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A civilized community
A civilized community is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity (Robert Frost cit. in Famous Quotes and Quotations). A civilized community is well organized and developed, civilized life is conducted according to rational principles, and has fair rules and customs. Whether a community is civilized or not is determined by the kind of people that comprise it. People with a high level of courtesy, decency, reverence, privacy, independence, respect, and dignity. Most of those contributing today have never experienced the heights of a civilized culture, and have no way to gage the depths of decay and corruption that prevail today. Articles and article quality cannot exist where there is not a high probability that those who contribute and improve will be permitted to enjoy. That security comes from knowing that users can depend on principles like fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality or excellence, potential, growth, patience, nurturance, and encouragement. By centering participation on timeless, unchanging principles, users create a fundamental paradigm of effective contributing.
Civilization has co-evolved along with the elaboration of hierarchy. Hierarchies are aggrandizing and secretive, and they are controlled internally by cliques whose agenda is not necessarily in alignment with the presumed mission of the community. Hence community civilization will always be at risk, and every user is prudent to regard the threats to it with unique seriousness. Every rational human being is in a moral sense free, capable of reacting to moral absolutes, and of opting for good or evil. It follows from this that certain acts are intrinsically, always and everywhere wrong. Democracy is an important factor in the publishing success of a community, and especially in its editing-standards. However, democracy means the ability to remove an administration or to punish misjudgment by votes alone. The rule of law is essential, not merely to preserve liberty, but to increase publishing. The individual must be protected against user groups. The welfare of the average user is probably the best index of the health of a community as a whole. Any system which persecutes its average users systematically is unlikely to remain either free or grow for long. When claims of freedom conflict with the pursuit of other desirable objects of policy, freedom should normally prevail; a community should have a rational and an emotional disposition in its favor. The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. The correct and honorable use of words is the first and natural credential of civilized status. Trust true science, based on objectively established criteria and agreed foundations, with a rational methodology and mature criteria of proof. The pursuit of truth is civilization's glory, and the joy obtained from it is the nearest one shall approach to happiness, at least on this side of the grave. If one is steadfast in this aim, there's no need to fear the enemies of community.
Reflected in individual's relationship with the collective and the community, the relativity of human rights means relationship between rights and responsibility, and human rights and policies. Infringing other’s rights when realizing one's own rights is unacceptable. When respect for the rules disappears, and powerful people or groups can break the rules with impunity, then the community no longer is civilized. Even when the outward form of the rules is maintained, but the respect for the rules is gone and people feel only the need to make a pretense of being ruled by them while ignoring their spirit, then their community can only pretend to be civilized. There's worse than a lack of respect for the rules. That is using the power of the rules in an unruly way. That is tyranny. Insofar as hate-mongering activities can have a harmful impact on the target for hate and/or on inter-group relations in the community, then such activities clearly constitute acts of discrimination. The uncontrolled harassment of minority target groups and the uncontrolled repetition of falsehoods and pseudo-facts can leave behind a residue of prejudice and hate among (non-target) recipients - a seed bed from which more widespread incitement to hate and harm can flourish. Invalidation myths are falsified statements which allege that identified users are innately inferior or invalid (defective) with regard to particular human attributes. Typically, pseudo-scientific and/or pseudo-religious "evidence" of minority inferiority or dangerousness is manipulated in order to justify violations of minority rights. Evidence is widely available from current hate messages that some users are set apart in terms of contrast conceptions of WE - the pure, virtuous, builders of the project, versus THEY - the corrupt, evil, heathen alien intruders, bringing decay and ruin to our superior way of editing. The argument of invalidation "demonstrates" that THEY pose a serious threat to OUR superior community. This threat, it is urgently argued must be stopped. The audience is urged to take immediate, concerted action to remove the alien threat by disempowering, expelling and/or annihilating minority users singled out as the source of the threat. By so doing, hate-mongering messages incite against targeted minority users and thereby violates their fundamental human rights to dignity and equality by denying their fundamental freedom from vilification, harassment, and harm.
Quotes from the sources has been used liberally in this essay draft, with a small twist. The original writings were adapted to a different context and new application. It is no longer possible to attribute what is written below to the authors of the sources used. That is not what they wrote. Although they clearly remain the sources of this essay draft, the opinions expressed on the initial version are those of the draft creator's and the creator's only.
Summary of some characteristics
A civilized community exhibits the five qualities of truth, beauty, adventure, art, peace (Alfred North Whitehead cit. in Famous Quotes and Inspirational).
In a civilized community the users should participate in development activities and processes (Virani).
A civilized community has developed an advanced culture and institutions (Definition of civilized by Macmillan Dictionary).
Government is necessary to the existence of a civilized community (Define Government at Dictionary.com).
A civilized community is well organized and developed, and has fair rules and customs (Civilized - Definition from Longman English Dictionary Online).
A civilized community does not solve conflicts in a way that causes so much suffering (Definition of civilized by Macmillan Dictionary).
A civilized community must respond to wrong doing with fairness and justice (Civilized - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant (John Stuart Mill cit. in Dictionary 3.0).
Civilized community is perpetually menaced with disintegration through this primary hostility of men towards one another (Sigmund Freud cit. in Famous Quotes and Quotations).
Sale of conscience and duty in open market is not reconcilable with the present state of civilized community (J. Quincy cit. in Online Dictionary).
The happiness of community is the end of government (John Adams, 1776 cit. in Quotations at Dictionary.com).
The wonderful fruits of the tree of knowledge
Users are all born whole and, it is hoped, will die whole. But somewhere early on their way, they eat one of the wonderful fruits of the tree of knowledge, things separate into good and evil, and they begin the shadow-making process; they divide their lives. In the cultural process they sort out their natural characteristics into those that are acceptable to the community and those that have to be put away. This is wonderful and necessary, and there would be no civilized behavior without this sorting out of good and evil. But the refused and unacceptable characteristics do not go away; they only collect in the dark corners of their personality. When they have been hidden long enough, they take on a life of their own -- the shadow life. The shadow is that which has not entered adequately into consciousness. It is the despised quarter of their being. It often has an energy potential nearly as great as that of their ego. If it accumulates more energy than their ego, it erupts as an overpowering rage or some indiscretion that slips past them; or they have a depression or an accident that seems to have its own purpose. The shadow gone autonomous is a terrible monster in their psychic house (Johnson, 1991 cit. in IloveUlove.com).
The civilizing process, which is the brightest achievement of humankind, consists of culling out those characteristics that are dangerous to the smooth functioning of the users' ideals. Anyone who does not go through this process remains a "primitive" and can have no place in a civilized community. Users are all born whole but somehow the culture demands that they live out only part of their nature and refuse other parts of their inheritance. They divide the self into an ego and a shadow because their cultures insists that they behave in a particular manner. This is the users' legacy from having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
Then, with the ordinary conventions of civilized life thrown into confusion, users' nature shows itself proudly in its true colors, as something incapable of controlling passion, insubordinate to the idea of justice. Plato, however, saw user's true nature as rational and believed that a civilized community must be organized, and civilized life conducted according to rational principles (Thucydides cit. in AbleOne).
Civilization can be curtailed by a political system, but, ultimately, a community degree of civilization is not determined by its politics, economy, articles or projects. Whether a community is civilized or not is determined by the kind of people that comprise it. People with a high level of courtesy, decency, reverence, privacy, independence, respect, and dignity (Firehammer, 2007).
Being polite, from polished, is synonymous of being civilized . To be courteous is to use "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." It is to have "manners", usually learned at a young age, which include never addressing an adult by their first name, saying "yes, Sir," and "no, Ma'am," and making requests in the form, "may I please ...?"
Courtesy is not synonymous to conformity to community convention or limited free speech. It is the conscious recognition of the dignity and privacy of others, an affirmation of their humanhood and their individuality. Those who do not live in a courteous environment may think it is as stiff, formal and somewhat restricting. In fact, it is the opposite. Common courtesy makes community relationships much easier because people know the appropriate way to interact, how to deal with one another, and the words appropriate to polite exchange came to the fingertips of the well-mannered with ease and naturalness. Much like the vilest profanities fill the messages of today's ill-mannered louts. It's not that courteous people don't know profanities. It's just that decent people do not use them.
Decency is nowadays mostly associated with sexual behavior or dress, but its meaning is much broader than that. It's meaning has to do with "propriety," which, like courtesy, is mistaken for some kind of community conformity. In fact it means that which is appropriate to civilized human beings. It is people's sense of decency that makes profanity so rare, it's use almost always shocking, and almost always offensive to others. Even those who use it are careful to avoid it, because even the crudest maintain a sense of respect for the dignity of others.
Decency comes from a sense of what is proper to beings who have grasped the importance and necessity of principles and values. Principles by which one understands the purpose and meaning of participating; values by which one discerns the difference between the vices that are a waste of that participation and the virtues by which one participates successfully and happily. This is the source of the vitality of a community. The belief that it is worth participating because there are things worth participating for, things with real meaning and importance, things one can love and give themselves to totally, things one can hold sacred and revere. The view of participating is one of infinite possibilities in a world where anything can be achieved by anyone willing to make the effort, and the certainty that a participation of such potential is worth taking seriously.
Where there is a lack of reverence, things are not taken seriously. Nothing is held to be very serious or profound. Anything strong and intense, passionate and absolute, anything that can't be taken with a snickering little "sense of humor" is too big, too hard, too uncomfortable. People are too small and weak to feel with all their soul, and they disapprove of such feelings. They are too small and low for a loyal, profound reverence, and they disapprove of all such reverence. They are too small and profane themselves to know what sacredness is—and they disapprove of anything being too sacred. Presently, nothing is revered and the utmost contempt is poured on anyone who holds anything sacred.
Community members must not only held things sacred themselves, but respect things others held sacred. Not because they necessarily agreed with the sacredness of those things, but because they respected the fact others hold something sacred. "When one respects what others hold sacred, it is not respect for the object of their reverence, it is respect for the dignity of the individual who has values and honestly pursues them. Tolerance is not agreeing that all beliefs are equally valid. One may violently disagree with another's beliefs and strongly argue against them but to discourage anyone from having beliefs, holding them profoundly, or from giving themselves wholly to them, is not only intolerant, it is the road to nihilism. Respect for other's beliefs is respect for other's as individuals and as human beings."
Privacy is the hallmark of a civilized community. One measure of the level of civilization in any community is the degree of individual privacy chosen and enjoyed by it's members. People are jealous of their privacy which they regard a recognition of one's own being as an independent individual. To have one's own privacy violated or to violate another's is tantamount to physical assault. One's thoughts, one's body, one's business are their own, to be shared or not by their own choice. People mind their own business, and expect others to mind theirs. It is part of their decency. A person's private affairs are just that. Intimacy has a real meaning and has to be earned. One only shares the most private aspects of their life with those whom they love and who had earned it.
The regard people have for other's privacy come from a profound respect for other's integrity and individuality, the unquestioned sense that others own their lives, as one owns their own.
If there is one characteristic that distinguishes civilized people it's their independence. Self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and competence are virtues individuals pursue in their own lives and admire in others. It comes from their sense of individualism that not only recognizes a person's participation is their own to be exercised as they chose, but that the individual is responsible for that participation, both to support and to bear the consequences of how it is accomplished.
Not being able to "stand on one's own two feet" and to support one's self and one's family is considered a disgrace. Though people are incredibly generous and will leap to help someone whom circumstances have knocked down through no fault of their own, most would do anything rather than take someone else's help, and would work to get themselves back on their own feet and to repay anyone who has helped them.
These attitudes are not "taught" and "forced" on them by the community, they come from members' own sense of integrity and self-worth. They do not want what they have not earned, and while they do not much concern themselves with what others have, there is true admiration for those who have achieved or accomplished more and unabashedly enjoy it. They do not seek the approval or praise of others, but know that whatever recognition others give them, it's for their virtues and that they have earned it.
Besides the almost universal sense of goodwill that prevails in relationships between members of a civilized community, there is one characteristic that today is, with rare exception, entirely missing: respect.
The profound respect members hold for other's privacy has already been mentioned. This same respect, and much for the same reason, extends to other's contributions. This results in part because of the basic honesty and decency of people but, more importantly, since most people contribute by their own effort, one understands the true worth of participating, and what it costs others to accomplish the things they contribute.
That respectful display of deference and recognition of the value of others, as befitted civilized members, is, like courtesy, common in all relationships between members. Men have a profound respect for women. A respect for their decency and character. A respect women know they deserve and decent women are careful to insure they are worthy of that respect. Youngsters have respect for adults, because the relationship between them is clear. Youngsters are dependent and need teaching, guidance and support. Adulthood is a status that has to be earned, and is not conferred simply because someone has lived a certain number of years.
Most importantly, they have something called self-respect, without which true respect for others is impossible. Self-respect is a recognition of one's own value, integrity, and virtue, and is the hardest respect of all to earn.
If you are thinking that better policing is a must, understand, there is little need for police in a civilized community. It is not the police that makes a civilized community, it is the kind of people that community is comprised of, civilized people. Most of those contributing today have never experienced the hights of a civilized culture, and have no way to gage the depths of decay and corruption that prevail today.
There is another characteristic of a civilized community which is fundamental, and that is the rule of law. A truly civilized community must have a generally recognized and a generally respected set of rules, obeyed by everyone, from the global steward down to the humblest registered user or IP. The rules may specify certain powers for global or local steward that the registered user or IP does not have, but the steward is just as much bound by the rules as anyone else in a civilized community. He may no more break the rules with impunity than anyone else (Pierce, 1997).
In civilized communities the basic body of rules, the common rules, evolved together with the communities themselves. The rules reflect the nature of the contributors. It governs the basic structure of the communities and the relationships of the contributors to the communities and to each other.
The rules, of course, are not a static thing. Even the common rules change. They evolve to meet new needs as the community evolves. And particular rules change even faster. But as long as the community recognizes and respects the rules and is ruled by them, then it can claim to be a civilized community.
Of this increased security, one of the most unfailing effects is a great increase both of article production and of accumulation. Articles and article quality cannot exist, where there is not a preponderant probability that those who contribute and improve will be permitted to enjoy. And the nearer this probability approaches to certainty, the more do creation and improvement become pervading qualities in a community. Experience has shown that a large proportion of the results of contributions and moderation may be taken away by deletion, without impairing, and sometimes even with the effect of stimulating, the qualities from which a great production and an abundant knowledge base take their rise. But those qualities are not proof against a high degree of uncertainty. The deletionists may carry off a part; but there must be assurance that there will be no interference, nor suffer any one to interfere, with the remainder (Mill, 1848).
One of the changes which most infallibly attend the progress of a civilized community, is an improvement in the editing capacities of the general mass of users. That does not mean that the practical sagacity of an individual user is greater than formerly. One might be inclined to believe that content progress has hitherto had even a contrary effect. A user of good natural endowments, in a rude state of community, can do a great number of edits tolerably well, has a greater power of adapting means to ends, is more capable of extricating himself and others from an unforeseen embarrassment, than ninety-nine in a hundred of those who have known only what is called the civilized form of community. But to civilized users collectively considered, the compensation is ample. What is lost in the separate efficiency of each, is far more than made up by the greater capacity of united action. In proportion as they put off the qualities of the savage, they become amenable to discipline; capable of adhering to plans concerted beforehand, and about which they may not have been consulted; of subordinating their individual caprice to a preconceived determination, and performing severally the edits chosen by them in a combined undertaking. Edits of all sorts, impracticable to the savage or the half-civilized, are daily accomplished by civilized communities, not by any greatness of faculties in the actual users, but through the fact that each is able to rely with certainty on the others for the portion of the work which they respectively undertake. The peculiar characteristic, in short, of civilized users, is the capacity of co-operation; and this, like other faculties, tends to improve by practice, and becomes capable of assuming a constantly wider sphere of action.
Accordingly there is no more certain incident of the progressive change taking place in a community, than the continual growth of the principle and practice of co-operation. Associations of individuals voluntarily combining their small contributions, now perform work which no one person or small number of persons are rich enough to accomplish, or for the performance of which the few persons capable of accomplishing them were formerly enabled to exact the most inordinate remuneration. We may look forward to a great extension of endeavors formed by the collective contributions of large numbers; establishments which are now specially known by the name of co-operative communities.
The progress which is taking place in the computer sciences and arts, combined with the greater security, and greater freedom in contributing, which are obvious features in the civilization of modern communities, and with the more extensive and more skillful employment of the co-operative principle, afford space and scope for an indefinite increase of the knowledge base and article production, and for the increase of the number of users which is its ordinary accompaniment. That the growth of the number of users will overpass the increase of article production, there is not much reason to apprehend; and that it should even keep pace with it, is inconsistent with the supposition of any real improvement in the contributions of the beginning users. It is, however, quite possible that there might be a great progress in the knowledge base improvement, and in the signs of what is commonly called a leading project; a great increase of aggregate knowledge, and even, in some respects, a better distribution of it; that not only the experienced might grow even more experienced, but many of the beginners might become experienced, that the intermediate users might become more numerous and powerful, and the means of enjoyable editing be more and more largely diffused, while yet the great class at the base of the whole might increase in numbers only, and not in quality of edits nor in contributions. One must, therefore, in considering the effects of the progress of the knowledge base, admit as a supposition, however greatly we deprecate as a fact, an increase of the number of users as long-continued, as indefinite, and possibly even as rapid, as the increase of article production and accumulation.
Security comes from knowing that, unlike other systems based on people or things which are subject to frequent and immediate change, correct principles do not change. Users can depend on them (Covey, 2004, p. 34, 122-123).
Principles' don't react to anything. They don't get mad and treat users differently. They won't block users or ruin their edits. They aren't out to get users. They can't pave user's way with shortcuts and quick fixes. They don't depend on the behavior of others, the environment, or the current fad for their validity. Principles don't die. They aren't here one day and gone the next. They can't be destroyed by fire, earthquake or theft. Principles like fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality or excellence, potential, growth, patience, nurturance, or encouragement are deep, fundamental truths, classic truths, generic common denominators. They are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength through the fabric of a community. Even in the midst of people or circumstances that seem to ignore the principles, users can be secure in the knowledge that principles are bigger than people or circumstances, and that thousands of years of history have seen them triumph, time and time again. Even more important, users can be secure in the knowledge that they can be validated, by their own experience.
Admittedly, users are not omniscient. Knowledge and understanding of correct principles is limited by lack of awareness of the true nature and the world around and by the flood of trendy philosophies and theories that are not in harmony with correct principles. These ideas will have their season of acceptance, but, like many before them, they won't endure because they are built on false foundations. Users are limited but the borders of those limitations can be pushed back. An understanding of the principle of users own growth enables them to search for correct principles with the confidence that the more is learned, the more clearly users can focus the lens through which the world is seen. The principles don't change; users' understanding of them does. The wisdom and guidance that accompany principle-systems come from the way things really are, have been, and will be. Correct directions enables users to clearly see where they want to go and how to get there. Users can make their decisions using the correct data that will make their implementation possible and meaningful. The personal power that comes from a principle-system is the power of a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive user, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors, and actions of the others or by many of the circumstances and environmental influences that limit other users.
The only real limitation of power is the natural consequences of the principles themselves. Users are free to choose their actions, based on their knowledge of correct principles, but they are not free to choose the consequences of those actions. "If you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other." Principles always have natural consequences attached to them. There are positive consequences when users live in harmony with the principles. There are negative consequences when users ignore them. But because these principles apply to everyone, whether or not they are aware, this limitation is universal. And the more the users know of correct principles, the greater is their personal freedom to write wisely. By centering participation on timeless, unchanging principles, users create a fundamental paradigm of effective contributing.
Beyond the five pillars
Civilization has co-evolved along with the elaboration of hierarchy from the first chiefdoms. If various kinds of hierarchies, past and present, are surveyed, certain patterns stand out clearly. Regardless of how benevolent may have been their establishment, hierarchical organizations always exhibit certain characteristics eventually — from small organizations all the way up to the most large (Moore, 2004).
There is a certain internal culture that develops, where community dynamics play a major role independent from the functional objectives of the organization or its formal structure. Internal politics always emerge, with intrigues and with factions competing for power in the hierarchy. The ability to play the political games usually pushes one up the hierarchy faster than any other competence. Control becomes increasingly centralized and is supported by internal political networks as well as by formal chains of command. The top leadership of the organization typically seeks to extend the power of the organization and to ensure its long-term survival—with at least as much passion as is devoted to accomplishing the official objectives of the organization. The leadership clique communicates with the internal organization and with outside world using PR tactics, clouding over their operations and intentions sufficiently to provide cover for whatever machinations they might be up to.
These kinds of patterns can be seen in large and small communities, and often they're seen in reform organizations and activist groups as well. Hierarchies are evolving machines which have a predictable behavior that emerges once they mature. They are aggrandizing and secretive, and they are controlled internally by cliques whose agenda is not necessarily in alignment with the presumed mission of the community — nor with the sentiments of the community's avowed constituency (the users and readers).
Civilized communities are plagued by all manner of hierarchical organizations, controlling every aspect of users' edits. Just as international affairs are played out as a competition among ruling elites, so are the internal affairs of a community largely the result of competition and deals that are made among the cliques who run hierarchical communities. The top cliques dominate the lower cliques, and so on down to ordinary users and readers who have no say in how the community operates.
It is difficult to argue that the virtual world is any richer, or more secure, than the real world. New tyrannies have replaced old ones, and fresh injustices have been generously heaped on the heads of countless innocents in every quarter of the cyberspace. Few sensitive souls can look around Wikimedia projects today with feelings of satisfaction, or optimism. This is not to say that the revolution they brought could and should have been prevented; on the contrary, it was both creative and liberating. But the events of the first decade of the XXI century should remind all that the hopes of mankind almost always prove illusory, and that there is a limited ability to devise permanent and equitable solutions to problems which spring from human nature. Psychological violence, shortage amid plenty, tyranny and the cruelty it breeds, the gross stupidities of the powerful, the indifference of the well-to-do, the divisions of the intelligent and well-meaning, the apathy of the wretched multitude - these things will be present to the end of the race (Johnson, 1977 cit. in Rich).
Hence community civilization will always be at risk, and every user is prudent to regard the threats to it with unique seriousness. All good communities breed enemies whose combined hostility can prove fatal. There is no easy defensive formula, and the most effective strategy is to identify the malign forces quickly, as and when they appear. At the same time, there are certain salient principles, valid always but of special relevance, which users should take particular care to uphold. They are the Ten Pillars of our Civilization; or, to put in another way, a new and secular Ten Commandments, designed not, indeed, to replace the old, but rather to update and reinforce their community message.
Rule one - There are moral absolutes.
The first, and perhaps the most important, is to reassert the belief in moral absolutes. It is not true that all codes of conduct are relative, and reflect cultural assumptions and economic arrangements which do not necessarily possess any authority. It is not true that there is no such thing as absolute right, and absolute wrong. It is not true that our behavior is wholly determined by environment. Nor is it true that to seek to impose moral norms is an arrogant and unwarrantable assumption of infallibility; on the contrary, in the long run it is a necessary condition of human happiness, and even of human survival. What is true is that every rational human being is in a moral sense free, capable of reacting to moral absolutes, and of opting for good or evil.
Rule two - Certain acts are intrinsically, always and everywhere wrong.
It follows from this that certain acts are intrinsically, always and everywhere wrong. Murder is always wrong. Thus anyone who tries to justify political violence, the greatest single evil of some ages, must automatically be suspect as an enemy of a community. In fact the theories which attempt to legitimize killing in the pursuit of political objectives are, without exception, founded on false premises, illogical or rest on deliberate linguistic conjuring. Hence there is a natural presumption that anyone seeking to circumvent the common opinion that violence is wicked is an intellectual crook; as John Ralwe put it in A Theory of Justice: 'On a subject as ancient and much discussed... we may probably assume that a novel, and hence interesting, view of violence is likely to be false.' Moreover, a propagandist or pedagogue who is wrong about violence is almost certainly wrong about all his other claims to truth. The virtue we should cherish most is the courage to resist violence, especially if this involves flying in the face of public opinion which, in its fear, and in its anxiety for peace, is willing to appease the violators. Above all, violence should never be allowed to pay, or be seen to pay.
Rule three - Democracy is the least evil form of administration.
The third moral axiom is that democracy is the least evil, and on the whole the most effective, form of administration. Democracy is an important factor in the publishing success of a community, and especially in its editing-standards. But of course the essence of democracy is not one-man-one-vote, which does not necessarily have anything to do with individual freedom, or democratic control. The exaltation of 'majority rule' on the basis of universal suffrage is the most strident political fallacy of the twentieth century. True democracy means the ability to remove an administration without violence, to punish political failure or misjudgment by votes alone. A democracy is a utilitarian instrument of community control; it is valuable in so far as it works. Its object is to promote users' content; but perhaps this is more likely to be secured if the aim is rephrased. As Karl Popper says, the art of politics is the minimization of unhappiness, or avoidable suffering. The identification of the cause and scale of suffering draws attention to, and defines, problems in a community; and, since man is a problem-solving creature, eventually gets something done about them. The process of avoiding suffering is greatly assisted by the existence of free bodies within the community. The greater their number, variety and intrinsic strength, and the greater their independence, the more effective the democracy which harbors them will be. All such user groups should be treated like fortresses: that is, soundly constructed and continually manned.
Rule four - The rule of law promotes community development.
Free user groups will only survive where there is the rule of law. This is an absolute on which there can be no compromise: the subjection of everyone and everything to the final arbitration of the rules is more fundamental to users freedom and happiness than democracy itself. Most of the post-war democratic institutions have foundered because the rule of law was broken and governments placed themselves above the courts. Once the rules are humbled, all else that is valuable to a civilized community will vanish, usually with terrifying speed. On the other hand, provided the rule of law is maintained intact, the evil forces in society, however powerful, will be brought to book in the end - as witness the downfall of plenty administrators. The rule of law is essential, not merely to preserve liberty, but to increase publishing. A set of rules which are supreme, impartial and accessible to all is the only guarantee that editing, as a team or individually, will be safe; and therefore a necessary incentive to contributing and learning.
Rule five - Man (the normal user) is the measure of all things.
The fifth salient rule is always, and in all situations, to stress the importance of the individual user. Where individual user and user groups rights conflict, the political balance should usually be weighted in favor of the individual; for communities are created, and maintained, not by user groups, however benign, but my multitudes and multitudes of individual users, operating independently. As Ortega Y Gasset puts it, in The Revolt of the Masses, 'The chief characteristic of our time is that the mediocre mind, aware of its own mediocrity, has the boldness to assert the rights of mediocrity and to impose them everywhere." Such an actual or potential menace to culture can be contained, provided this commandment is kept strictly, and the individual protected against user groups.
Rule six - It is okay to be a normal user.
The sixth rule is that there is nothing morally unhealthy about the existence of a middle class of users in a community. No one need feel ashamed of being average, of pursuing an average way of editing, or of adhering to average cultural and moral standards. That it should be necessary to assert such a proposition is a curious commentary on this context, and in particular its mania for the lowest common denominator of communal uniformity. Throughout history all intelligent observers of communities have welcomed the emergence of a flourishing average-class, which they have rightly associated with publishing prosperity, political stability, the growth of individual freedom and the raising of moral and cultural standards. The average users, stretching from the self-employed skilled craftsman to the leaders of the learned professions, have produced the overwhelming majority of the articles on painting, architecture, literature, and music, as well as the administrators, bureaucrats and stewards, on which the quality and strength of a culture principally rest. The health of the average user is probably the best index of the health of a community as a whole; and any political system which persecutes its average users systematically is unlikely to remain either free or grow for long.
Rule seven - Freedom prevails.
There is a close connection between the rise of the average user, and the growth of political and economic freedom. Freedom is a good which any rational user knows how to value, whatever his social origins, occupation or economic prospects. Throughout history, the attachment of even the humblest people to their freedom, above all their freedom to edit how and where they please, has come as an unpleasant shock to condescending ideologues. There's no need to suppose that the exercise of freedom is bought at the expense of any deserving user group or interest - only of those with the itch to tyrannize. So the seventh commandment is that, when the claims of freedom conflict with the pursuit of other desirable objects of public policy, freedom should normally prevail; a community should have a rational and an emotional disposition in its favor. Liberty's chief conflict has been with equality. But absolute equality is not a good at all; it is a chimera, and if it existed would prove as fearful and destructive a monster as that grotesque creature Bellerophon killed. And the regarding and indiscriminate pursuit of relative equality, itself desirable, has led to many unwarranted restrictions on human freedom without attaining its object. In short, the bias has been in the wrong direction, and it is now necessary to strike a new balance of moral good by redressing it. Where there is genuine doubt between the legitimate claims of liberty and equality, the decision taken should be the one most easily reversed if it proves mistaken.
Rule eight - Substance before form, in articles, in talk, everywhere and everytime.
When dealing with concepts like freedom and equality, it is essential to use words accurately and in good faith. So the eighth commandment is: beware of those who seek to win an argument at the expense of the language. For the fact that they do is proof positive that their argument is false, and proof presumptive that they know it is. A user who deliberately inflicts violence on the language will almost certainly inflict violence on human beings if he acquires the power. Those who treasure the meaning of words will treasure truth, and those who bend words to their purposes are very likely in pursuit of anti-community ones. The correct and honorable use of words is the first and natural credential of civilized status.
Rule nine - Thou shall trust science.
Of course using words in their true sense is one element in precision of thought. And trained skill in thinking precisely to advance knowledge is what we mean by science. So the ninth commandment is: trust science. By this it's meant a true science, based on objectively established criteria and agreed foundations, with a rational methodology and mature criteria of proof - not the multitude of pseudo-sciences which, as have been seen, have marked characteristics which can easily be detected and exposed. Science, properly defined, is an essential part of civilization. To be anti-science is not the mark of a civilized user, or of a friend of humanity. Given the right safeguards and standards, the progress of science constitutes our best hope for the future, and anyone who denies this proposition is an enemy of science.
Rule ten - The truth shall set you free.
The last rule follows from the ninth, and in a sense embraces them all. It is this: no consideration should ever deflect users from the pursuit and recognition of truth, for that essentially is what constitutes civilization itself. There are many who concede, in theory, that truth is indivisible; but then insist, in practice, that some truths are more divisible than others. If we want to identify a community enemy there's no need to go no further than examine his attitude to truth: it will always give him away; for, as Pascal says, 'The worst thing of all is when man begins to fear the truth, lest it denounce him.' But truth is much more than a means to expose the malevolent. It is the great creative force of civilization. For truth is knowledge; and a civilized user is one who, in Hobbes' words, has a 'perseverance of delight in the continual and indefatigable generation of knowledge.' Hobbes also writes: 'Joy, arising from imagination of a man's own power and ability, is that exaltation of mind called glorying.' And so it is; for the pursuit of truth is civilization's glory, and the joy obtained from it is the nearest one shall approach to happiness, at least on this side of the grave. If one is steadfast in this aim, there's no need to fear the enemies of community.
A human rights question
Under most circumstances in a civilized community, individual's rights consists of human rights in general sense. Therefore, the rights of an individual exist and develop in accordance to other people's rights. In most cases of a civilized community, a collection of individual rights is the beginning of class rights. In this point of view, individual rights exist and develop according to certain collective rights. Relativity of human rights is in fact the limitedness of human rights. That is to say, rights of individual cannot expand so boundlessly that damages may be brought to others. Reflected in individual's relationship with the collective and the community, the relativity of human rights means relationship between rights and responsibility, and human rights and policies. Infringing other’s rights when realizing one's own rights is unacceptable (Zaibang, 1998).
When respect for the rules disappears, and powerful people or groups can break the rules with impunity, then the community no longer is civilized. Even when the outward form of the rules is maintained, but the respect for the rules is gone and people feel only the need to make a pretense of being ruled by them while ignoring their spirit, then their community can only pretend to be civilized. That is the situation one is dangerously close to today (Pierce, 1997).
The election and/or re-election of some users to certain positions are examples of the general lack of respect for the rules which exists in these communities. It is not just electoral politics which becomes corrupted when a community loses its respect for the rules. Eventually everything becomes corrupted, and the pretense of respect for the rules becomes more and more transparent as the process of decay advances. There's worse than a lack of respect for the rules. That is using the power of the rules in an unruly way. That is tyranny.
The problem isn't just that there's more conflicts and/or vandalism these days, both inside the administration and among the users. There always have been rulebreakers, and there always will be. And the conflict rate has always been going up. What's different and dangerous today is that such a tolerant attitude toward disrespect for the rules is permeating most communities. Today a substantial portion of the users don't care whether the administrators break the rules or not, so long as they keep their favorite pages. And the administrators in turn feel that they no longer have to hide their contempt for the rights of the users. They can do many things to users, and they can conspire in the violation of a user's human rights, and they don't have to worry about user's opinion, because the users don't really care. That is frightening.
This is not just an abstract problem. You may think, "All right, our community is becoming uncivilized because it has lost its respect for the rule of law. Ho hum. Too bad for our community, but that doesn't affect me." If that's what you think, you're wrong. What is happening will have very concrete and immediate and unpleasant consequences for many of the users.
Every community has its quota of amoral, antisocial individuals, who prey on others if they can. In a civilized community, the rules keep these antisocial predators under control. In a savage society, where each man is a law unto himself, the predators are likely to be killed as soon as they make themselves known. But in a community such as those we have today, where the administrative establishment itself is becoming unruly, many of the predators are able to prey on the community without fear of the rules -- in fact, under the protection of the rules, with the cooperation of the administrative establishment -- yet the users are not free to protect themselves from these predators. The form of the rules -- the pretense of rule abiding -- protects the predators, but not their victims. What we have developing today, in fact, is the worst of all possible situations, where a corrupt and lawless administrative establishment has formed a partnership with the most predatory and destructive antisocial elements in the community. And so the members of the administrative establishment have been working hard to change and corrupt the body of rules and replace it with rules more favorable to themselves. And when the process of change and corruption is not fast enough for them, they turn to other methods. That is why some administrators collaborate with some rogue elements to punish users for the exercise of their rights. That is why the administrative establishment collaborates with those predatory and destructive elements to harass and vilify rule-abiding users who continue to exercise rights that the members of the administration find threatening.
The rights that are especially threatening to the administrative establishment are those specified in the First and Second Amendments to the U.S. Constitution: the rights of free speech and of self-defense. These are the rights they fear most. And these are the rights they will be using extra-rule means -- and sometimes even unruly means -- to combat. It will be their fear of free speech which lead them to use surrogates in their attacks against me and other critics in the future.
And, you know, their fears really are justified. They don't have much time left. The vigilantes haven't started dealing with them yet, but with only a very small percentage of the users behind them during their election, they must be wondering how long it will be before the majority finally loses its patience with them. They still can strike at me and a few others, but eventually the time will come to strike back. And when there is no rules left to protect them from retribution, they will have only themselves to blame for destroying those rules.
As applied in this essay, the concept of human rights refers to a set of internationally agreed upon moral principles which have been set down in the various declarations of United Nations human rights instruments. One of the three main principles behind fundamental human rights is dignity of person/respect as a human being. Dignity of person includes the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or derogatory treatment and freedom from incitement to hatred and group defamation. Dignity of person is the unequivocal right to respect as a human being, regardless of differences in individual and/or group level racial/cultural/behavioral attributes. The right to freedom from the promotion of hatred is protected, hate propaganda is prohibited and states are ordered to declare illegal and an offense punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on superiority or hatred and to declare illegal and prohibit all organizations promoting such ideas. This article specifically protects the right of racial/ethnic minorities to be free from incitement to hate and group defamation. However, as a general human rights principle, it can justifiably be extended to protect non-ethnic minorities as well. These international human rights covenants represent universally endorsed moral principles, human rights guidelines to which all should conform. And these international guidelines strongly endorse the prohibition of hate propaganda, hate-mongering activities and organized hate groups (Kallen, 1998).
The virulent spread of hate on the (as yet) unregulated virtual communities has raised concerns not only about what it means for the future of free speech on communities, but also what it says about users' human rights priorities. To anti-hate activists, freedom of speech does not include the right to vilify. From this view, hate-mongering by organized networks of users hate groups embracing and promoting hate ideologies and strategies, constitutes a direct violation of the fundamental human right of targeted users to freedom from group defamation and its harmful psycho-social effects. On the other hand, to absolutist upholders of unfettered freedom of speech, protection of this fundamental human right assumes priority, and virtually no form of censorship of hate-mongering is held to be justified. In communities where anti-hate propaganda policies are in place, the conflict of rights at issue in the controversy over promotion of hate on the community must be analyzed within the broader ideological context of the hate propaganda debate.
There are two sharply contrasting positions among both human rights activists and legal scholars on this question. 1) The "libertarian" view holds that freedom of speech takes precedence over all other rights and freedoms because all rights and freedoms depend on the existence of an effective right of dissent. From this view, the harmful effects of hate propaganda are not deemed to be sufficiently grave to justify the imposition of restrictions on freedom of speech - especially user restrictions. 2) The opposing "egalitarian" view holds that restrictions on hate-mongering are necessary in order to protect minority groups from pain and suffering and in order to promote inter-group harmony in the community. From the egalitarian view, all persons and groups must equally be protected against the willful promotion of hatred and against defamatory attacks which deny their right to human dignity. Freedom of speech, from this view, does not mean the right to vilify. Insofar as hate propaganda has no redeeming social value and is inherently harmful both to target groups and the community order, restrictions on freedom of expression explicitly designed to curb hate-mongering represent "reasonable limits." As proponents of this view, egalitarians generally support policy means of curbing the activities of hate propagandists.
A key conceptual issue underlying this debate is whether or not affronts to group dignity constitute violations of the individual human right to dignity of members of target minority groups. The egalitarian position is consistent with the view that an affront to group dignity is experienced by minority members as an affront to their individual dignity. The libertarian position is inconsistent with this view.
From a human rights perspective, the hate propaganda debate has been conceptualized in terms of rights in conflict. Another way of conceptualizing the debate, using a social scientific approach, is to apply the distinction between the concepts of prejudice and discrimination in the analysis of the issues raised in the debate.
When hate propaganda and its dissemination are conceptualized as prejudice (negative ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings toward the target for hate), it can be argued that it does not violate human rights. This, it is suggested, is what the libertarians are saying. However, when hate promotion activities are conceptualized as discrimination (acts or practices which deny target groups their individual and collective human right to dignity), the promotion of hatred indisputably violates human rights. This, it is suggested, is the line of argument put forward by proponents of the egalitarian view.
If hate propaganda and the promotion of hate are conceptualized as prejudice, then the argument follows that anti-hate propaganda policies are both inappropriate and ineffective means for the suppression of hatred. If however the promotion of hatred is conceptualized as acts of discrimination, then the social scientific evidence supports the view that anti-hate propaganda policies are necessary and efficacious measures to curtail the spread of hatred, to protect minority target groups from harmful vilification and to safeguard inter-group harmony among diverse groups in the community.
Insofar as hate-mongering activities can have a harmful impact on the target for hate and/or on inter-group relations in the community, then such activities clearly constitute acts of discrimination. What needs to be determined is the nature of the harm caused by the promotion of hate. Social psychologists have been largely responsible for the analysis of the harmful impact of hate-mongering. It has been pointed out that most psychologists accept a theory of general persuadability as a personal characteristic. It is argued, in light of this theory, that account must be taken of the fact that human beings are emotional as well as rational in their predispositions, and that, particularly in times of stress and strain, they can be swept away by the emotional appeals of false, defamatory propaganda against identifiable target groups. It is argued that the uncontrolled harassment of minority target groups and the uncontrolled repetition of falsehoods and pseudo-facts can leave behind a residue of prejudice and hate among (non-target) recipients - a seed bed from which more widespread incitement to hate and harm can flourish. With regard to the psychological impact of hate messages on target groups, it is contended that hate-mongering can inflict profound psychological and spiritual damage on members of target groups through defamatory messages which violate the right to dignity of the group as a whole.
In order to "justify" harmful discriminatory action against targeted minorities, in clear violation of their fundamental human rights, organized hate groups throughout a community rely on and promote invalidation myths and ideologies through which they attempt to invalidate, in essence, to dehumanize, identified minorities and thus to legitimize violation of their human rights.
The concept of invalidation is critical for the analysis of hate propaganda and its harmful effects. Invalidation myths are falsified statements which allege that identified users are innately inferior or invalid (defective) with regard to particular human attributes. Invalidation ideologies are spurious theories which are designed to give credibility to invalidation myths by providing purported "evidence" for them. The arguments are premised on scientifically unsupportable assumptions about differences in human attributes among various groups; prejudicial assumptions which serve to inferiorize, to invalidate, particular groups and thus to provide a platform for discriminatory action against them. Typically, pseudo-scientific and/or pseudo-religious "evidence" of minority inferiority or dangerousness is manipulated in order to justify violations of minority rights.
Hate propaganda represents probably the most malignant expression of invalidation ideology, for it not only inferiorizes target groups, but it also singles them out as dangerous and threatening to the community. Not surprisingly, it follows from this premise that hate propaganda urges its audience to take steps to eliminate the purported threat. What begins as prejudice is thus translated into discrimination through hate-mongering activities which incite hate and harm against the target group.
The process of invalidation can be conceptualized as a sequence of three main stages:
- Invalidation myth (prejudice): definition of target group as inferior and/or dangerous
- Invalidation ideology: development of theory of vilification and provision of supporting arguments and "evidence "to" justify "denial of fundamental human rights
- Platform for action: incitement to hatred and harm (discriminatory action); denial of human rights.
As a highly pernicious form of invalidation ideology, hate propaganda rationalizes, legitimizes and incites harmful discriminatory action against minority target groups. Hate propaganda represents probably the most malignant expression of invalidation ideology, for it not only inferiorizes target users, but it also singles them out as dangerous and threatening to the community. Following from this premise, hate propaganda urges its audience to take steps to eliminate the purported threat. The audience is urged to unite and to take concerted action to protect the community by disempowering, expelling, overthrowing or annihilating the minority target group identified as the source of the threat. By so doing, hate-mongering violates the fundamental human rights of targeted minority users to freedom from vilification, harassment, and harm.
Evidence is widely available from current hate messages promoted on virtual communities. Some users are set apart in terms of contrast conceptions of WE - the pure, virtuous, builders of the project, versus THEY - the corrupt, evil, heathen alien intruders, bringing decay and ruin to our superior way of editing. The argument of invalidation "demonstrates" that THEY pose a serious threat to OUR superior community. This threat, it is urgently argued must be stopped. The audience is urged to take immediate, concerted action to remove the alien threat by disempowering, expelling and/or annihilating minority users singled out as the source of the threat. Analysis of those messages provides strong support that hate-mongering incites hatred and harm against targeted minority users and thereby violates their fundamental human rights to dignity and equality by denying their fundamental freedom from vilification and harassment.
A critical question concerns the community priorities with regard to human rights. Analysis of cyberhate messages reveals the violations of the human rights of targeted minorities which high tech hate-mongering engenders. These violations of minority rights are allowed to proceed unchecked because those with the power to decide; with the power to order the community priorities with regard to human rights, can argue, persuasively, that to introduce constraints on hate-mongering by organized or had-hoc hate user groups would violate the community preciously safeguarded and fundamental rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of outside medling. A human rights dilemma of giant magnitude, to be sure. So whose human rights continue to be violated? Not the rights of those with the power to decide, the established majority powers, but the rights of vulnerable, stigmatized minorities, the identified targets of cyberhate. Perhaps it is time the community rethought its priorities with regard to human rights.
While Britain was at war in 1942, an academic walked down High Street in Oxford. He was clearly from one of the colleges - bumbling, chaotic, of indeterminate age, somewhere between 35 and 55. He had a patched sports jacket, baggy flannels and unkempt hair. Under his arm he carried a pile of books. He was stopped by an inquisitive sharp-tongued woman with a born-to-rule accent. "Young man", she said, "why are you not over there fighting to save our civilization?" With a slight stammer, but firmly, he replied, "Madam, I am the civilization of which you speak." (Brown, 2003).
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