Don Cayo is a Vancouver Sun business columnist. His column and his blog tackles globalization,taxation, third world poverty and other issues that matter. For years he has been mentoring young journalists, leading regular investigative study tours to developing countries. Here is Don's response to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011? You can also Download Becoming Visible - the complete collection of 58 essays.
I’d like to see a little more civility — well, maybe a lot more — in public discourse in 2011, especially on the Internet.
The web offers, on one hand, an incredible way to give a voice to a broad cross-section of society in discussion of the issues of the day. It can draw in new ideas, or promote and refine old ones. It lets people to build on each other’s ideas and insights. And it can go some distance to identify where consensus might be found.
But these positive aspects are at risk when a discussion becomes dominated by the agenda-driven, the mean-spirited and the ignorant. Interactive Internet discussions too easily degenerate into mere mud-slinging.
I see this too often on my own Vancouver Sun blog, which deals with a wide range of issues of the day. Many commenters — I’m pleased to note this is a growing percentage — weigh in thoughtfully. No matter whether they endorse or dispute my own views, many offer really good ideas. But others seem not to have read what I or other posters have written — or at least not to care. They lash out with harsh language and claims that bear no relation to demonstrable fact. My fear is the tone of such comments will chase away those who have something worthy to say.
The best answer is education, not censorship — though, in my case, I don’t allow comments that I judge to contain libel or grossly bad taste. But my hope is that more and more Canadians come to see the strength of civility in discourse and debate, and to understand that name-calling merely entrenches what people already think and does nothing to bring about a meeting of minds.
See my previous post quoting extensively from Don's insights about post disaster relief: Nurturing Resilience and Belonging in Haiti.
Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc. I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.