Enlightened Conflict

oldest known form of freedom

April 1st, 2015

consistency dangerous freedom


“If he wants to be an asshole, it’s a free country.


Millions before him have made the same life choice.”



Margaret Atwood







This is mostly about freedom of speech … but also includes the spirit of freedom that lies within us.






I would imagine that as soon as humans began some form of thinking beyond survival, sex and eating … they began to grapple with freedom. Uhm. And have been grappling ever since.



I tend to believe it is a lifelong, generation spanning, grapple because freedom is instilled in all of us.



It can be found in youth as breaking free of adult rules & restrictions.



It can be found in adults in physical behavior <traveling beyond the boundaries of current location>, self-esteem <freeing oneself from self-destructive – or self-inhibiting – thoughts> or even cultural attitudes <seeing things differently than before>.


It does not matter who you are or what type of personality you have … inevitably all of us seem to constantly seek to ‘free ourselves’ in a variety of ways or at least seek some aspect of freedom in our lives.


In fact.


I would tend to suggest that freedom is at the core of the human soul.





This means that anything that inhibits freedom chafes. Shit … something doesn’t even have to actually inhibit … we just have to think it may inhibit our freedom and it chafes.





I began this post when I saw a picture of “cuneiform” … an ancient form of writing … where, etched on a cave wall, was the word “Freedom”written in Sumeria in 2500 B.C.



freedom amagi cuineifform

freedom (ama-gi) written in Sumerian cuneiform





This means humans have craved freedom for thousands of year.


By the way.


Craving can create some fairly passionate feelings.



Ask her what she craved, and she’d get a little frantic about things like books, the woods, music.

Plants and the seasons.


Also freedom.


Nightwoods – Charles Frazier




All that said.


Who would have ever thought freedom would be tricky to discuss?

<not me>




It is.


I like to believe I am a fairy articulate guy and I know I always have an opinion … and yet … when discussing freedom I seem to offer up well intended meaningless pabulum <”freedom is good”> and struggle when asked “when does freedom become lack of tolerance?”


Maybe because I never thought freedom and intolerance would ever be in the same sentence let alone the same thought.


It is easy to say things like … if you say stupid stuff that will cost your employer money, expect to face consequences. But that also assumes I can show a direct cause-effect relationship.



I would suggest, however, that simplistically … while freedom is a privilege … free speech is actually a responsibility.




That means … you say dumb things and you can face consequences.



I say that because all of a sudden there is a ‘victim’ mentality being associated with people who say dumb shit.


freedom to speak



Any ‘victim’ is free to say stupid things.

Any and all the times they want.


But they also aren’t guaranteed a job by their employers if they do so.


That is freedom of an employer to decide who represents their company and their brand.


Is that discrimination?




Another tricky topic.





It is establishing some discriminatory behavior guidelines with which you assess your employee.


Outlined up front … well … they are established.


And they represent … well … let’s call it ‘rules.’



Some could argue that individuals do not exist to promote the interests of group consensus.



Unless that individual is actually part of a group … like a company.



Therefore, in that case, if a person who thinks differently from the company desired behavior says something that suggests “offensive” … outside the ‘established rules’ … the group <the company> does have freedom to act.





This is all why freedom is tricky.



Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted, what words or phrases are permitted and which ones will get you hauled off as some criminal to be placed on the rack in the middle of town.


Even worse?


Today’s world has created a minefield of inconsistency.



Criticizing Islam can be construed as intolerant and yet insulting Christianity is simply a sport.





This is not about religion … this is simply about freedom.


freedom feels like hold

And once you have freedom … you don’t ever <ever> want to give it up … even a small degree of it.



That is why I scratch my head as the mob delightfully destroys people’s lives under the guise of intolerance <and yet that person was sharing freedom of thought … albeit sometimes dumb>.


I also scratch my head thinking that the mob seems to never stop to ask themselves the basic scary question … what happens when they come for me?




If history is any guide that’s what will happen.



Regardless of the ‘mob mentality’ and political correctness … we need to pay attention.



Because, at its most basic, we are discussing freedom of thought.


And it is the out of control political correctness and the knee-jerk consequences we assign to speaking out of the norm that we need to pay attention to.


Maybe it is possible we are simply blinded with the richness of our freedom.

Because freedom is blindingly bright.




We feel like we have escaped from a dark cave into the bright daylight.


And here we stand not knowing where to go or what to do.”


unknown Siberian peasant after the Russian Revolution




I imagine I used that quote to make everyone think about the ‘dark cave.’ Let’s call it the cave of intolerance where views were never expressed. Or views were only expressed in private … in the cave as it were.




In today’s world the cave is public.

public is the new private

And public is the new private.






Let’s be clear. There is no longer ‘private.’



But just because it becomes public doesn’t mean you lose your freedom to speak and think.




And this public world is the world we live in.

Our forefathers made laws about freedom of speech (to protect citizens from government, not to protect gossip channels), but they never displayed equal foresight for privacy.

Probably because in their day decorum prevented certain behaviors from ever seeing the public eye.


That was a long time ago.


Today, no place is safe, no restaurant, no parking lot, perhaps not even your own bedroom.

But its not just privacy.



It is anything and everything IN the public.






Students at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota canceled a “Hump Day” celebration featuring a camel because someone thought the camel signified racism against Muslims.

(Yes, Muslims aren’t a race, but that doesn’t matter, apparently.)



Dartmouth cancelled a charitable fund-raising “fiesta” because one student complained that the word “fiesta” was racist. And going beyond race, commencement speakers, ranging from Condi Rice at Rutgers to Christine LaGarde at Smith, have been turned away by rabid student protests, mocked here by Yale Law’s Stephen Carter.

From the economics to the politics, colleges and universities are looking less like serious places to improve one’s mind and one’s prospects, and more like expensive islands of frivolity and, sometimes, viciousness.





Frankly … it has reached some absurd levels.


freedom free speech















And I am not speaking of political correctness … but rather … freedom of thought.




“We naturally associate democracy with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.”



John Dewey


I am certainly not condoning stupidity.







People are free to be stupid.


<note: I have written about how the most articulate stupid, the morons, are actually quite intelligent: http://brucemctague.com/morons   >


And while I ramble on about tolerance, and intolerance, it may be good to remind ourselves that we are actually a country of knowledge and learning. While our country’s success has a foundation of “doing” <other countries always think we are always in a rush>, the doing has a strong thread of quality about it because we are a country of thinkers.



Great thinking.



Great freedom of ideas.



Great freedom of thought.







We always think about what we deserve or are entitled to.



Sometime these rights, or freedoms, are viewed that way by people.


We think about those rights to which we are entitled … which, uhm, are actually not an entitlement but rather a privilege guaranteed by our Constitution & Bill of Rights.


The words are part of our everyday vernacular and part of our identity and therefore deemed a ‘given’ not a ‘privilege.’



But just because we enjoy certain rights and privileges does not mean we can do whatever we want … whenever we want to.



There are necessary restraints on freedom.


Basically the most basic restraint is that you may enjoy your ‘freedom of’ liberty as long as you do not harm others <or yourself>.

confidence stupid people






And this doesn’t mean ‘harm someone else’s’ thought.’


This means actual harm.



I think <I am no lawyer> that legally … restriction of our freedom is rarely justified.  Suffice to say that the legal judiciary has to prove it has a reason to limit the freedom, that the law actually addresses the harm (i.e., that by limiting our freedom the government is actually protecting us from something harmful).




So why should a ‘jury of peers’ not have to follow the same rules? The burden is to PROVE a reason to limit a freedom … not just bully it into change or limiting.



Harmful thought is incredibly difficult to prove <excepting maybe inciting to riot’>.


There’s a massive difference between expressing your personal opinion versus trying to punish someone for theirs.


I fear we are leaving ‘I do not agree with what you have to say but will defend to the death your right to say’ behind and it is being replaced with I do not agree with what you have to say and will do everything in my power to ruin you for saying it or even thinking it.’



I fear there is little, or no,  tolerance for a different point of view these days.



I fear it is gone.



And within that fear is a greater fear.



I fear we have begun a slippery slope on something so innate, so powerful … it resides within all of us – freedom. I fear we are grappling with ‘what are the limits on freedom’ on this very very slippery slope.


stupid but will do it anyway











I fear we are undoing something, freedom, which has been around for thousands of years.



In the end I like to remind people that a desire for freedom resides in every one of us … from the minute we are born. And while it is born within us many of us never have the privilege of  living somewhere in which we can actually live with freedom of thought, speech and religion.



And because it truly is a privilege … it seems like we should be doing more to protect freedom rather than seeking ways to limit it.



This includes, yes, freedom to be stupid.

disturbing cartoon and words

April 6th, 2010

(warning: the cartoon used in this post is offensive on a number of levels).

Beware. This post is an out and out unequivocal rant.

Every once in a while someone does something using freedom of speech that disturbs me (I have another post suggesting that freedom of speech doesn’t absolve you of freedom to be stupid … it is a privilege not to be abused).

Ok. I just saw something that disturbed me. A cartoon depicts Barack Obama as a rapist and the Statue of Liberty as his victim. While I find the cartoon itself offensive I find the thought (or thoughts) behind it probably even more disturbing … and offensive.obama rape statue

Look. I understand the rape metaphor is not new.

Conservatives routinely accuse progressives of “raping” America

Rape is used to describe a dislike with a political process or specific actions , i.e., healthcare is being “rammed down our throats.”

We’re being told to “bend over and take it.” (and more like those)

But Darleen over at her blog ‘Protein Wisdom’ takes it to a new level in a cartoon that has Obama raping the Statue of Liberty.

Apparently others were as disturbed as I and told her so. In response to some of her detractors for developing the cartoon she says:

Heck, I want to shake them up. This is supposed to be a post-racial era? Then deal with the fact that the President of the United States is the head of a gang that just raped our American principles.

This is so wrong on so many levels I find it difficult to know where to start. But here goes:

  1. Rape is rape. It is not healthcare or anything political. It is not a metaphor. It is real. It is ugly. It is personal. Using it as a metaphor is disgusting, offensive and disturbing.
  2. The cartoon is a reflection of a level of hate that while this cartoon takes to an unacceptable level is indicative of a significant tone among a growing (ok. maybe not growing in size but maybe something else) vocal ultra conservative club.
  3. This is “shock communications” at its absolute worst.

Too often nowadays it seems too many people, of all beliefs, refer to the raping of America to show their indignation of what they believe (or perceive) is happening. I assume they believe the metaphor will make a bigger impact.

Well. In the marketing business we would call it cheap sensationalism.

And in the marketing world only hacks stoop to that level. If I can take a step back and think clearly on this … I would suggest effective communications is all about “breaking through the clutter in a meaningful way.” And ‘meaningful’ translates into balance. Intrusive but not at the expense of the message. This crosses that line.

Bottom line.

I am offended when rape is used in this way. Maybe I am too close to this issue but diminishing the personalness of rape by using it as a metaphor is … well … it pisses me off. And I am sure that is not the most eloquent nor smartest reason for anyone to agree with me but number one above all it is personal to me. And I would assume it is very personal to a lot of women.

So. Bottom line. It pisses me off.

And it should more people. And that includes the ultra conservatives <or anyone for that matter> abusing (and diminishing) the physical act by using it as a metaphor. If someone wants to be treated fairly or if they wanted to be considered as a credible voice to listen to … they should think long and hard about what they are doing and saying.

The causal use of rape as a metaphor trivializes it. And I find it offensive. And I find it an appalling lack of understanding just to attempt to make a point (not just in this cartoon but with the overall issue of using that word).

I also find it disturbing that there is a level of antagonism towards the president that lies well beyond the boundaries of what one would consider reasonable political debate or an emotional disagreement on a specific decision.

Look. He has had to have a Secret Service long before any other presidential candidate. He has received more threats than any other president elect. Since he’s taken office the threats of violence have continued. For the president himself there have been calls for his assassination. Something has gone completely out of whack here.

Lastly. There is a sub current of racism in the cartoon which I find troubling. And it is a troubling undercurrent within the tone of many published point of views with a black president at the helm of US leadership. I cannot exactly put my finger on it. But. I am not black nor a minority (unless you want to count old white guys as a minority). My minority friends would probably be better able than I to figure that thought out.

I am sure the United States media has been hesitant to step up and take this cartoon on because by doing so maybe it could be construed as giving it legitimacy (I found reference to this cartoon in a British paper – the Guardian). But. Someone should step up and recognize the wrongness of it, the message and all the other levels of wrongness associated with it.

But that is just my opinion.

Enlightened Conflict