The Proscription-Peeve Paradox
[Written as a response to Melissa Chen’s recent posts (see attached below) of gripes against banning…]
Quoting T. S. Elliot: ‘Every experience is a paradox in that it means to be absolute, and yet is relative in that it somehow always goes beyond itself and yet never escapes itself.’
To cap it all, Wayne Dyer remarked that we are doomed to make choices and that is life’s greatest paradox.
From time immemorial, heaven was known to nurse peeves and poor mortals had to choose. From Adam’s forbidden apple dilemma down to the Mount Sinai Decalogue proscriptions, the more prohibitions decreed to appease, the less content the lesser mortals, incurring only more peeves. Fast forward to the 21st, we now find travel bans (against 6 Muslim countries) in the land of the free; and as if to one-up that, Dutch pol Geert Wilders wants all mosques and the Quran banned in his nation noted for its happy liberalism — evidently, the more the West progresses, the more retarded it becomes.
To be or not to be banned seems to be the buzz of the day. Francis Fukuyama a quarter century ago in his End of History, famously proclaimed his Panglossian view of a future world sans ideology, where censorship and proscription would become superfluous. Nobody, but nobody then, could imagine he could have so grossly underestimated the paradoxical human condition.
Ergo, I’m ever so intrigued/puzzled by self-imposed overwrought angst against the ceaseless enterprise of ubiquitous real-life proscriptions which had governed the human condition for better or worse and will continue to be so till the end of time. For good measure, here’s a link to a motley list of what you may have erroneously taken for granted to be kosher and acceptable in other familiar countries. http://mentalfloss.com/article/51631/10-things-banned-other-countries-legal-us
[P.S.: OT, regardless of the outcome of Amos’ imminent asylum ruling, I trust you would remain a close mentor and inspirer to him, a personal confidante and model he could confer with and look up to, one that is sorely lacking in his teen years; do not let my severe castigations of his silly faults impair your earlier enthusiasm in desiring to help him realize his full potential.]
The concept of hate speech and blasphemy are interlinked. Replace “blasphemous content” in the article below with “hate speech,” and if you now agree with the sentiment, then the terrible conclusion should send you on a soul-searching trip: you and the Islamofacist theocrats of Pakistan agree.
Do you know what radicalizes me these days?
With the grand exception of banning banning things.
Whether it’s pornography or large cups of sugar-laden soda; whether it’s blanket immigration bans or a reciprocal one preventing the US President from entering the UK; whether it’s burkinis or books, banning things is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It works against our basic psychology, compelling the human mind to give the prohibited thing more power. It’s why the “forbidden fruit” is so much more desirable than just any old regular fruit.
Religions have long used bans as part of a moral crusade while autocrats have exploited the concept to preserve their stranglehold on social norms and authority; both do so explicitly to horde and concentrate power.
The liberal left usually have good intentions for banning things such as symbols or “hate speech” — desires to end racism, hate, or destructive behavior — but the mechanics of such policies have, time and again, proven ineffective if not outright disastrous.
Bans work best when they are surgical and target very clearly defined criminal actions – murder, rape, child marriage, etc. But banning merely undesirable behavior, ideologies, and items that represent both is an attempt to forcibly control human behavior that rarely works, and will likely backfire. We now live in a culture of banning things where the narrowing of thought, the demand for authorities to intervene, the dependence on all sorts of censorship, are becoming more prevalent and this strategy is simply not the way to confront the far-right. It is indeed a mirror of the far-right.
During this week’s hearing, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge implied that murder would be inevitable if the social media pages with “blasphemous content” aren’t blocked. He went on to add that “liberal secular extremism” is a bigger threat than Islamic extremism and that “blasphemers are terrorists.”
So once again, we see the danger of catering to tyranny of the offended. When the Left abandons cartoonists and ex-Muslim reformers, they give ammunition to those seeking to victim-blame and protect hateful ideologies. The goal posts of what counts as blasphemous content shift all the time, and censorship will always be a blunt tool that in the end, only serves the interests of those who wield power over us.