Then there’s “civil discourse.” Wikipedia places its origins with Locke, but I suspect academia has had a lot to do with its widespread adoption, approaching triteness. “Civil discourse” is held up as the ideal of respectful, constructive dialogue. To engage in anything but is considered anathema to progress (on the left) or preservation of certain “values” (on the right).
The other night I watched the Netflix special “Nanette,” a one-hour monologue by the Australian lesbian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it. You should watch it. My jaw dropped to the floor and I stood up and cheered into my TV at the end. It is anything but civil discourse. It is the exactly opposite, in fact. In an awe-inspiring act of courage, Gadsby pours rage and pain and a terrifying personal history into the microphone, plus damn good humor. She challenges her audience to sit with those feelings, that reality, her true story. Not only so she can begin her own healing and make herself whole, but so we can, too.
Hannah Gadsby is what we need in this moment. Not civil discourse. Not politeness. White hot rage from the legitimately oppressed majorities of this world. If you can’t take the heat, tough luck. (I wonder what academic institution might invite her to speak?)