity to what?
                Adam Smith would urge for propriety; see plato.stanford.edu/entries/smith-moral-political/ . Smith wants me to anticipate the feelings of the other party as I speak or write, but recognizes that I cannot trust my anticipation of the other party's feelings and therefore should rely on an "impartial spectator." Alas, Smith does not provide me that spectator, and I would not trust Smith's spectaor if he did. Therefore, I rely on physics-based ethics [morality], which requires the other party and me to strive candidly, with integrity, to define the issue, putting emotions aside (Einstein, above.)  I see both conformity and propriety as impositions that prevent potential leaders from the candid collaboration a civic people must have to establish both personal liberty and domestic goodwill. Passionate, sympathetic persons could fade to dust never sharing the key to peace. With blunt collaboration by a civic people, compromise leads to civic order, perhaps civil law, perhaps PLwCM.
                When I started reading about civil discourse, the views of both Kenneth Gergen and John Locke[4] make me recoil from the idea of conforming to their requirements. From about 2-4 years’ exchange online, I have grown accustomed to taking what I can get and trying to work with it. I have turned brash insults toward me into learning opportunities for me. I want the other person’s opinion so earnestly that I do not want to create even one barrier. If my neighbor burned his American flag as a public expression rather than for disposal, I would come running with the questions, “What’s gone wrong, and how can I help?” So, I care less about civil discourse, conformance to the expected behavior, than about civic discourse, expression of needs and concerns by my neighbor. However, if my neighbor is turned off by my zeal to understand, I must accept my neighbor's personal liberty.
                I look forward to what will develop among a civic people according to the preamble to the constitution for the USA as the commitment approaches 70 % of some 320 million people. And, I think I will see that happen. The achievable combination personal liberty and [with] domestic goodwill or PLwCM is too attractive to dismiss.
                If one of my assertions or my writing in general seems to offend you, please recognize that I am working for a transcendent culture of a civic people who collaborate for the achievable combination PLwCM. Bluntly rebuke my idea that offends you (no need to rebuke me--focus on the idea), and your candid statements will inform me and perhaps help establish a civic people--that overarching culture humankind so desperately needs.
Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised May 1, 2016.


[4] Online at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_discourse .