The right to express yourself through opinions and speech is a crucial part of being onseself that is easily forgotten
As an Economist article put so well, “Young people will tolerate many things, but not the intolerance of others.”. We have made great progress in allowing others to be themselves regardless of skin colour, sexuality or gender. But one of the main reasons we got to this position was because of the right to free speech in a democracy. If this is eroded, we risk losing everything we’ve fought for.
This concept is the most important illustration of where our western, priveliged society is heading. It highlights the one part of tolerance that today’s young people cannot understand. And it is a crucial part. A part which is vital for the improvement of society.
I am 28 years old and would fall into the ‘millenial’ bracket, so I am writing from the lions mouth. I’ve noticed that without listening to my parents and other free thinkers, I too could well have been dragged into believing that tolerance is only acceptable for certain things, or that the line is drawn at allowing the ideas of others to offend you.
But the plot thickens. Who decides was is offensive? Well, in this case it seems there is a political orthodoxy, an ever-narrowing set of views that are deemed acceptable. It seems these rules are being pushed by academics in universities, teachers in schools and by the braying ‘mob’ on social media. In fact, it seems many institutions have been infected with this. Authors lose publishing deals if they express an opinion which does not quite fit with the status quo, and academics are hunted down if they question it.
Even though they are malleable unlike immutable characteristics such as sexuality, skin colour and culture, our views and opinions form large parts of our personality. To repress certain viewpoints is to repress people from being themselves. It also stops the ability for society to improve. George Orwell’s book, 1984, has already warned us of the perils of a society where there exists a political orthodoxy for what you can think and believe. The irony is that being in a position to to even consider suppressing free speech was only made possible by the blood spilled to protect it in order to create the free democracy we live in today.
In the next installment, I give two examples to explain how suppression of free speech is dangerous for everyone. Everywhere.
What do you think? Read the next installment in the Covid-19 Review here!