A Bystander’s Guide to Civility in a Time of Rage

Uproar, anger and righteousness are flourishing. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Idle No More are three examples. You may have been on the receiving end of their concerns directly. Or felt the insinuation indirectly via mainstream or social media.

You may be sympathetic to the issue. You may not. Either way you are uncomfortable, disturbed and perhaps inflamed.

You are inclined to point out their narrow mindedness, their unfairness (you’ve had your own challenges), the flaws in their logic, their lack of an engagement strategy and the instability they are causing.

My advice. Wait. That time will come.

In the meantime:

  1. Listen. Listen for understanding not for judgment. Nor to determine your counter argument.
  2. Have faith that the outrage will eventually be harnessed into channels that you can engage with.
  3. Rest assured that members of these groups and constituencies are aware, are raising and are debating every one of the concerns that you may have.
  4. Do something constructive about your concerns. Perhaps by examining your behaviour, by creating backchannels for civil conversation, or by developing small remedies.    

Jane Goodall once remarked that, “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” The clarity you think you have can either reinforce the polarities or converge the realities. Behind the uproar are human beings. Complex and endearing. Resolve to find out. In my experience it’s worth it.


Time is the great editor. ~ Brian Brett

We can do this, the world is still ripening every one of us — even the bad guys, even the guys we don’t like. Babies, elders, bozos and angels — we’re all ripening, is what I think. ~ Buffy Sainte-Marie

Musical accompaniment this post is Converge the Realities sung and co-written by Charmie Deller & Renée Ashanta Henry. Here’s another version by Charmie. These two women brought 500 people to their feet at the SIG Sunset event singing this beautiful song.(1:31 mark) A tonic for our times.


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