If ever there’s something in need of canceling it’s “cancel culture.” That pernicious attitude that whoever and whatever disagrees with your beliefs or perception of the world should not only be silenced but destroyed. It’s sheer fascism disguised behind saccharine pleas for equality and tolerance.
People suffering from this affliction come in many forms and it would be unfair to attribute it exclusively to the “woke generation.” Even in the supposedly mature world of academia and political commentary, there are people threatening others with destruction for simply having ideas contrary to theirs.
Which shows you that insanity can strike anywhere.
The “logic,” to use the word loosely, of these people is that fundamental rights, including freedom of expression (as well as religious and academic freedoms) are acceptable but not to the extent of protecting “hate speech” or “intolerance.” The problem with this asinine “thinking” is that the determination of what constitutes “hateful” or “intolerant” is purely up to them. Absent any discernible standard. Or regard for consistency.
Example: to discriminate against women is immoral (true) but — according to liberal progressives — so is discrimination against transgenders. Thus, when a male identifying himself as female in 2014 bashed a biological female MMA fighter to a bloody pulp, breaking the latter’s skull, such was considered a historic assertion of equality. Criticize that and you’re labeled intolerant and transphobic.
Another is today’s encouragement to defile Christianity. Nobody is allowed to criticize any minority, religion (no matter how violent), or ideology (no matter how confused or harmful). Christianity, however, must be exterminated. Argue against abortion or even just saying “merry Christmas” are considered acts of ignorant bigotry.
The inanity and insanity of cancel culture disregards the fact that freedom of expression is precisely there for ideas we disagree with. There’s no point to that right if every idea allowed expression are those we solely like. And the reason why opposing ideas need protection is that such constitute a fundamental pillar of any civilized modern, dynamic, and thriving society.
Or in one word: “criticism.” The ability to criticize government, ideas, religion, art, or each other. That is what made society develop, progress, and prosper. “Dissent, in primitive societies, was normally punishable by death. The upshot of this was that a society’s core body of knowledge and doctrine tended to remain almost static, especially if inscribed in writings that were regarded as holy. It was against this historical background that the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece introduced something wholly new and revolutionary: they institutionalized criticism. From Thales onwards each of them encouraged his pupils to discuss, debate, criticize — and to produce a better argument or theory if he could. Such, according to [Karl] Popper, were the historical beginnings of rationality and scientific method, and they were directly responsible for that galloping growth of human knowledge.” (Bryan Magee, Confessions of a philosopher)
However, society now is turning away from the ideal of competing ideas and focusing instead in ensuring that feelings (no matter how irrational) are not hurt. Mark Judge wrote presciently of this back in 2012 (“America has changed, but God hasn’t”), describing a country whose decline mirror ours: “The truth is that America is now a leftist country. It’s Rachel Maddow and Jeremiah Wright’s country. You know that divorced fortysomething female neighbor of yours? The one who’s not half as bright as she thinks she is, and doesn’t know much about Libya or the national debt, but watches Katie Couric’s new show and just kind of didn’t like Romney because she, well, just kind of didn’t like him? America is now her country. It’s Dingbatville.”
And to repeat, this obsession with feelings isn’t harmless. It is actually hypocritical, with the unspoken objective of ruthlessly shutting down any opposing thought. As Fr. Dwight Longenecker (“The dictatorship of sentimentality”) accurately describes it: “This sentimental ‘sadness’ is used all the time as a smokescreen for anger. You can tell because as soon as you’re thrown off kilter by the sentimentalism, the gloves come off and the true rage that was beneath the surface kicks in.”
Indeed, by shutting down rational discourse — that is, composed of facts, reason, and logic (as opposed to mere anecdotes and feelings) — it damages our community and each of us individually, preventing people from arriving at and appreciating truths, including the proper discernment and achievement of the common good.
Even the response to this “pandemic,” what with prolonged lockdowns, mandatory mask requirements, banning gatherings, closing schools — are all manifestations of a derangement built upon unrestrained narcissism, fear, and cancel culture.
Next year, 2021, must be devoted to re-establishing our way of life and freedoms. The value of country, of nationhood, of families, and of faith in God must be upheld. And we must absolutely reject any attempt to throw away our rights and freedoms.
With that, I wish you all A Merry Christmas and A Happy and Sane New Year.
Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.