The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson
We must all break our personal bonds to become better persons. One of our lifelong goals should be to better ourselves. There are many ways to do this, but they all start with some general approaches as follows:
Determine your religious or spiritual morals and practice them all day long and every day. Determine what you consider ethical behavior and always keep your ethics in mind when dealing with others. Hopefully, this moral and ethical behavior will make you an honest and trustworthy person. A person who others will respect and look up too. It will also make you respect yourself, and lead to a life well worth living.
Become a better person by being polite and respectful to all persons in all situations. This will demonstrate to those who would disrespect you that you are worthy of respect. It could also bring shame to the disrespectful person and may also cause them to reexamine their behavior. It will also imbue you with confidence and self-esteem that will stead you well throughout life. In addition, people like working with and associating with other people who are polite and respectful, which may advance you in your work or personal life goals, and lead to greater success and happiness in life.
Whatever life hands you difficulties or problems be sure to handle yourself. React in the best and most positive of manner possible under the circumstances. This is not to say to not be disappointed or upset, but to control your disappointment and not allow your unsettledness to discompose your behavior. Also, whether it be food, tobacco, alcohol, narcotics, or sexual, do not let your addictions control your life, but rather control your addictions. Be in control of your life and make life decisions based on what you believe is best for you, your family, and society. Take charge of your life, and life will not take charge of you.
Then refer back to my observation “My Message to Americans” on how to better your life.
For thousands of years, western society has grappled with what constitutes a civil, legal, and just society. It has been a tumultuous and turbulent process that has resulted in many violations of human rights along the way. We have learned through trial and error, philosophical discourse, and moral and ethical practices the means to achieve a civil, legal, and just society. These lessons learned must be applied by all to maintain a civil society. This article only deals with a civil society in the public arena. Civility in private and commercial activities utilizes many (if not all) of these precepts and are addressed in other observations of mine. Some of these lessons learned are:
Polite and respectful speech and behavior are the only acceptable means of communication. Interrupting someone, talking over, drowning out, shouting at, cursing at, using foul language, and physically intimidating gestures are uncivil and lead to a breakdown of society. Confronting someone you disagree with while they are engaged in private activities (i.e. living at home, dining out, shopping, etc.) is a violation of their human right to privacy. In no cases is it acceptable to confront a family member of someone you disagree with. To do so otherwise is to utilize terroristic methods against someone.
The person you disagree with is the only person that you should engage. They, and they alone are responsible for their words and deeds. They, and they alone need to be held responsible for their words and deeds. Only when it is necessary to prove or disprove their words and deeds should others who have knowledge of the situation be brought into the discussion.
Remember that being polite and respectful to others is not a reflection on the other person, but it is a reflection on you.
Everyone has the right to express their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. This would hopefully be done in a polite and respectful manner, but it is not required that they do so. Disrespectful or impolite speech should be condemned but not restricted. But no one is free to lie about, slander, or libel another person. All speech is acceptable, and there are no restrictions on what a person can say. If you disagree with someone you have the freedom of speech to express your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. You have no right to suppress another’s thoughts, beliefs, or opinions. You have no right to restrict others free speech through verbal or physical acts of intimidation. Remember that the answer to free speech that you disagree with is free speech to voice your disagreement.
When engaged in dialog and debate demonization, denigration, or disparagement of the opposition is unacceptable, but criticism and critique are to be encouraged. The only acceptable method of discourse is disagreement - to be of different opinions. While you are engaged in a disagreement you should be cognizant that people of good character can and often disagree with each other. The method of their disagreement is very important to achieve civil discourse. There are two ways you can disagree with someone; by criticizing their opinions or beliefs or critiquing their opinions or beliefs.
- Criticism - Disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings.
- Critique - A serious examination and judgment of something.
Most people and most commentators have forgotten the difference between Criticism and Critique. This has led to the hyper-partisanship in today's society. In a civil society critiquing a viewpoint or policy position should be encouraged. This will often allow for a fuller consideration of the issues, and perhaps a better viewpoint or policy position without invoking hyper-partisanship. We can expect that partisanship will often occur, as people of good character can and often disagree with each other. Criticizing a viewpoint or policy position will often lead to hostility, rancor, and enmity, which results in the breakdown of civil discourse and hyper-partisanship. It is fine to criticize someone for their bad or destructive behavior, but it is best to critique them for their opinions or words. We would all do better if we remember to critique someone, rather than criticize someone.
Under no circumstances are physical assaults permitted during dialog and debate, as well as the exercise of someone’s free speech.
Facts should be utilized with intellectual reasoning to determine the truth. To do otherwise would abrogate the truth and lead you to misjudgments. To allow emotions into your facts and reasoning will also lead to a falsehood.
You must, however, obtain all the facts before you apply intelligence and reasoning. This requires that you listen and read all sides of an issue, not just the side you agree with. You need to winnow out the facts to determine their applicability, their importance, and their usefulness to your reasoning. You must also weigh the facts in their importance and give more credence to the more important facts in your reasoning. Intelligent reasoning then requires that you apply formal and informal logic to the remaining facts. At the end of this process, and not before, you can claim your decision is based on facts, intelligence, and reasoning.
In today’s society, it often seems that there is a religious fervor to the issues that are contentious. One side or the other makes up its mind on the issues and will cling to their opinion even in the presence of countervailing information. You must always be open to the possibility that your opinion may be incorrect based on the new or additional information. When this happens, you must be willing to modify your opinion based on this new or additional information. When I obtain new or additional information impacting an opinion of mine I thoroughly investigate this new or additional information, think and reason about what I have learned, and modify my opinion accordingly.
The person asserting something has the responsibility of proving the assertion. The person disputing the assertion has no responsibility to prove the other person’s assertion incorrect.
In science, law, philosophy, the theology, and many other areas of human interactions, it is the responsibility of the person doing the assertion to prove that his assertion is correct. Otherwise, we could end up with the following absurd situation:
Someone could assert that Martians eat garbage and piss gasoline. If they did not have to prove their assertion, but someone had to disprove their assertion, then the following absurd situation occurs. The person disproving the assertion would have to prove there is no such thing as Martians, or if there were Martians that they do not eat garbage, and if there were Martians that ate garbage that they do not urinate gasoline. Obviously, it is not possible to prove or disprove these things.
You must always challenge a person who asserts something to prove his assertion. Otherwise, you get into the situation that "if you can't show their wrong then they must be must be right", which is obviously an incorrect statement.
An allegation or an assertion is not a proof but a statement. The allegation or assertion must be accompanied with credible, verifiable, and substantiated evidence in order to be proven. The standards of proof are different in different situations, but without proof, the allegation or assertion must be rejected. To do so otherwise allows for a non-presumption of innocence, and possible slander or libel against others.
Or, as Christopher Hitchens once said,
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence."
I would argue that assertions without evidence must be dismissed without evidence. To do otherwise is to allow for an uncivil society.
One of the things that western society has learned is that you cannot prove a negative (i.e. prove you didn't say or do something). Historically, forcing someone to prove a negative has led to witches being burned at the stake, heretic’s being executed, lynching’s to occur, summary executions to take place, as well as many other violations of human rights. It has also led to falsehoods to take place in science, law, philosophy, morality, and ethics. No one is required to prove a negative, and refusing to answer presumes nothing and cannot be utilized for any purposes.
We have also learned that a loaded question is not to be answered. A loaded question (also known as a Complex question fallacy) is a question that contains a controversial or unjustified assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt). Questions such as “When did you stop beating your wife?”, “Why do you continue to steal?”, etc. have a presumption of guilt and need not be answered and should always be remarked as a loaded question by all parties in the discussion. Refusing to answer a loaded question presumes nothing and cannot be utilized for any purposes.
Without the Rule of Law, there can be no Justice. But the Rule of Law requires that several concepts and tenets be enforced for Justice to prosper. These concepts and tenets are “Etched in Stone”. As this is an important topic I have written a separate web page on "The Rule of Law". I would encourage you to review this web page after reading these thoughts.
Everyone is entitled to a Presumption of Innocence. Not only in Law but in Society. For if you do not presume innocence then the accused stands to lose their reputation, employment, wealth, future opportunities, and even family and friends based on unproven allegations or assertions. These items should not be lightly taken from anyone without proof of wrongdoing. The proof being credible, verifiable, and substantiated. The question is then how you can judge an allegation or assertion of wrongdoing? The answer to this question is in another article I have written: “Who are you to Judge?”. I would encourage you to review this article at your convenience.
This is also why gossip is so insidious. It provides no recourse for a refutation of the person being gossiped and leads to misjudgments of a person. Therefore, I have made it a point to not engage in gossip or to pay any heed to gossip, as all people of good conscience should not gossip or pay heed to gossip.
To rush to judgment would cause serious harm to the individual and to the social fabric of our society.
To not follow the above precepts is to allow for the breakdown of civil society. Society fractures into opposing factions that will not pay any attention to civility or to each other. Misjudgments, wrong conclusions, and extreme partisanship will become rampant. It could possibly spiral out of control from verbal agitation, to physical assaults, then to a civil war. History has taught us these lessons. Let us pay heed to history and not allow this to happen by returning to the precepts of a civil society.
Each of these topics have been posed as separate web pages. Please
click on the hyperlink to review these web pages.