Talk:Civilian

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Colloquial[edit]

A suggested wording for colloquial usage is (as above):

"In a colloquial context, the term typically refers to anyone who is not only a non-military member, but also not a sworn employee of a law enforcement agency or fire department."

I see some problems with this:

  • This conflates the two distinct usages:
    • Primary usage: non-miltary
    • Secondary usage: muggle, "not one of us", "not a cop"
  • "typically" - unsourced as stated. The term typically refers to the primary usage, but the secondary usage is limited in both geographical scope and usage. It is not "typical".
  • "not a sworn employee". That's an odd phrasing. Also, describing police as "sworn" is an American thing.
  • The key point about describing non-cops as civilians is that it comes from cops themselves. The average citizen might rightly call themselves a civilian, but they don't do so to distinguish themselves from members of the police force. The cops use the term to describe people who aren't cops.

The bulk of our article is given over to the primary meaning, and the lede should not give the secondary meaning undue weight. Our current wording follows and is distinct from the primary meaning and reads:

In some nations, uniformed members of civilian police or fire departments colloquially refer to members of the public as civilians.

That seems to be an adequate summary of the situation. --Pete (talk) 20:51, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

While your last proposal is considered an improvement, "some nations" doesn't really change the fact the two sources Readers are going to be really confused of what "some nations" constitute when they checked the primary sources, then scratch their heads to the point some others might be tempted to edit them out. You point out that the word "typically" as unsourced, yet you're doing this again with the geographical areas in the two sources that directly don't provide for anything. It's a lot easier to just leave them out and let the readers figure out for themselves.
"Sworn" is not definitely an American thing at all. Again, stop with it that repetitive geographical area nonsense, you're seemingly basing it on impression rather than having an adequate source to provide with such a notion you insisted upon. Police officers in other nations are "sworn" to defend their respective societies from crime and terrorism to distinguish themselves from the general population they serve. I mean, you and I are not officers, we don't have to worry about having to patrol other areas and arrest other dangerous suspects. Hence, the development of informal usage that one cannot downplay at all.
You specifically said the "key point of non-cops came from cops themselves". While it may be true, there are news media (including the Australian Broadcasting Company and France 24) that also uses the distinction, the ones I gave you earlier in the first place. We already went over this.
Overall, I might considered this a slight improvement, but half of your statements aren't really accurate and aren't backed up by reliable sources. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 21:23, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You miss the point. You are claiming a wider application and more authority than is supported by any of the sources. Find me a RS that uses "typically" in the sense you support, please. --Pete (talk) 22:04, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You missed the point, you don't have any adequate sources to back some of your statements that I have a problem with, not to mention they are based on impressions rather than actual evidence. Find me a RS that uses "some nation" or "in the United Staets" that nation this and that uses the distinction, please. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 22:14, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you want my help in changing the article in the direction of text you prefer, you're not doing a very good job. I have better things to do right now. I'm off to take a dump. Cheers. --Pete (talk) 22:18, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am helping you and I laid out such concerns to you, but instead of heeding concerns, you get very defensive and defend viewpoints that don't concur to the actual heeding concerns of others. I'm not mad when someone brings up concerns about my proposals, but when I do to you in response to your requests, you are not taking this very well and go "I don't want to hear your concerns/proposals, I'm gonna go now!" Please don't do that. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 22:34, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Position of the "Colloquial usage" section[edit]

In the current revision the Table of Contents (TOC) is as follows:

  1. Etymology
  2. Legal usage in war
  3. Civilians in modern conflicts
  4. Civilian protection under international humanitarian law (IHL)
  5. Colloquial usage
  6. ...

In the Revision 18:58, 21 October 2021 as a result of a edit by User:XXzoonamiXX the TOC is:

  1. Etymology
  2. Colloquial usage
  3. Legal usage in war
  4. Civilians in modern conflicts
  5. Civilian protection under international humanitarian law (IHL)
  6. ...

User:XXzoonamiXX why do you think that the section "Colloquial usage" ought to be placed in position 2 (before the section "Legal usage in war") and not at position 5 (after the sections on IHL)? -- PBS (talk) 22:42, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Because I don't see it any different like it doesn't matter if it's on the first paragraph or last paragraphs in some Wikipedia articles. If you want to put in the last paragraph, I'm fine with that. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 22:46, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"If you want to put in the last paragraph...". To be clear: I asked about the section not the paragraph in the lead. I do not want to "put" the section anywhere as I am not editing the article at the moment. I do think that as it is "Colloquial usage" it ought to be placed after the main usage to meet WP:UNDUE policy "Undue weight can be given in several ways, including ... prominence of placement". I am pleased that "[you are] fine with that" (as section 5 in the TOC).
If the section "Colloquial usage" is placed fifth in the TOC. Do you accept that the most appropriate place to summarise its inclusion in the lead, is after the summary of the Civilian usage in IHL? — PBS (talk) 23:42, 22 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think it's just weird to put just this sentence "a civilian is a person who is not a member of the armed forces" then nothing happens after at all. It just feels empty and it's too short of a lead summary paragraph for that, when the civilian IHL section has the very most of all, like two to four long sentences. A colloquial sentence after the "a civilian is a person who is not a member of the armed forces" statement would be a great way to expand upon the first leading paragraph, so both separate sentences feel great with each other. I just don't feel both primary and informal definitions have any impact on the last colloquial usage being placed at the bottom. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 00:12, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

First sentence in the lead[edit]

Now that there is less pressure on the need to place citations on the first sentence, I think that XXzoonamiXX point menioned in the last section 'I think it's just weird to put just this sentence "a civilian is a person who is not a member of the armed forces" then nothing happens after at all.' is valid and can be addressd by removing it. Then altereing the start what is now the second paragraph (and would become the first sentence) to:

Civilians under international humanitarian law are "persons who are not members of the armed forces"...

I see this a first step in changing the lead into a summary of the article rather than a referenced stand alone section, particullarly as User:XXzoonamiXX has stated above in "#Position of the "Colloquial usage" section":

that ""it doesn't matter if it's on the first paragraph or last paragraphs"

so the sequence in the lead can reman IHL followed by mention of "Colloquial usage"

Thoughts? --PBS (talk) 11:42, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The first leading sentence is without any context, whereas the last two leading paragraphs does. Currently, the IHL second paragraph also produces the almost same definition as the first, making the first one so redundant. I think eliminating the lead makes sense since the body article paragraph only have the IHL and colloquial usage sections due to reasonable contexts, since we also have the IHL covering almost the same definition as the first. If we come to this agreement, I'll do the eliminating the first leading paragraph and leave only the IHL and colloquial usage instead. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 16:50, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Off topic discussion on the refactoring of this page
Why have you 'reverted' me & restored multiple section discussions about the same topic? GoodDay (talk) 17:14, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'll reply on your talk page — PBS (talk) 17:32, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
XXzoonamiXX I suggest you do not change the lead. If you remove the first sentence that could be seen as a revert. There is nothing currently so wrong with the lead that it needs an immediate edit. Lets wait and see what others think. — PBS (talk) 17:56, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That makes sense to me. The lede summarises the article. One paragraph for the primary meaning of non-military, a second for the colloquial, reflecting the amount of coverage given in the body.
I'd like to see sources pushed down into the body of the article for both meanings. Which is where they belong, supporting a full explanation of the topic, instead of trying to cram everything into the lede. --Pete (talk) 19:45, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Seriously man, why do you keep on insisting on adding such a repetitive word in the last leading paragraph when non-military means the same thing? The current dictionary source regarding informal usage doesn't even directly support what you said at all, and it's not even based on consensus except moving the refs down to the body paragraph. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 09:00, 25 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I see you have made the first edit. The lead already looks better. As you have said the information that only appears in the lead needs to be moved down into the relevent sections and then summarised one obvious candidate are the quotes because if they remain in the lead they have to have supporting inline citations. My previous summary (Revision as of 13:43, 8 September 2015) is (I think) worth mining for ideas:
A civilian under the laws of war (also known as international humanitarian law) is a person who is not a legitimate member of the armed forces to a conflict. This is a slightly different from a non-combatant, because some non-combatants are not civilians (for example military chaplains attached to the armed forces), and some civilians, such as mercenaries, are unprivileged combatants.

Under international law civilians in the territories of a Party to an armed conflict are entitled to certain privileges under the customary laws of war and international conventions such as the Fourth Geneva Convention. The privileges that they enjoy under international law depends on whether the conflict is an internal one (a civil war) or an international one.

[Sentences on colloquial usage]

PBS (talk) 20:39, 24 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I disagree entirely that "a civilian is a person who is not a member of the armed forces" is insufficient. This is the case in both IHL and domestic law in most (all?) nations. There is a clear demarcation in national domestic legislation between civilian and military law. Importantly, domestic law applies in both times of peace and war, whereas IHL is primarily concerned with times of war. I question therefore why the lede sentence is so heavily caveated and concerned with the less-common scenario.
The current lede complicates matters unnecessarily since it implies there may be a different legal definition outside of IHL (which there is not). Legally, a civilian is a person who is not a member of the armed forces - that's it. As discussed in "Legal Usage in War", there are civilians who may become unprivileged under IHL because they have taken up arms. They are still civilians, but have lost the "civilian protection" of IHL. The article states "The ICRC has expressed the opinion that "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents ... They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action", which reinforces the relevance of domestic law. A real-world example would be the US using the concept of "unlawful combatant" within domestic US law to detain Afghan civilians in Guantanamo Bay without the normal protections of PoW status (which would be invoked under the Third Convention if they recognised them as members of a military).
There is then the colloquial and informal usage. The article should make this clear to readers.

Hemmers (talk) 10:20, 4 November 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Off topic discussion about editors' behaviour
PBS, Pete keep on insisting on adding such a repetitive word in the last leading paragraph when non-military means the same thing, and now he wants to take action against me just because I change his repetitive wording. The current dictionary source regarding informal usage doesn't even directly support what he said at all, and it's not even based on consensus except moving the refs down to the body paragraph. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 09:00, 25 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You were warned against reverting without prior consensus. You have now reverted twice without gaining consensus here. I have asked you on your talk page to self-revert or face the consequences. I am implementing improvements to the article as discussed above and you are edit-warring to your preferred version. You have been advised repeatedly not to do this, and to go through wikiprocess such as an RfC if you think that your preferred wording needs community support against the regular editors of this article. You have not taken this advice. You have continued to edit-war with no significant discussion. I think you are being disruptive, and deliberately so. --Pete (talk) 09:12, 25 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You're the one winging over what is considered a really minor issue in the informal leading paragraph, and I don't know why you insist in keeping the repetitive word in when non-military means the same thing, nor the source directly supports what you said. The admin you linked has nothing to do with the current informal definition and has more to do with guideline violations than information edits. "I think you are being disruptive, and deliberately so" What? All I did just moments ago is improving and deleting something that is either repetitive or not worthy to the article's topics. What is the problem with replacing civilian with non-military, when both means the same thing? So why are you winging this over just different, but one word with the same meaning? XXzoonamiXX (talk) 09:21, 25 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@XXzoonamiXX you wrote above "The current dictionary source regarding informal usage doesn't even directly support what you [wrote in the lead]. I think you are missing the point of the lead section. A good lead does not have to be directly supported by citations, instead it ought to be a reasonable summation of the text in the body of the article. -- PBS (talk) 09:43, 25 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The current first leading sentence is the paragraph doesn't provide a direct definition and feels a bit too long. Therefore, my proposal for the IHL leading paragraph:
"A civilian under international humanitarian law is 'an individual who has no direct part in any military action or hostilities, nor belongs to armed forces'" with this quote directly taken from this citation oxford.universitypressscholarship IHL definition
As I say again, the current ref in the first leading paragraph doesn't directly provide anything relating to IHL especially with the two long quote marks so my link is appropriate in this case as it provides a direct link to my quotation. It is also reworded in a short way in order to collaborate with the actual definition provided by the proposal source so as making readers easier to understand. The current ref would be moved down to body.
In the colloquial usage leading paragraph, the sentence "In some nations, uniformed members of civilian police or fire departments colloquially refer to members of the public as civilians" would be changed to "In some nations, uniformed members of non-military police or fire departments colloquially refer to members of the public as civilians." Having two same but different definitive words is better, as there's no need to have two exact same words in the same simple, sentence for informal usage context. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 20:10, 27 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We don't need any cites in the lede. It should all be covered by well-written and well-sourced text in the body of the article. I think we can usefully show two dictionary definitions, one for each meaning.
In the colloquial usage definition, "civilian" and "non-military" clearly are not equivalent in your view, XXzoonamiXX, otherwise you would not be pushing so very hard for one over the other. The phrase "non-military police" is a very unusual one and I don't think we should use it; we are trying to inform our readers, not puzzle them. --Pete (talk) 09:37, 28 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The current ref in the first sentence doesn't support the quotation in the lead and needs to be replaced. The current ref would be moved down to body. My ref supports a simple summary of the civilian IHL definition. We also don't need any repetitive word in the colloquial usage sentence when non-military is the same thing as the civilian and no harm could be done by changing it. XXzoonamiXX (talk) 17:54, 28 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm open to suggestions on sources in the lede. I think we can all work together on this. As for "non-military" is the same thing as "civilian", two points arise. If they are the same, why change one familiar phrase for one that is not in general use. Second, you are pushing very hard for one term over the other, so you yourself do not see them as equivalent. I see no reason to change something for no good purpose. --Pete (talk) 02:03, 29 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The current citation on the first sentence does not suport the quotations. The quotes along with suporting citations were introduced into the lead of the article in July 2020 (eg with Revision as of 00:08, 5 July 2020 by an editor using an IP address) (it was also introduced with Revision as of 14:35, 4 July 2020 by an IP address and was reverted the same day). So I suggest that if needed the quotes are checked against the old citations and if they are to be kept moved down into the body of the text, replacing them with a summary in the lead. -- PBS (talk) 13:34, 26 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Could someone explain what is the obsession with International Humanitarian Law? Civilian is not related solely to IHL. A Civilian is anyone not a member of the armed forces. This is reflected not only in IHL but also (for instance) US Federal Law where the USMCJ covers members of the armed forces and (in some circumstances) civilian contractors - specifically recognised as civilian. Anyone not military is a civilian and there's no middle ground. Even civilian contractors subject to military discipline are civilians (although in a warzone they may be treated as a PoW under the Third Convention). Police officers in the entire anglosphere are servants of the civilian administration, enforcing domestic civilian law. If a Police officer commits a crime, they will be tried under civilian criminal law like any other member of the public - not in a military tribunal. If we ask the US or British Supreme Courts if a Police Officer is a civilian, they will say "of course" in the context of domestic law - not IHL. Importantly, domestic law applies in both times of peace and war, whereas IHL is primarily concerned with times of war. I question therefore why the lede sentence is so heavily caveated and concerned with the less-common scenario when the shorter version is concise, clear and correct.Hemmers (talk) 10:20, 4 November 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"This is reflected not only in IHL but also (for instance) US Federal Law where the USMCJ" Because listing IHL avoids a problem of systemic bias which using examples in the anglosphere creates. See for example the lead sentence to the Genocide Convention using IHL avoids having to list individual municipal laws. -- PBS (talk) 18:56, 6 November 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Okay, fair point, but that was one example. So what we're saying is that lede follows article but the article is incomplete and we need a section for "usage in domestic law" which cites examples from around the world including non-English speaking countries. For instance the German Constitution is very clear on the demarcation of civilians and military. It's prohibited to deploy military personnel domestically in any sort of combat role during peacetime (which caused issues during the Munich Massacre because the Police were on their own and they couldn't deploy army snipers). Having done that, Lede follows article and we can change the first sentence to the correct definition of "A civilian is anyone not a member the armed forces" with no caveats or half-measures (which follow the citations but are nonetheless misleading by omission). The article is titled "Civilian", not "Civilians under IHL", so we need to reflect the different usages - IHL, domestic law and the informal/colloquial. --Hemmers (talk) 10:47, 15 November 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

IHL[edit]

User:HughLilly changed the text of the first sentence to "Under international humanitarian law, a civilian is "a person not in the armed services or the police force"" and added a source that did not support this claim. I think it's pretty clear that a dictionary definition does not override international humanitarian law. --Pete (talk) 05:20, 14 November 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Civilians in domestic law and Britain[edit]

@user:Hemmers in Revision as of 17:09, 15 November 2021 "Added segment on use of civilian in domestic law and differing practices on separation of military/civilian agencies in Europe & Americas. Needs more Asia."

You added a paragraph starting The British military does not intervene in law enforcement matters other than by exceptional ministerial approval. During the 1980 mIranian Embassy Siege ...

However you did not address the issue of Operation Banner (1969–2007). It was the longest continuous deployment of British Armed Forces in history and took place in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. British troops have been deployed against several armed insurrections in Scotland and Ireland since the acts of union in 1707 and despite the bill of Rights of the Glorious Revolution.

What are your thoughts on this. -- PBS (talk) 11:27, 3 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@PBS This is all true. I'm not sure there's a "however" - those interventions were with approval of the government and do not contradict the text as it is currently written, they would merely extend it. The British Army doesn't deploy domestically except with special ministerial permission. Albeit Banner certainly turned into a long-term, almost Gendarme style system and Westminster did not approve individual interventions in the same way they did for the Iranian Embassy Siege. I do take your point in that respect. It should probably be mentioned in the same fashion as the South African Commando system - "this is a thing that happened but no longer happens. Read about it <wikilink>". Not because I want to diminish the history of Northern Ireland or the impact of Op Banner, but because there's a lot to say which could wander off-topic from this article and would only duplicate what is probably already written elsewhere. Certainly worth including, but probably not multiple-paragraphs worth? Hemmers (talk) 10:29, 4 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@PBS I have added some lines referencing Op Banner and significant incidents within the Troubles (Bloody Sunday). Of course I don't wish to copy-paste whole sections in from other articles. Does that seem sufficient? I am not wholly convinced that pre-20th century actions are entirely relevant to the topic (mostly comparing contemporary/current policies nd approaches)Hemmers (talk) 10:59, 4 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The point is that as Britain does not have a written constitution there is huge flexability in the use of the military within Britain. The major constraints are two fold the Rule of the Major Generals (shudder) in the folk memory of the Anglosphere, and the fact that traditionally the upper echelons of the military are from the same background as the elites in Britain and if they had wanted to rule the country as opposed to servefight in the military they would have gone into politics as young [wo]men. That is why the army opposes peacetime conscription, they don't see it as the job of a profesional army to act as a finishing school (or borstal) for young men.
However when the security of the state is really threatened internally then both polititians and the senior military command are willing to deploy soldiers and everyone knows this. Examples include Ireand 1919 and Operation Banner towards the end of the century. However there are other examples such as Tonypandy riots (1911) which were a tactical victory for the army but a stratigic loss for the government and the General Strike in 1926 a victory for both.
As an aside, another big issue for the Army high command was how to deal with a mutiny in a sizable section of the Army (see the Curragh mutiny 1914), it never came to a head because of the start of First World War. It is something that if I were in the Army, I would be drawing up contigency plans anticipating the constitutional wheels falling of Scotland.
During the General Strike in 1926 it has often been mentioned in popular litrature how none revolutionary and none violent it was compared to similar events in continental Europe during the same period. Both the Trade Union leadership (and of course the British government of the day) portrayed it that way. However the army was deployed in London with access heavy machine guns to back up the metropolitan police if the police failed to control the striking dockers (and the dockers knew it), or if they (the police) joined the strike.
I have no idea how one includes the sublities of this constitutional position in the article (without finding a reliable source or three to back it up), but it is more subtle than "The British military does not intervene in law enforcement matters other than by exceptional ministerial approval." Yes that is sort of true and has been since the Restoration in 1660, but it is more neuanced than that and the beauty of an unwritten constitution means that to paraphrase the quote in the lead into the "British English" article "the ambiguities and tensions in the word[s] 'British [unwritten constitution]' ... can be used and interpreted in [several] ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".
PBS (talk) 11:11, 7 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]