What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
-Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
We’ve all heard the story of the baker who refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple because he or she cannot in good conscious support something they do not believe is moral. Because of this decision, they are either brought into terrible scrutiny by the public and the media, or they are forced to shutdown their business.
In the town I live in, Orange City, IA, the public library is under fire by the conservative community for having multiple pro-LGBTQ books available for checkout. In fact, they are trying to require the public library to put these books in “safe areas” so that they will be out of the sight of children. This is particularly interesting to me considering the fact that these Christians who are creating the backlash have such a problem with the four pro-LGBTQ books but are completely fine with the books, movies, and T.V. shows available at the public library that contain graphic violence, sexual content, nudity, and language, such as HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
In other news, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid remain unsigned by NFL teams following their protests against racism and police brutality, despite the fact that they are far better players than many signed players at their positions.
Campuses all around America are creating “safe spaces” where students can go if they do not feel comfortable with a certain point of view, teaching lesson, or discussion category.
Now, I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with the decisions of the baker, the library, or Kaepernick and Reid, or that a business does not have the right to hire or fire whomever they choose. But that is not the point here.
The troubling aspect of all these stories is that they reveal an alarming problem in our world today, that I believe has infested our young generation: We are so afraid of offending others, or of other people offending us, that we sacrifice a fundamental need to separate right from wrong. Unfortunately today, many of these lines are becoming more and more blurred.
Children are no longer tough because we shield them from anything we might think is wrong. When you grow up sheltered, you cannot formulate your own ideas about the world. You just jump into the boxes the world has created.
Also, when you grow up sheltered and you hear something that goes against what you believe you can’t take it because you haven’t been exposed to the diverse range of thought that exists in this world. This is why students at colleges now need “safe spaces.”
The thing is, this isn’t just an issue for conservatives. It’s not just an issue for liberals. It is a societal problem. We cannot speak our mind about what we believe is right or wrong because we are afraid of offending someone else. Because people get offended by virtually anything they disagree with.
And for those that are my age (22) and younger, I am afraid that that fear has created in us an inability to think thoughtfully and logically, and to have patience as we come to realize what truth is. And thus, the millennial generation, without this ability to thoughtfully process right and wrong, and the overall concern of saying something others might not like has rendered us completely void of thought, nuance, and patience. This leads us to be a people absorbed in consumerism, technology, virtual reality, and social media where we can take away all the depth of what it means to be human and replace it with a pretentious, shallow, “fun” version of ourselves.
The reality is, we have lost in ourselves a certain depth. A depth that we were made for. Unfortunately, this has largely projected itself onto my generation.
I believe we must regain this depth. This contemplative spirit. As Richard Rohr (an American Franciscan Friar) says, when you are embodying the contemplative self, you are not offended. Because the contemplative self does not get offended. The deep self, the true self, the contemplative self is patient with those who see differently. It is unafraid because what matters is not the ego, it is the truth. It is resilient. It has a keen sense of where the problems are and it is unafraid of addressing the systems of injustice that exist.
The reality is, there are a lot of bad things in this world that need to be called out for what they are. War is terrible. Racism, poverty, greed, pornography, consumerism, militarism, are all so destructive to so many people in our world.
These are all systems that I believe are corruptive. They all move us to become a fast-paced technological perversion when there is so much beauty in our natural selves. I want us to regain the beauty of what it really means to be human. Not what it means to be products of technology, media, and “success.”
All of these things are that which I believe are detrimental to becoming our true selves. I know many people will not like me saying that it is an egregious sin to spend almost 1 trillion dollars of the U.S. budget on a violent military force. But I will. Because it needs to be said. We essentially are saying the only way to stop violence is with violence. I think Jesus gave us some pretty good advice with regards to war. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the early Christian church, Dorothy Day, Eugene Debs, Wendell Berry, J.R.R. Tolkien, Leo Tolstoy, Erasmus… they had really good ideas about how to address violence and war. But our egotistical selves cannot think of any solution to the problem beyond flexing our biceps of mass destruction and technological terror and stamping it with the name of “freedom.” Bob Dylan said we are “Masters of War”… He couldn’t have been more right. I believe this needs to be resisted. Whether we offend someone or not.
The same goes with many other things I mentioned. And many more which I forgot. And certainly others which I have yet to open my eyes to.
Let us rediscover our deep humanness. Let us think outside of boxes. Let there be logic. Let there be mystery. Let us not get offended by someone’s opinion. Let us explore it and have patience as we discover the truths of ourselves and the truths of others. Let us be resilient. Let us be courageous. Let us be willing to fight the systems of injustice with a complete lack of fear.