A very short secular sermon 7

In the light of certain altercations that have taken place recently on our comment pages – less arguments than cursing and mud-slinging – we offer the balm of some words by Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, one of the (few) great moral thinkers of our time. The quotation comes from his recent book of collected essays, Anything Goes. We more than recommend it, we urge our readers, commenters, visitors and critics to read it. You’re unlikely to agree with every word, but every word is worth reading.

The essay we are borrowing from is titled Freedom And Its Discontents.

There are few of us who have never felt the temptation to silence those fools and scoundrels who have views different from our own. They must, after all, be either stupid or malevolent (or, of course, both). If the means to silence them were at hand, we’d be sorely tempted to use them.

Which of us listens without impatience and even anger to the arguments of our opponents? …

Love of free speech in most men is only fear of being shut up. If they were a bit stronger than they are, they would just have monologues, the most pleasurable of all speech forms. …

The threat to free speech does not inhere, therefore, solely in governments, but in our hearts.

We welcome debate.  Please put your arguments, the more persuasively the better. Agree, disagree, criticize, give your reasons. The slinging of invective is not argument and never persuades anyone to anything. Mere abuse is not productive, and not interesting to read.

One more thing. Listening (and its equivalent, reading attentively) is an art worth practicing. Ideally, we need first to comprehend, then to test with internal argument, and only then to express ourselves freely.

Posted under Commentary, Ethics, Miscellaneous by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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This post has 7 comments.

  • Ralph

    “Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.”  Dandemis.

    One of the best tools we humans have is an open mind.

  • wmarkw

    However, we live in an era in which certain ideas are labeled invalid because they perpetuate an elite white male power structure, or something similar.

    It isn’t, primarily, conservatives who want to squelch free debate.  (Other kinds of free expression, like pornography and flag burning are a different matter.)   It’s the “words are violence” crowd that pervades college campuses and diversitarian organizations that think the public is wrong, so they musn’t hear words that might perpetuate their prejudices.

    • I once took great pains to hold my tongue even when I wanted to say something which went against the “standards of society”.

      Not anymore! I’ll proudly lambast social conservative as little more than Christian conservative socialists, say Islam is a religion of warfare and violence which has no place in a modern world, chastise the drug war is an immoral failure symptomatic of BigAss Government, and loudly proclaim that just because humans are the least stupid animals on Earth doesn’t mean they aren’t still dumb (and yes, they’re definitely animals).

      Free speech only works when you use it, because it is the oil which lubricates the gears of individualism.

  • un

    so i figure you are opposed to the recent developments in u.s. with regards to equating expression of unpopular thoughts as terrorism?

    • Jillian Becker

      What exactly are you referring to? Please give references and/or links. 

      • un

        have you been living under a rock? how many people have been convicted of terrorism related charges for their rhetoric since Sept. 11, 2001?


        “The U. S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that anti-terrorism laws are constitutional even when they have an adverse impact on free speech. Justice John Paul Stevens joined the conservative majority, while Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, and Sotomayor dissented from Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion. Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.”

        • Jillian Becker

          This is a final warning to you, un. If you cannot be civil we will blacklist you.