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February 25
2013年2月25日

民主與文明

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2009年9月9日,美國總統奧巴馬在國會發表施政報告演說,反對黨共和黨南卡羅萊那州眾議員 Joe Wilson 在奧巴馬的演講過程中高叫道:「你說謊!」結果眾議院通過決案對他的粗魯行為表示不滿,部分共和黨眾議員事後也表示不能接受這樣的行為,顯示出民主與文明在美國的成熟。

「我不同意你的觀點,但我會誓死捍衛你說話的權利。」這是民主的真諦,也是文明社會最起碼的道德標準。爭辯須以理服人,欺騙造假的數據、言辭或者粗暴的言行、舉止、態度在任何情形下都是不可接受的。「人無常心,習以成性;國無常俗,教則移風。」希望我們的公眾人物注意自己的言行,不要行事、說話必「刀光劍影」,以免負面影響帶壞下一代。

英國哲學家伯特蘭.羅素(Betrand Russell)曾經說過,文明的條件之一是「實證論說的習慣……社會文明要求尊重法律、人與人之間的平等、不為達到某一目的永久地傷害他人……。」換句話說,尊重別人喜好、權利和自由,是民主的基本原則之一。民主政治的正常運行透過協商、談判、妥協來處理利益上的分歧,如果沒有理性的包容,民主就淪為獨裁的一種包裝。

與之相比,我們的社會與學校,至今仍有人口出穢語,且有肆無忌憚、變本加厲、為私己之利而不擇手段的趨勢。

風俗之厚薄奚自乎?大學有移風易俗的責任。對於欠文明的行為,大家都應該說「不!」

 

Democracy and civility

On 9 September, 2009, as Barack Obama, American President, was delivering a State of the Union Address to congress, Joe Wilson, a Republican representative from South Carolina, yelled, "You lie!", which led to the passage of a resolution disapproving such rude behavior. Afterwards, some Republicans also expressed their dissatisfaction with such boorish behaviour. This affair demonstrates the matured view towards democracy and civility in the US.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Such is the essence of democracy, and the least that a civilised society should adhere to. An argument has to be won by the strength of reason. It is unacceptable under any circumstances to fabricate data or resort to violent language, behaviour and attitude. "There is no constancy in the human heart except that which is formed by habit. There is no code of behaviour in society except that which results from education." It is hoped that our public figures will pay attention to their words and behaviour, and refrain from poisoning our next generation with their hurtful words and belligerent actions.

The English philosopher Bertrand Russell upholds the habit of employing reasoning as a precondition of a civilised society, where there is a respect for law and equality among all, and where no one inflicts permanent injury on others for his own ends. In other words, respect for the preferences, rights and freedom of other people is one of the fundamental principles of democracy. Democracy is properly conducted through negotiations, consultations and compromises to resolve divergence of interest. Without rational tolerance, democracy would merely be window-dressing for dictatorship.

In contrast to what one expects from a democracy, there are still people in our society and university who are inclined to use dirty and rude language. Worse still, increasingly, they seem to go for their interests without any scruples.

Should customs and social mores be left to develop on their own? Our universities have the responsibility to bring about a better society. To behaviour that is less than civilised, we should say "NO!"

February 25, 2013

 

 

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