慶應SFC 2010年 環境情報学部 英語 大問2 全文(正答済み)

 About 500 years ago, the Renaissance scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam was deeply concerned with the manners of his students. He was worried because all of his life he had believed in communication through letters and books, conversation and teaching, and now his world had become divided on issues such as religion, governance and even scholarship―so divided that any discourse seemed impossible. At the beginning of his career, Erasmus had been a teacher at Cambridge and some of his most popular writings were textbooks concerned with using classical knowledge to train students to act correctly―with modesty, kindness and wisdom towards all in society, high and low. Thus, he wrote one more book, On Teaching Civility for Children, which he hoped might solve the problems that his society faced.

 In this book, Erasmus set out to popularize the concept of “civilité.” Although often translated as politeness, Erasmus used the term to represent an approach to life, a way of carrying one’s self, of speaking and relating to others that would enable all to live together harmoniously. Erasmus saw “civilité,” from which the modern word “civility” is descended, as the basis for civilization. Those who acted without concern for others were considered “un-civilized,” destructive barbarians. Civility, which is more than simple politeness, is an important component of human society by which we show respect for each other. It is an old and nearly universal ethical imperative. In the ancient world, both Aristotle in classical Greece and Confucius in pre-imperial China held that a good man had to have good manners. However, concern with public civility is not simply an ancient tradition.

 In 1997, the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California published a study in which people were asked to evaluate the public civility of different groups in American society. The group that was rated the lowest on the scale of politeness was politicians. A congressional commission concluded that civility in debate had reached the lowest level since 1935. Members of both parties, worried about the effects of the report and their public image, held a retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The stated purpose of the retreat was: “To seek a greater degree of civility among members of the House of Representatives in order to foster an environment in which vigorous debate and mutual respect can coexist.” This event illustrates that civility was, has been, and can again become an important social “tool” for interacting with others.

 Yet, not all people are ready to accept civility. In fact, some members of Congress refused to participate in the civility retreat mentioned above. From both Republicans and Democrats, the same objection was raised―there is no need to be civil with those whose ideas we oppose. Indeed, honesty requires that we should not hide real disagreements under the cover of social manners. This was the argument of a much-discussed essay by Benjamin DeMott entitled “Seduced by Civility.” Published in The Nation in 1996, the article proposed that too much civility might mask deep social conflict. The demand for society to conform to the rules of civility, said DeMott, is how people in power avoid criticism. In other words, civility and its related concepts are a gross hypocrisy meant to further oppress the disenfranchised in our society. It is easy to “feel” the strength of this argument; after all, who has not felt like yelling at injustice or tearing down the walls of prejudice? This argument is not, however, borne out historically. It is, in fact, contradicted by recent social struggles.

 Consider the mass protests of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The success of this movement is due in part to the genius of one of its leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s genius was in his ability to inspire the diverse people involved in the struggle to be civil and loving in their dissent. This civil disobedience was the antithesis of hypocrisy; it was an example of civility as an act of high ethical principle. The Civil Rights movement did not seek to destroy American democracy; rather it sought to engage with American society, and to have it fulfill its founding promise that “all are created equal.” Dr. King understood that uncivil dialog cannot serve a democratic function. While it is true that democracy demands open dialog, and that dialog arises from disagreement, it must be possible to be partisan without being actively uncivil. It is this concept that gave the Civil Rights movement its moral strength―that the means of persuasion as well as the goal of an argument were equally important. Deriving from earlier thinkers like Thoreau and Ghandi, the civil rights protesters were trained to remain civil and nonviolent in the face of a repressive, and often violent, system of segregation. Again, Dr. King understood that the struggle for civil rights was not simply a movement to benefit African-Americans, but an opening for a national dialog on the issue of “justice for all.” By behaving better, more civilly, than their opponents, protestors sought not to defeat their opposition, but to convert them to their point of view. Uncivil and violent protest, however “justified,” might have broken the connections that bind Americas heterogeneous population into a united community.

 From this experience we can not only observe the fallacy of Mr. DeMott’s anti-civility argument, but we can also sense an important social implication of civility―that civil discourse makes for a civil society. Without a common sense of manners, we have no common link. Civility acts as a tie that binds us all together in a great democratic dialog. As the historian Arthur Schlesinger observed, civility acts as “a letter of introduction” to assure strangers that despite apparent differences of ethnicity, belief or socio-economic status, we are one community linked by shared practices of politeness and a belief in civility as a code of conduct.

 We began this essay by looking at a 500-year-old call for a more civil society, for a world in which respect for one another outweighs any differences in opinion or belief. But do we behave any better today than the violent barbarians of Erasmus’ day? We squabble over our rights, and ignore our obligations. We believe the function of government is to give us the things we desire, prosperity, peace and progress, but we fail to volunteer for those non-governmental organizations, from hospitals to museums, that make civil society function. We rarely bother to follow our own codes of civil behavior even when they are clearly posted on trains, buses or planes. We seem to be indulging in a collective act of forgetting all of our manners and becoming the very barbarians Erasmus worried about. The problem lies in the process by which the values of the market, which are characterized by emphasis on getting what we want, have been allowed to move into the social life of our communities where we have traditionally engaged in a discourse to help us decide what we should want. However, it is not too late to rediscover civility, and thus preserve both our humanity and our civilization. The key to reconstructing civility lies in our learning anew the virtue of acting towards our neighbors with kindness and concern, and to value the means of our achievements as well as the ends of our desires.




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