Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in the London Times online a call for a return to civility, noting that the word civil is the root of another important word -- civilization. We have become a most impolite (polite comes from the word polity -- governance), and the fate of civilization is wrapped up in the way we view each other.
Interestingly he points out that historically places like Venice, London, and the Netherlands, back in the 18th century, were places that put an emphasis on business and were also places that emphasized tolerance. Apparently the market is a strong motivation against war.
I too have become greatly concerned about the lack of civility. It is a main cause of polarization in our own political culture. If you speak kindly of the one you disagree with, you're some kind of wimp.
In his closing paragraphs Rabbi Sacks writes:
Why has it happened? Because we have lost a shared moral code. Because we no longer respect authority. Because national identities have eroded. Because we have sacrificed shared responsibilities in favour of individual or group rights. Because the media loves conflict. Because anger gets attention, and rage gets respect. Because the loudest voice wins.
“A soft answer turns away wrath,” says the Book of Proverbs, “but a harsh word stirs up anger.” “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Verbal violence, the Bible suggests, is a prelude to physical violence. Those who cannot sustain a civil conversation will eventually find it impossible to sustain a civilisation. The sooner we recover civility, the better.
Yes, there is virtue in the soft answer!