No, that’s not a mis-spelled headline. It’s the name of an organization that was brought to my attention via a press release that was sent to our office. I’m not sure if the person who sent us the release was motivated to do so by the specific content of our blog, or if it was just a general release sent to media outlets across the country/continent.

By doing a post on CiviliNation, I’m not suggesting either that the ideals that the organization espouses are particularly applicable to people who contribute to this blog, be they prairie dog writers or public commentators. But we  probably all need a gentle reminder from time to time.

Okay, enough suspense. If you check this link, you’ll see CiviliNation’s mission statement described as: to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment, or lies.

As anyone who makes it a habit to visit websites of media outlets like ours knows, discussion of contentious issues can sometimes get pretty heated. That’s to be expected, because in a lot of instances, the stakes can be pretty high — be they on a personal level, or a broader social or political level.

The anonymity that the Internet affords perhaps does promote a franker exchange of views than you would typically get. But it also permits people who are so inclined to employ outrageous rhetoric and excessively abusive language. We’re guilty of some of that at prairie dog. But when we do post something with an inflammatory edge to it, we always identify ourselves by name. No anonymous trolling or flaming for us.  

In an ideal world, I suppose, no one would post anything that they wouldn’t have the courage to say to another person face-to-face — barring some sort of whistleblower situation where a person would suffer unjust consequences by publicly identifying themselves. Another problem is the limitations of on-line discussion. Nuances of meaning that can be conveyed through tone of voice or body language when people are conversing face to face aren’t possible when people are communicating through computers. That can lead people to misunderstand and take offence when no offence was intended.  

“Civilization”, “Civility” and “Nation” are the three words at the root of CiviliNation. When you read posts that are riddled with grammatical errors and infused with specious arguments that simply regurgitate tired stereotypes or grossly misrepresent a historical or current reality, it does make you wonder about the state of mind of the poster. In many ways, that type of discourse simply mirrors the general decline in civility in our society as a whole. But I think it’s also partly responsible for the increased polarization that is evident in our world. A polarization that, in the long run, will have disastrous consequences if we can’t manage to grasp the simple truth that, no matter who we are and where we live, as residents of a tiny planet in a vast and hostile universe, there is infinitely more that unites us than divides us.

If we don’t understand that and learn to act appropriately in our increasingly technological environment, that’s an adaptive failure on our behalf, and in the context of evolution adaptive failure is never a plus for long-term survival. As such, I think CiviliNation is a worthwhile project.