BUSINESS & LIFE: Return to Civility

Valda Henry PhD

Happy, Healthy, Blessed, Bountiful, Peaceful and Prosperous 2017!! A New Year for many is a time of reflection, hope and joy; yet for others a New Year brings sadness.

Just as I was about to begin to write this week’s article, the first for 2017, I got news of the horrific murder of Valda Laville, a young mother in the prime of her life. I have spent much of the night and next day pondering on this murder. It brought me back to an article I started in October last year, “The Return to Civility,” that I never completed and right now, I think I must complete this article as the first article of 2017 and use the article I planned, “Stepping Out in the New Year with Faith and Confidence,” as Article # 2.

The idea of writing on Civility came about because of the number of incidents of violence an abuse in Dominica, as well as the language and tone used by our political leaders. The campaign for the US Presidency and the unprecedented uncivil attacks, tone and language and the election of Donald Trump as the 45th US President on November 9, 2016, confirmed that there was need for such an article.

While writing this article, news of a decapitated male found at Mero reach me. I pray the Lord covers Dominica with His blood, protect and keep us safe. And during a break from writing, news of a shooting in Pointe Michel reach me. As I settle to complete this article, news of the accident in Portsmouth of someone I know personally has shaken me to my core.

I am however comforted and I am confident the family is also comforted, by Anthony’s positive spirit and attitude. I pray the God of Peace, Grace, Light and Healing will strengthen and comfort the families and friends who are grieving. The first week in the New Year 2017 appeared to be one of doom and gloom in Dominica and other parts of the world. The second week started with the accident in Portsmouth. Our God is a God of Hope and amidst the pain, disbelief, shock and confusion, we are comforted and strengthened by that knowledge.

Civility means “formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour and speech.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes it as “polite, reasonable and respectful behaviour; polite actions and words.” Some may be asking what does civility have to do with the murder of a young woman? How can civility bring us to a better more peaceful place? I believe civility is also about a state of mind. It is about our attitude to life, to ourselves and others. It is about respect of self and others. This topic brings in sharp focus the following words, which have been attributed to Frank Outlaw, Founder of BI-LO Supermarkets, as well as others including Ralph Waldo-Emerson, Lao Tzu and the father of former Prime Minister of the UK, Margaret Thatcher:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
Watch your words, they become actions;
Watch your actions, they become habits;
Watch your habits, they become character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Acts of violence and abuse are often preceded by words. If we speak negative and violent words, there is a higher probability we will act negatively. Uncivil words create an environment of discord and disrespect and this create the condition for the negative, violent actions we see and the disrespect of human life. We can express our views and let others know what and how we feel without resorting to uncivil words and actions.

The call for Civility is a call for action from all levels of our societies: social, political and religious to speak and act gentler. In our families, we need to speak words of life over our children and family members. We need to discipline with love, so we do not raise children who become bullies, and abusers who do not know how to receive and give love, perpetuating a cycle of violence, abuse and low self-esteem.

Our leaders, too, need to act civilly. They need to truly watch their words and seek to create a culture of cooperation and collaboration, though on opposing sides. There have been times of incivility in the past with our political leaders. I recall the days of the late Honourable Mary Eugenia Charles and the Late Honourable Captain Vic Rivierre, however, these days almost appear angelic compared to the discuss and relationship that exist now between the Government and Opposition. I have said it before and some people took offense, however, I believe that for the first time in our history, our political leaders despise each other. They appear incapable of having a civil conversation and it seems every interaction is pregnant with anger, accusations, sarcasm, ridicule, disrespect and contempt. This prevents them from having a meaningful dialogue and a healthy working relationship in an environment of mutual respect.

The call for civility is also a call to society at large. We need to pay greater heed to the good values of yesteryears. The values of good manners where we greeted and respected others, especially our elders; where we took care of the vulnerable in our society, particularly our children; the time when every child truly belonged to the village/community. We need to address each other with words that uplift and encourage; not words that denigrate. We need to value our lives, appreciate and count our many blessings. We need to pay more than lip service to being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers; treating others how we would like to be treated as well as how they would like to be treated. We need to value life.

In the last quarter of 2016, there were many sudden deaths and in the first week of the New Year, there were two horrific murders, an attempted murder and the second week started with a terrible accident, what do these events foretell? I don’t have the answers; however, I think they are reminders of the fragility and preciousness of life; of the need to embrace life and to have meaningful relationships at home, work, school and church. I also pray 2017 will be for us one when we return to a greater level of civility in our discourse and respect for ourselves and each other.

May the Lord continue to Bless, Keep and Hold Us in the Palm of His Hands, until We Meet Again! Love and Blessings Aplenty!

I can be contacted at [email protected] or 767 449 9649.

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  1. Sylvester Cadette
    January 13, 2017

    Wow! Dr. Henry Welcome back. Greetings. I hope you had a very Merry Festive Season of relaxation, good health and family togetherness. I also wish for you, your family and Staff a prosperous, peaceful and successful new year in all your endeavors, both Professionally and personally.

    How so refreshing and soothing are these insights. I pray these words of wisdom will filter to every part of Dominica. Success for the Women’s forum coming up later this month.

  2. January 13, 2017

    Dr. Henry:

    Thank you! Civility is something I want to practice more in 2017.

    It is something we can all do. It does not cost us anything. Civility is something that can make our home a better place to stay, our community a better place to live, and our job site a better place to work.

    When we express civility we feel better. If we make it a way of life it is actually good for our health.

    if we find ourselves in a conversation with somebody for a few minutes it is easy to show a little civility by simply complimenting them for something they have done or even for something they happen to be wearing! Or what about giving them a little encouragement for something they are doing? Often we miss
    an opportunity to express our appreciation to somebody who has helped us or done us a good turn. A simple thank you goers a long way! On the other hand what about the times we ourselves have a chance to extend a helping hand :?:

    Sincerely, Rev. Donald Hill.

  3. Dominican in London
    January 13, 2017

    Welcome back Dr Henry and Happy New Year to you!

    This Dominican in London desperately missed your commentaries.

    I am especially gratified by the impartal tone of your commentary. It really pains me that our two political leaders cannot be civil towards each other. Surely we all crave the best for our beautiful country? I often cringe by the contempt wth which our political leaders treat each other!

    I know that I will be derided by many when I say that Dominica urgently needs God’s intervention , but I truly believe that we need to start praying from the heart in order to stop the decimation of our beautiful country.

    Like you, I believe in the power of fervent prayers and I will continue to pray for all f us.

    Thanks Dr Henry and may the merciful God continue to guide and protect you and your family.

    January 12, 2017

    :?: I would think that this lady should be one of those leading the island instead of the illegal rogues posing as government :?: But no, she stays back supporting and allowing incompetent unqualified rogues to ruin the island!!!

    • dno sucks
      January 13, 2017

      i agree

  5. Concern citizen
    January 12, 2017

    Dr. Henry,
    Thanks for the comments which U made I applaud U highly thank you much, but on another note, when people like U and UR. relative and the others like you all who are very influential in the society keep keeping you all’s MOUTH shut U don’t think that the society will go hay wire
    when the Idiot from spewed out violence against Lennox Linton who came to take D/ca out of the deep hole which it finds it self in by giving the YOUNG MAN A CHANCE, what else, I sure your brother in law knows the Curtis Phillip of St. Jo, Mence the fisherman was his father
    Please say some thing about what is happening in D/ca with our PASS PORT, is one of UR. family member an accomplice?

    • dno sucks
      January 13, 2017

      yes they are.

    January 12, 2017

    Donald Trump is the 45th and not the 65th president of the United States.

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