Education vs Paranoia...

When I first started this blog I hoped to present a snapshot into my life as a Priest traveling down the river road from St. Paul, Minnesota and LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The road allows time to think and time to think is the seed of writing.

As I traveled around the www myself I began to see a picture of the world that sometimes left me cold. The www thrives on the freedom of speech, the ability of people like you and I to investigate, learn, share, and encounter as journalists in our own right. Yet such freedoms are often under threat. In past times, especially in the West, the idea had been that free speech was dynamic and a good for its own sake, the free give and take of ideas the definition of a free people. Repression of speech was the mark of dictators, repressive regimes, and a backwards past. This is changing.

Across the West there has been a significant contraction of free speech. Whether in the speech codes and blinding uniformity of much of American academia to the human rights commissions of Canada to the hate speech laws of Europe the idea that speech is best encountered with more speech is gradually dying and being replaced by the idea that those in power have the right, for the sake of some notion of fairness or tolerance, to suppress speech in the hope of an elusive harmony.

This, of course, is hogwash. Repression of free speech doesn't produce more tolerance it produces a fascism where the powerful maintain power by denying dissent. Repression of speech doesn't produce human advancement, it smothers it as good ideas die for the fear of expressing them. Repression of free speech doesn't produce enlightenment because it limits the horizons of human thought. Societies that permit the repression of speech eventually decline, the victims of the intellectual, social, spiritual, and political contraction that comes with denying expression.

I believe its time for people of good conscience to begin to get educated about how their rights of free speech are being chipped away around the world. Education means facing the facts and becoming aware of how things actually are. This is not about paranoia, seeing things that aren't there, but about opening your eyes and seeing the big pictures often obscured by the day to day business of living. Too often we find ourselves so busy with the miscellania of our lives that the larger trends of our culture, especially its darker side, can achieve their effect in stealth. We fall asleep and wake up to a different world in the morning.

We need to rediscover, again, that freedom requires constant vigilance. Freedom is messy sometimes, it requires the engagement of the free to maintain it, and sometimes means that we have to live in discomfort. Too often we humans are willing to surrender our freedom in the hope of avoiding the work, the discomfort of what it means to be free. At times we hope, instead of freedom, for a world where we control the puppets strings and achieve our vision of utopia by silencing dissent. Mostly we're just lazy and don't care about what happens outside our own comfort zone. The result is that most precious right, the right to learn, grow, speak, debate, and express ourselves without fear is being, sometimes harshly and more often quietly, eroded and as it does we may find ourselves descending into a long night stunting the human soul for generations.

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