Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Words, Words, Words

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Evelyn Beatrice Hall attributed to Voltaire.

Well. I'm not about to fight to anybody's death, let alone my own. But, while we still have freedom of thought. Free speech. Freedom of information. Freedom to engage in the marketplace of ideas or to fall into the cesspool of fallacies, our choice. Before the thought police descends upon our minds. Before we get the Minitruth. I would like to make a pledge to Lady Truth.

I will always follow the truth, wherever she leads me. I will always question what I hear and see, whoever says it, as she would do. Prove it! will be my mantra. Breitbart is not my shepherd. Neither is MSNBC. And I will always question myself. And any well thought out criticism from a thoughtful source will be welcome. Prove me wrong! I beg you. I want nothing more than to say, You're right. I'm wrong. Thank you!

The label of 'Fake news sites' is a witch hunt. Are there fake stories out there? Certainly. But like the wolf in sheep's clothing, how do we know where they are? Just like the label of 'Conspiracy Theory.' This is just a clever way of suppressing discussion and investigation. Are there false conspiracy theories? Certainly. But like the wheat and the chaff, how do you know which is which?

By seeking the truth, of course. And not relying on labels. Not throwing tin foil stones. It's sparse. It's easy to miss. It's easy to get wrong. And shows up in the oddest places. But it's there. Work for it. Think for it. Thirst for it.

Look for it.

Goethe said that to know one language you have to know two languages. That is because the same things have subtly different meanings in different languages. Oh, not simple things like table and chair. But more abstract concepts. For instance, in English you greet someone by saying, Hello. How are you? You are asking them something about their inner state. In German you would say, Halo. Wie geht es ihnen? How is your gate? How is your walk through life? The one sentiment is internal. How are you on the inside? The other is external. How are you getting along in life? These two form a totally different framework of how you are relating to the other person.

It is essential to consider different, even conflicting, even ludicrous things to triangulate in on a concept and always to realize that you could someday encounter one more perspective which will change your whole understanding of a topic.

The essence of debate is to discuss anything and everything without belief or disbelief, but merely to explore the caverns of thought. To limit what can or cannot be said because of ideology or prejudice is to excavate a gaping hole in your understanding. This gaping hole has historically been called many things: Heretical, unpatriotic, nonconformist, apostate, propaganda, unorthodox, Anti-Intellectual, Newspeak, thoughtcrime, censorship, Conspiracy Theories, Politically Incorrect, and most recently, fake news. These are all ways of limiting free speech: Intellectual terrorism.

It is against my nature to say that something can’t be said. Who am I, the cosmic editor? I say many things. I read many things. I consider many things. I listen to many things. But I don’t believe all of them. Can’t since some contradict others. And I certainly won’t shout any of them down.

Once said, a thing becomes subject to criticism. It can be discussed, refuted, condemned, understood or misunderstood, interpreted and, ultimately, implemented. Words have power, yes. But denying words can be even more devastating.

Which ones do we deny? Which ones do we allow? The essence of censorship is the belief that if you can’t say something you can’t think it. Orwell stated that specifically in 1984. But, of course, it doesn’t work. People still do think it, though it may take them longer to learn about repressed words. They’ll get there eventually. And, since they have been driven from the public discourse, there can be no debating them. How can you debate something if you aren’t allowed to speak it? How can you disagree with something not even acknowledged? How can you express an opinion on something if it can’t even be named? How can you prepare yourself to resist a fallacy if you don’t even know what it is? You are creating an artificial intellectual environment, void of oxygen.

By limiting what can and can’t be said on a topic one is attempting to steer the conversation into one’s desired conclusion. But is it the right one?


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