On October 4, 2006, a group of Columbia University students who opposed the views of a scheduled speaker rushed the stage to prevent said speech from taking place. Violence ensued, and it is unclear who was responsible, but in any case it is an event that got me to thinkin’.
People who are metaphorically placed on the ‘left’ side of the ideological spectrum (also known as ‘the yawning chasm’) are generally referred to as ‘liberal’. Depending on who is using the term, and whether they consider themselves members of an opposing philosophical viewpoint, this term can be used pejoratively or proudly. Those on the opposing side, as represented by the intended speaker that night at Colubia U., would be be referred to as ‘conservative’. With me so far? Good.
Those that consider themselves liberal often berate those who are conservative, indicating that the current dominant societal influence has dictated blatant disregard for civil rights, not to mention any number of other inalienable rights. In particular, those of a liberal bent decry the absence of a voice, the absence of a forum to air their views, which differ from those of the dominant culture to a greater or lesser degree. The anger is particularly fierce when criticism of ideas is silenced, and when views other than conservative views are not given their due.
I’m sure it’s clear where I’m going with this by now, but I’m going to continue anyway.
As some of you may recall, a ‘professor’ from Cape Breton University criticized the writers on this blog a few months ago for being dogmatically left-wing and unwilling to listen to opposing views. Notwithstanding my opinion that this statement is blatantly untrue in reference to Blevkog, this is an argument that is frequently used to categorize liberals generally as unreasonable fanatics, mired in left-wing dogma.
The actions of the students at Columbia University, no matter how well-intentioned, were incredibly ill-considered, and have provided ammunition for the critics of liberal tactics.
It doesn’t matter how hateful or disagreeable what a person has to say is to you personally. Stopping a person from speaking because they disagree with you is the most fundamental violation of freedom of speech that can be committed. It is a hallmark of dictatorships and juntas the world over that the opposition will never be heard. The Columbia University students who participated in this action have single-handedly (or multi-handedly, as the case may be) proven the negative image of liberals as fanatics to be true. I have deliberately not made direct reference to the topic of the scheduled speech at Columbia; it is, in this context, irrelevant. All that matters is that the students disagreed, and staged their own reign of terror to prevent the speaker from airing their views.
I’m sure I will be the target of some ire for this item. I personally regard myself as educated and open-minded, and could be considered liberal. My perception of the correctness of the liberal viewpoint, however, does not mean that I hold this viewpoint as immune from criticism. Any time you start to feel:
- that your beliefs are more important or morally just than others,
- a lack of the ability to ‘put yourself in the place’ of others in an effort to understand them,
- that other views are always wrong by comparison to yours, or
- it’s important, for the protection of others, to take the time to forbid people who disagree with you to speak,
you have crossed the line into Dogma. Dogma is unhealthy, Dogma is destructive, and Dogma will reinforce the negative stereotypes others have of your group. Let’s have the moral courage to allow others with silly ideas to speak – that way, more people will realize how silly they are. Hold a debate, don’t close your eyes and ears to other viewpoints.
The alternative is whacking one another with sticks, which sort of sets us back a few million years. If universities are supposed to produce the leaders of the future, I’m really hoping to die sometime prior to the Columbia University Alumni’s arrival at my door with torches and pitchforks.
UPDATE: There is an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal from Oct. 11 on this issue. I don’t necessarily agree with some of the generalizations the author makes, but this is me practicing what I’m preaching.