Politically, it seems I am (considering the current environment) an anomaly, having views from both the right and left wing.
I have never supported any party and I dislike almost all the leaders. However, I do respect the work politicians do and believe they are not respected considering their importance to our democracy. To say that I am neutral would be a lie, since I am a liberal; a believer in liberty and equality as opposed to being an activist.
Current politics seems to divide liberals and conservatives, but what they encompass is far more complicated. For example, the official UK Conservatives have far different beliefs than that of the so-called ‘alt right’. Likewise, liberals can include those who genuinely want freedom of expression and debate whilst others actively try to silence those who do not hold views that are similar to themselves. Ironic, therefore, that some are called liberals when the fundamental principle of accepting opinions different from one’s own is forgotten. The perceived excessive sensitivity have made far-right political commentators, like Milo Yiannopolous and Paul Joseph Watson, very popular because they represent those who feel forgotten by the mainstream. They have a valid point since many in the right are shunned by universities just because of what they believe in. A recent Telegraph article stated that,
“In the last year alone, 21 universities have banned high profile speakers from attending lectures, debates or speeches because of their views, including Oxford, King’s College London and University College London.
According to the survey, carried out by online magazine Spiked, more than 60 per cent of universities now “severely restrict” free speech, meaning they actively censor particular ideas, speakers and texts on campus.”
This is particularly worrying because one would expect universities to be a place where there is an encouragement to broaden student’s perspectives instead of forcing a single ideology upon them. It is fine that many students choose not to listen to these speakers, but the people who stop those interested or merely curious should feel ashamed. Maajid Nawaz best describes the current trend when he says,
“Today’s active, organised left is no longer liberal. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.
This behaviour, censorship on the organised left, post factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights. It isn’t liberal.”
He said that this group has now become the ‘control left’ who want to infringe peoples civil liberties.
“They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we even feel.”
However, this is not solely a right wing issue since the feminist Germaine Greer was almost banned by Cardiff University due to her stance on transgender women. This current trend should worry those who declare themselves ‘liberal’ since the suppression will create more division amongst people.
No wonder that populists are able to gain so much support; they are able to state their opinions as fact, as the ‘political correctness’ is proof that there is an attempt to deny the truth. This has led to the increased use of the term ‘SJW’, or social justice warrior, to describe those, who some feel, are being overtly sensitive on certain issues. Read urban dictionary yourself, only one of the definitions support what they do. The words often associated with ‘SJWs’ would be “triggered” or easily “offended”, and considering the situation at universities it is hard not to see why.
Although, it may seem like a leftist issue there is a similar problem with the right wing, as much as they deny this. For instance, the conservatives in USA repeatedly avoid a debate on gun control, particularly during mass shootings. Take the recent Las Vegas shooting where the calls for gun control were prevented, using the excuse that they should leave the victims’ families to mourn. The constant denial to acknowledge that guns could be part of the problem means that some are keeping debate away similar to the ‘delusional SJWs‘. Yet compare this to reactions by conservatives when attacks occur by people who do not fit the image of the ‘quintessential citizen’. Muslims are frequently the target (many other minorities get abuse from crimes not committed by them), with calls to remove them from the country or a question of their loyalty. In truth, they are more likely to be patriotic (at least in Britain) than the general population. The article states that,
“83 per cent of Muslims were ‘proud to be a British citizen’, compared with 79 per cent for the population as a whole. Muslims were also significantly less likely to agree that Britain’s ‘best days are behind her’. “
That being said, there are sections of Islam that have no place in a progressive society, with its misogynistic and homophobic teachings. People should not be afraid to call out an ideology (and its followers), just for the fear of getting labelled.
Perhaps this is the real question of the article, are we really sensitive or are we just ‘intolerant of the intolerant’? This phrase makes sense considering how hard some have tried to gain acceptance in society. For instance, the whole LGBT community only had their rights confirmed in the UK with the 2010 Equality Act. Therefore many see these changes as inevitable so those that do not accept them are going to be treated with disrespect. They also see many conservatives interfering in issues that really do not concern them, for instance gay marriage. Many condemn prejudice and fail to see the argument of free speech as a legitimate excuse because the defence of various identities is far more important than the views of a ‘bigot’.
In my opinion, only open discourse creates a more democratic society as no one is forgotten in discussion. If you did not take anything from this article, then just remember this: tolerance should always be encouraged as only then will more people choose not to listen to the extremes.
BY BIJENDRA SINGH