Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is Civility?

I don't just mean what does Google say or how Wikipedia defines it; I mean how does being civil really manifest in our daily life?

For example, some people I know are going to court to decide custody of their child. With the amount of negative things being said, and accusations being made, I wonder why it is called "civil court." People can agree to disagree, or have contrast without conflict, so why would someone try to dredge up, exagerate, or even make up false stories to make the other party look bad? It was disturbing to hear what was concocted, even under oath.

From Google:

  1. Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
  2. Polite remarks used in formal conversation.
courtesy - politeness - comity - urbanity - complaisance

I guess I didn't see any "formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech." I didn't see any "Polite remarks used in formal conversation." What I saw was angry people locked in hurt, anger, and resentment. Does civility go out the door when the going gets tough?

From Wikipedia:

Civic virtue is the cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. The identification of the character traits that constitute civic virtue have been a major concern of political philosophy. The term civility refers to behavior between persons and groups that conforms to a social mode (that is, in accordance with the civil society), as itself being a foundational principle of society and law.

It was refreshing to see some attorney's being reasonably cooperative, and a Judge who worked with the scope of the law, and witnesses being responsive to good-faith questions.

I was disappointed to see other attorneys making personal attacks and false claims, encouraging their clients to victimize themselves, and focus on potential bad instead of potential good. It's one thing to zealously defend your client, but to see an attorney cross the line of ethics violates what I believe civility to be. It's those few who give lawyers a bad wrap.

In my humble opinion, civil court should be doing what's right; in this case what's right for the child or children. It should not be a matter of cleverness or legal jargon or theatrics.

Would I be going too far to suggest that a lack of civility may be a way of covering up for one's shortcomings or a way to project guilt or blame? Or perhaps a subtle form of narcissism or sociopathic personality?

I believe being civil is not "doing whatever it takes to achieve your outcome" but to do whatever it takes to operate within the confines of what is right, what is best for the parties, and in this case, the child or children.

I guess that's why we have Civil Court; to restore the chance of making things right when one of the parties is not being civil.

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