2018 has been a horrific year for freedom of speech. This statement does not come lightly or without backup, the Joint Committee on Human Rights reports the worrying dwindling of acceptance of unpopular ideas and controversial ideas in Universities in Britain. In the past few weeks, Antifa has stormed a panel in King’s College London, alt-right speakers have had their entrances barred from the UK, one for life, as in the case of Lauren Southern. Jacob Rees-Mogg was engulfed in a heated brawl with protesting students, upping the notch in Bristol.
The academic medium has rapidly increased its watch and control over ideas, with “ifs” and “buts” to free speech. With safe-spaces and violent riots to shut down speakers of “controversial ideas” such as Milo Yannopolous and Jordan Peterson. Hiding behind masked children shouting the ideals of safe-spaces, continuously dividing and polarising what should be a learning experience to individuals able to cope with opposing opinions. Universities, and indeed, any learning institution, are not places where your beliefs or feelings are reinforced, they are and should be challenged, mostly changed, and both require the shedding of old ideas. Learning is a painful process, it is the death of an old concept and the birth of a new one. This is not what is currently taking place in institutions trusted to do so.
These events combined with Facebook leaks and Russian diplomatic conflicts escalating, bring an enormous feeling of 1984’s Big Brother and “war is peace”. I am watching the landscape closely, trying to connect the dots. What are we playing at? Is politically correct the real-life Double Speak? Erm, yes. Is Russia the new war to keep us at peace? Possibly. But is this, also, a Brave new world? I surely hope not.
Growing up, I was constantly challenged, both by being a lot younger than my siblings and by my beloved father, who I consider the person responsible for planting the seed of philosophy in me. He would never allow me to simply take on ideas, to be engaged with things which I did not think thoroughly, but mostly he showed me the world was not my play room, it wasn’t safe, nor should it be. How do you become stronger if you are in a stable safe environment? How do you even try?
You raise your kids to face their own challenges and adapt, develop, evolve. This is how we conquered the planet as a species, we battled ruthless conditions to thrive, fighting with teeth and nails to survive, to grant a future, to make descendants better than us. Evolution took us from animal to responsible modern-day adults, and we are now trying to take a step back. Cowering into rooms where you are always right, and no difficult, challenging situations may be presented to confront your feelings. We could be entering the kindergarten era.
From strict societies where honour, bravery, responsibility, were taken so seriously that deviant individuals were ostracised, western civilisation took a dip into the teenager’s decades of tearing down its own constructs. The last century was marked by individuals challenging everything from religion to roles, as adolescents do. Causing outrage, offence to older generations, youth undressed the 20th Century into something new, but nothing of what was expected. We are now forcefully forsaking freedom for safety, as if we are toddlers, being left comfortably in a kindergarten, with a big nanny, the state.
The mass delusion of a safe-pace-world seems to be taking hold through the academic medium, where we form tomorrow’s thinkers and leaders. Rights to the left, rights to the right. Yet the more rights they give, the less freedom we have. The withering of free speech starts with an “if”.