The language we use in public and on social media has repercussions. The first step must greater civility
When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer,” George Orwell said in 1946. As then, so now – but worse. I know, everyone’s always saying things are worse. Let’s not hark back to an age that never existed. But it is time to recognise the conversation crisis in public and civic life.
I don’t quite believe, like some, that the Enlightenment values of tolerance and civilised debate are being reversed; but they are certainly under threat. This age of unreason we’re living through is defined not only by “had enough of experts”, but with normally reasonable people – you and I – behaving wilfully unreasonably to one another. And by the fact civility itself is now regarded as an obstacle to change, where once it was its best hope.