On Civilty

In the 1940’s and 1950’s the terror of the philatelic world was Elliot Perry. Perry was a knowledgeable philatelist but a personal horror. Every philatelic dispute was to him a holy crusade. A suggestion that his opinion wasn’t formed on Olympus enraged him to the point that he never forgave the miscreant who doubted him. He had a dispute with Harry Konwiser, another prominent philatelist, that may have started over a Confederate cover, but as was clear in their telling of it, neither retained much sense over what the dispute was originally about. The conflagration lasted decades and was public and acrimonious in the extreme. Perry made himself unassailable, not so much because he was so knowledgeable, but because he made the public price of disagreeing with him so very high. Eventually Perry passed on and is little remembered anymore.

 But the incivility and hostility that he brought to our hobby intimidated a generation of writers and considerably set back philatelic discourse. We live in an uncivil society. Political disagreements are fanned into blazes so that ordinary law abiding politicians talk about “second amendment remedies” essentially threats of violence against their opponents. And there is an entire talk radio industry devoted to inflaming people incessantly over every issue of the day. Fortunately for stamp collectors today, the Elliot Perrys of our hobby are few and far between (and mainly relegated to a few chat rooms where they lather each other up daily). The Herman Herst Jr wing has won out in philatelic discourse. It posits that ours is a broad hobby with much enjoyment. And when the hobby becomes just another place to vent hostility perhaps it is time to move on.

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