Monday, April 28, 2014

Safe Spaces and Free-Speech Zones

Screw that.

Behold the problems of the over-coddled and heavily infantilised residents of the post-modern West:

“I find it incredibly offensive. Gay pride is about acceptance and creating a safe space. Perpetuating stereotypes goes against that,” ....

The “public forum” sign above is part of an urgently needed community action campaign. Anyone can display the sign when they’re freely expressing themselves: being seen, being vocal, entertaining, engaging people, making protest, making light, frolicking! 

In fact paste it up as a self-fullfilling statement of one’s personal empowerment and to remind everyone including old mars, big business men, law makers (in businessmen’s pockets) and law enforcement that our public space is free for lots of things – besides corporate interest. 

The campaign asserts free speech rights in the public domain; a safe zone of expressive rights known as the Public Forum.

Has the West, perhaps the greatest civilisation man has known, become so childish that it has become regressive?

Unfortunately, it has. The veneer of ideological harm reduction is so thin that those who propose it ought not to hide their true intentions any longer. Are their intentions as obscenely authoritarian as those of the Cultural Revolution and Nazi Germany (yeah, I invoked Godwin- deal with it) or as squishy as the over-protected Western world? In any case, the entire mess is a wicked one because the end result is, as John Milton might say:

And yet on the other hand unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.

Even John Milton did not fear to utter the name of God, a being the post-modern West would rather forget existed and replaced with themselves.

But I digress...

The rights of the individual, of which philosophers of the past wrote so eloquently and have since been ignored, especially in an era when they are most needed, don't need to be defined or limited by so soft and so vulgar the expressions and intentions of "safe spaces" and "free-speech zones", expressions that insult peoples' intelligence (hi, aren't entire Western democracies "free speech zones, unlike, say, North Korea?) . An individual, aware of the world and in full possession of his faculties, does not need even a government to give him his rights as he already has them. They do need safeguarding without limitation save where physical liberty is at stake (SEE: speeding car, human body).

Freedom of expression and speech does not need such limitations- not words, not zones, not prohibitive laws. Consider that any one thing can be considered offensive. Should someone not declare that this or that political party is in error or that "Deep Space Nine" is the lesser Trek?

(Sidebar: I don't mean that.)

At what point do adults need spaces one would think belong to five year old children with ear infections? One opinion may seem innocuous or so inflammatory that one's blood boils but that is part of the human condition: to be offended or not. Nothing about that will change so why fight it? Why not deal with it? Doesn't the post-modern adult have the wherewithal to think or debate any longer? Perhaps not and there is the shame. How noble is man in faculty if limited from his earliest years and further limited in his adulthood? Not as noble as he should be and not as noble as those who just don't like people telling them what to say.

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth:  if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Would John Stuart Mill's strategy for discourse be tolerated on university campuses where "safe spaces" and "free speech zones" are still subject to the kind of philistine brownshirt approval any decent society would be embarrassed to have? Any organisation or society that operates this way exhibits fear that its status quo could change. That's hardly a sign of confidence. It is a weakness right-minded people should exploit. The very notion of cocoons for adults is beyond ridiculous so much so that it would be laughed at had someone not instituted them in places of (ostensibly) higher learning. It should also be pointed out the West is a place where someone may not only say what they please but live as they please. Can one imagine "Midsummer Night's Dream" playing in Tehran let alone a billboard where "fairies" could mean more than winged creatures? For some reason, this never enters the discussion. There are no "safe spaces" for many in Iran. The problems of the coddled Westerner should not only pale in comparison; there should be no comparison. Even if a totalitarian theocratic state could never work its way into such an equation, the idea that people need to be protected from themselves (read: censored) is still an offensive one.

It's time for the post-modern West to grow up. No one can live with their mouths taped shut. No one should have a bean-counting bureaucrat or fluff-headed grievance-monger who has never left their own surroundings tell them what can be said or where it can be said. It's ridiculous.

Dare I say it, it's offensive.

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