What is Cancel Culture?
A lot of people have been stressing about cancel culture. But cancel culture is by no means new. In fact, it has been with us since the Aztecs, Babylonians, medieval Christians, and Soviet Russians.
So, why the resurgence of fear over cancel culture?
History repeats itself. But there is more to it.
Cancel culture has been with us since the beginning of time.
Views that we dislike and find dangerous have been shut down for millennia. And there is obviously some good reason for that.
But for the longest time, there was no “human right” to speak your mind on any given issue. In fact, in most of Europe up until the 20th century — not to mention the rest of the world — free speech was rarely given.
To take the United States as an example, for most of the 20th century, progressive views — from feminist notions to secular leanings to animal rights — were subject to stiff social and legal penalties. So, now that the tables have turned it is humorous, to say the least, that many conservatives revoke to the “free speech” card. Since when was free speech a priority for the U.S.?
In theory, sure, the U.S. upholds principles of equality and liberty, but in reality, they never did.
Throughout history, whether that was for gays or atheists, people were subject to penalizations. It was illegal to be gay in England until 1967; same-sex couples couldn’t adopt until 2002; and anyone who sided with gay rights was silenced, ridiculed, and ostracized. The same applies to North America, however.
Similarly, suffragists and feminists have been silenced in America, Europe, and elsewhere in the world. For the suffragist in the 1800s to the feminist in the 1900s, it was their disturbing of “family values” by having the right to vote and rightfully participate in democracy. Those who advocated for their right to do so were ostracized for their “sins.”
For the atheist in the late 1960s and ’70s in America, under Nixon and then Reagan, the same applied. If you were an atheist, that meant that you were amoral if not immoral. Bertrand Russell was not allowed a university position because of his atheism.
Today, in Pakistan, atheists are similarly told that their morality, will destroy society as we know it. I was told the same when I converted to atheism by my friends and peers from the conservative European state, Slovakia.
Our place in society is now reversed; atheists own the institutions and Christians are defending their freedom of speech. The question is, how do we behave when the political spectrum changed? And unfortunately, we cannot say with any degree of certainty that we treat those that were once at the forefront any better than the way they treated us.
Our place in society is now reversed; atheists own the institutions and Christians are defending their freedom of speech.
What Both Liberals & Conservatives Need to Know
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.” — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
The reality is that society is complex and social issues are very difficult. Right-leaning individuals are not going away anytime soon. Neither are left-leaning people.
That is exactly why John Stuart Mill thought that we should uphold free speech.
Cancel culture will also not go away. Many ideas are still taboo and many think that some issues should not be discussed in public.
Looking toward the future, it will be important to promote slow thinking. We should represent the “opposing” side in the best way possible. Communication is incredibly difficult; we must understand each other before we confront the opposing view.
In fact, the central value of an education is to know how to disagree with the views you encounter and dislike. Or in the words of Stanovich, it is to “attempt to develop controlled processing styles that override the fundamental computational bias and thus enable learned rule systems to operate on decoupled presentations.”
My Resolution for the Future
So, what are we to do? If cancel culture is not going away, how should we react?
I firmly believe that discussion, humility, and openness to error can help in reducing the polarization we see in society. That is why I want to prioritize intellectually-honest discussion throughout my career.
This truly is my aspiration.
And I have attempted to do that in my debut book.
Well, because of the reason we are discussing cancel culture. The world is increasingly divided and our problems are far from resolved. Ideological opponents can understand one another, however; they can seek compromise, and effectively challenge the global problems of the 21st century.
My book, Up in the Air is about how two large ideological opponents, Christians and atheists, will have to battle out some of what are the biggest problems of this century from the “Age of Unreason” to moral ambivalence, to human rights violations, factory-farming and man-made climate change, to nuclear war, and nihilism.
In today’s discourse about everyday moral and political issues, from abortion to animal rights or the legalization of gay marriage, we tend to jump to conclusions instead of fully understanding what the “opposition” is saying. In my book, I argue that it is more effective to listen and properly understand our differences to resolve them instead of misrepresenting them due to ignorance or harmful intent.
Social issues are complex and multi-faceted, which is why well-meaning citizens will come to drastically different conclusions with similar backgrounds and resources. In order to come up with solutions, we have to first understand each other, where we are coming from, and where we want to go. It is only then that we will be able to effectively challenge the problems of this coming century.
Before you go…
ALSO, here’s a link to MY BOOK, “Up in the Air: Christianity, Atheism & the Global Problems of the 21st Century,” if you wish to purchase it! I appreciate the support.
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Until next time, keep reflecting!