What kind of society do you want to live in?
Do you want to live in a society that values freedom or fundamentalism?
You must choose one or the other because you can’t have both.
The “Big Picture” matters more than individual episodes
When we read or hear about people being censored, de-platformed, or losing their jobs because of outrageous or hurtful statements they’ve made, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and approve of the social and economic consequences the perpetrator is receiving.
I get it. When someone says something that’s hateful or bigoted, I find that deeply offensive. We should find racism and bigotry abhorrent. And it’s understandable people of goodwill have a strong, knee-jerk reaction when exposed to such sentiments. Nevertheless…
Such a reaction misses the Big Picture.
And the Big Picture is what matters most.
When people can lose their opportunity to speak out or even their ability to support themselves or their loved ones financially because of their social, political, and religious views, we are leaving behind a society that values freedom.
Instead, we are entering the realm of fundamentalism.
Freedom is good, but not anarchy
Let’s be clear. Some restrictions on expression and behavior are necessary in order to have an organized society that’s safe and secure.
With this short article, I can’t explore all the potential situations in which some restrictions are needed, but common sense and the experience of history both confirm that a society absent meaningful restraint quickly descends into anarchy and chaos.
A balance must be struck between individual autonomy versus the safety and interests of those in the community. My contention is the balance should tilt toward the individual and to freedom.
I also understand that organizations and private companies must protect their brand — just as individuals should guard their brand.
And that means that, in many cases, there will be agreements forged between employees and their employers on how they should conduct themselves in public, including on social media.
Nevertheless, as a general rule, the more an employer restricts the expression of their employees outside of their work-related responsibilities and work time, the more they encroach on the private sphere and domain of their employees.
Whether we’re talking about an individual’s relationship to the government or to their employer, a balance is required. I get it. But…
When in doubt, defer to the individual and defer to that person’s freedom.
If governments and companies (especially large, monopoly-level corporations) do not value, respect, and (wherever possible) protect the rights of people to their beliefs — as well as the expression of those beliefs — it makes democracy less possible.
Democracy requires freedom
You can’t have a democracy without freedom. And you don’t really have freedom if the people in a given society have their beliefs and expression coerced or heavily regulated.
Once again, I understand the need for balance.
Speaking as an American, I do not want the United States to return to a day when millions of people were enslaved, brutalized, mistreated, or marginalized because of their color or race.
I understand and support the desire of all people of goodwill to ensure that we pursue a society that rejects bigotry and promotes justice.
Nevertheless, when a doctor treats a patient, she must ensure the medicine isn’t worse than the disease.
If we decide to stand against hate and bigotry by embracing censorship and stamping out the freedom of speech, we are essentially killing the patient with our idea of the cure.
Neither fundamentalism nor cancel culture are the answers to our problems.
We don’t need “cancel culture.” We need a “freedom culture.”
To be sure, freedom is high risk.
And with freedom comes a great deal of pain.
But freedom is worth it in the end.