Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Politics and Civility

Further to my earlier post, as Leonard Read wrote in his beautiful book, Anything That's Peaceful (pages 69-70):
... observe two persons, with somewhat
different views, rationally discussing some subject of common
interest. Each offers the other his most intelligent
ideas, thus encouraging friendship and mutual confidence.
This setting, plus the privacy of the occasion, combine to
elicit from each the best that he has to offer. The exchange
of intellectual energies is mutually beneficial, and the
awareness of this fact encourages thinking and understanding.

Now, place these same two individuals on a stage before
a multitude, or place a microphone between them and announce
that 50 million people are listening in. Instantly,
their mental processes will change. Thoughtfulness and the
desire to understand each other will all but cease. No
longer will they function as receiving sets, drawing on the
expansible capacities of their own and each other's intellects.
They will become only sending stations; outgoing will
take the place of intaking. And what they say will be influenced
by how they think they sound to their audience
and by their competition for applause. In short, they will
become different persons because their psychological directives
have changed. Those who forego self-improvement
for the sake of directing the lives of others experience
changes in their drives no less profound than the above illustration.
The authoritarian act is always directed outward
at other persons.

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