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。
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