Friday, October 2, 2020

Concerning Freedom Of Conscience

     “Ideas do not target police officers. Ideas do not burn down buildings, ideas do not kill innocent Americans. Organizations do.” -- Kayleigh McEnany

     Mine is a minor voice in the grand scheme of things. Liberty’s Torch doesn’t have the degree of influence over opinion that the more popular and better-known sites possess. Sometimes I grouse over that, as I have some of the very best and smartest writers on the Web as Co-Contributors. But at other times I reflect upon the advantages to being a minor voice. One of them is freedom from the concerns of the big sites: over revenues, over “eyeballs,” and over the possibility of marginalization for having said something “controversial”...or outrightly condemned.

     Today I’m going to exploit that freedom. I’m going to tell you something you probably already know – indeed, I’d be astonished at a Gentle Reader who doesn’t know it – but are afraid to say, perhaps even “in your cups” and among persons you know believe the same things as you. Then I’m going to challenge you to refute it if you can.

     But first, “a few words from our sponsor:” i.e., the one and only freedom that cannot, by its very nature, be taken from you: the freedom to believe what you wish, a.k.a. freedom of conscience.

     Not even Winston Smith could be reaved of his freedom of conscience:

     Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him:
     He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings of a cigarette Packet — everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed — no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.

     Only in the recesses of the mind is a man truly free of all constraint. Neither the weight of the law, nor the opprobrium of “society,” nor the relentless, brutal drumbeat of aversive conditioning ceaselessly administered by a host of authority figures can reach one’s inner sanctum. Despite the “best” efforts of parents, spouses, occupational superiors, clergymen, popular opinion-mongers, and others, each of us is free to believe what he prefers to believe. Else there would be no psychoses, no delusions, and no fantasies that men can be made other than God has made us.

     As Winston knew well and Americans are discovering, it’s when one expresses one’s beliefs where others can hear them that trouble can set in. For there are forces determined to establish certain beliefs, certain convictions, and the evidence that leads a rational mind to them as “unthinkable,” utterly and permanently “beyond the pale,” deserving of nothing but censure – and erasure. It has always been that way, for as far back as recorded human history reaches.

     Trust a Christian to know that. The first martyrs for conscience were ours.

     This nation has long been free from officially imposed censorship, at least at the federal level. (Originally, the guarantees in the First Amendment were held to apply solely to the federal government; the state governments were not bound by them.) That hasn’t kept “unofficial” censors from attempting to silence convictions they deem “unthinkable.” There have been many such. There are instances functioning among us today.

     Today, certain opinions and convictions, virtually wherever and whenever they’re expressed, are immediately assailed by today’s aspiring censors – not as disproven or refutable, but as unfit for consumption by decent persons. Yet among those convictions are several that have been widely held in the past – including the recent past – and were supported and promulgated by the most prominent of men. Theodore Roosevelt was of the opinion that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Abraham Lincoln believed absolutely in the superiority of the white race. If Leviticus faithfully transcribed the statements of Moses, then that great figure believed that both adultery and homosexuality should be punished with death. And of course Aristotle, the founder of Western logical thought, held that some men were born to be slaves.

     I could go on in that vein for many more paragraphs, but I believe the central point is established:

Convictions widely condemned today were once deemed “obvious” by persons of immense stature and historical importance.

     Perhaps today’s would-be censors really are morally and / or intellectually superior to the titans of yesteryear. But perhaps they’re merely persons with different premises. As you know, it’s essentially impossible to argue a man out of his premises – and when his opinions are his premises, you can forget arguing him out of his opinions, as well.

     I’ve said many things at many times that today’s moralist-censors would immediately condemn. A compact summary can be found here. Many on the Left – and a few in the Right – would be happy to see me forcibly silenced. But even if they were to succeed in doing so, it wouldn’t refute the convictions I’ve expressed. It would strengthen them.

     Now to the meat of today’s outrage. Have a few links:

     I’m sure anyone who possesses some GoogleFu could find lots more along those lines. “He / she / they / it must condemn this / them!” It’s a principal stroke in the Left’s attempt to silence everyone except the Left’s own preferred mouthpieces. But it’s sad to see the Right taking it up, even if it’s only as a weapon in a rhetorical counteroffensive.

     Are there opinions and convictions I regard as vile? Why yes, there are – and you’ve seen me say so, whether here or elsewhere. I am a proponent of political freedom and Christian ethics. I reject all propositions opposed to either of those things. But I know that nothing I could say or do would displace the belief in Islam, or Communism, or the right of one people to enslave another, from the mind of anyone passionately committed to them.

     Indeed, just as with a religion, the attempt to suppress a political conviction acts upon it like a growth food: it causes its adherents to multiply.

     The appropriate response to “I believe in X” where X offends your own convictions, is “Why?” But today few persons are equipped, whether rationally or abdominally, to face what typically follows.

     Here’s the morning zinger:

IF “white supremacy” means whites have a right to rule other races,
THEN I reject it.
IF it means that the white race should be credited with building Western Civilization,
THEN I embrace it.

     Moreover, I maintain that the evidence for that latter proposition is copious, unambiguous, and conclusive.

     Perhaps President Trump also believes this. I know many others who do, but who would never voice the conviction for fear of the consequences. It’s one of today’s “unthinkable unspeakables.” But that has no bearing whatsoever on its truth or falsity.

     My freedom of conscience guarantees that I cannot be bullied out of my beliefs. Any attempt to do so will strengthen that belief while giving me a reason to seek vengeance against the bully. The consequences cannot, by the very nature of the human psyche, conduce to the profit of such a bully.

     In closing: Among the other indelible truisms of human nature is that the bully is always a coward as well. The intellectual bully is an intellectual coward: afraid of those who differ with him. Why else would he seek to silence them if he can, and destroy them if he cannot? Why else would Leftists be talking about killing those of us in the Right — at least, those of us they cannot “re-educate?”

     With that, I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.


boron said...

"IF it means that the white race should be credited with building Western Civilization,
THEN I embrace it."
I don't agree with your verb:
"...should be credited with having built Western Civilization..."

Francis W. Porretto said...

Ah, but Boron, we're still building it -- those of us who aren't trying to burn it to the ground, anyway!

Cliffdweller said...

I do not think yours is a “minor” voice. Quality matters, and as I spend my time for reading and contemplation, I insist on quality. Your blog is in my top three all of which are reliably interesting, serious and well crafted.

SWVAguy said...

The Constitution, as believed by more than a few, is a racist document. BUT, it has a provision to change itself. Was it racists who put an end to slavery? It was a bunch of white guys who used the amendment process to end it. Reparations? Sure, I'm all for it, after all the welfare payments and other monetary assistance to blacks is tallied up and deducted from whatever is "owed."
Good old Joe conveniently conflated critical race theory with racial sensitivity, with a big assist from Chris Wallace. Racist country indeed. If it were the "mostly peaceful" protests would have been put down in a few hours. The hard part would have been the cleanup.