When civility is not the answer

Matthew Cochran explains that civility can be a category error for conservatives:

Because civility is not a moral absolute and its form is always adjusting along with culture, it’s requirements are determined primarily by social contract — the kind of behavior we all implicitly or explicitly agree to when interacting with one another. Historically, some of these contracts have been great blessings while others have been reprehensible, but all are, by nature, contracts.

The detail that conservatives tend to forget is that when one party violates a contract, the other party is no longer bound by all of its terms. If you sign a contract to buy a car, and the dealer refuses to turn it over you, you aren’t “sinking to their level” by refusing to hand over your money. If you contract an employee who never shows up for work, you aren’t “repaying evil for evil” by withholding his wages. The same is true when dealing with people who are deliberately uncivil to civil people — it fundamentally changes what the rest of society owes them.

To be sure, this doesn’t mean that we must recklessly abandon civility whenever we get angry at the latest atrocious behavior from liberals. Civility is extremely valuable and is never something that should be tossed aside lightly. You need only look at the social justice left to see the consequences of doing so. Their enemies are not limited to conservatives. They rail just as hard against common sense when they melt down over beliefs that were shared by virtually everyone who ever lived until last week. They even cannibalize the very leftists who carried them to term whenever they’re triggered. Accordingly, conservatives are quite right to try and conserve valuable social structures like courtesy — they prevent all manner of chaos and suffering.

That said, civility does not actually exist between two parties when even one of them is deliberately uncivil. The unfortunate reality is that we increasingly find ourselves in circumstances in which there is nothing left to conserve. We need to stop taking the lazy road of “be civil though the heavens fall” and begin being deliberate about when to be civil — and when not to be.

First things first. There are no style points being awarded when it comes to saving Western civilization. There is only success and failure.