Censorship - the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.
Once a tool to keep vulgar language and nudity from falling into the wrong hands has become a foundational part of the way our society functions - a place in which political correctness holds a higher value than thinking for yourself.
In recent years, there have been several high profile “scandals” erupting from institutes of education. University professors presenting controversial, so-called anti-progressive narratives, have been brutally crucified. School after school has cancelled any controversial speaker who once had a booked gig. Those who dared not to have been deemed insensitive at the very least, ignorant, discriminatory, unwilling to be open-minded, etc.
The irony of this is that the very idea of education - university in particular, is to explore the controversial. To get into the messy. Thinking for yourself instead of memorizing a script. Leaving high school and the ability to rely on your parents knowledge, in order to step far out of your comfort zone. To consider new angles. To give room for doubt, allowing yourself to make decisions about what you think the world should look like.
The reality is that as “progressive” and “accepting” as our society claims to be, we shut down and block out anyone who appears less “progressive” or “accepting” than we are. We have lost the art of conversation - of give and take, sharing of stories, mindsets, worldviews, and opinions without swords or shields.
Perhaps the most chilling illustration of this is the current state of politics in North America. Watch any debate between nominees - all speaking at once, more focussed on discrediting and mocking other candidates than building their own platform - and I dare you to play “spot-the-difference” with any Tell-All episode of The Bachelor.
(Don’t get me wrong, I love a heated debate - but to throw any ounce of decorum out the window and replace it with nastiness and slander is not only unproductive but distasteful. Especially from future leaders of our country.)
How have we gotten to this point? Where to disagree is to offend? To challenge is to attack?
In 1953, Ray Bradbury published his novel Fahrenheit 451. It’s a dystopian novel set in a futuristic society featuring virtual-reality television sets that take up nearly a whole room, allowing you to live an entirely false life, and most prominently - a distinct absence of literature. In fact, “firemen” in this society are dedicated to starting fires. The burning of any and all books. “Firemen] were given a new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges, and executors… Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book...:”
This was written over sixty years ago. It is a chilling prediction of not only where society was headed at the time, but where we continue to move towards now. Engaging in tough conversations about who we are and what we think are not only rare but usually heavily filtered, making it impossible for pure and true authenticity to be present. Sensitivity is certainly an important and valued trait, but we have overemphasized it to the point where we are more afraid of offending someone else than speaking truth - and this is a dangerous place to be.
It is a sad day indeed when we can no longer appreciate and see the value in discussion & learning from those whose views oppose our own.