On (Dis)Engagement, Part 2: Free speech and using it

On (Dis)Engagement: Let’s not act like we all need to think alike on everything (and ideas on how to proceed when we do) :: A two-part essay :: 1 2

So now, how can we engage about volatile topics? I think it’s vital that we engage when we can, as opposed to living in fear, destroying each other, and burning or exiling heretics.1 From that principle, I will essay.

If we believe that it’s unethical to coerce people’s consciences into pointing any which way we demand, I think we must try harder to distinguish between “I don’t like them doing that” and “They shouldn’t be allowed to do that.” I have no issues with homosexuality, and sometimes I even have “those” fantasies. But even if I did have issues with homosexuality, does it follow that I have to work to prohibit it? Is it any of my fucking business? Seriously, who died and made me king? On matters where we are not in each other’s faces, where cooperation is not needed (we probably have to have nigh-universal rules for driving and for what a legally-protected relationship is, to name two examples), why should other people just up and conform to what I want? This kind of narcissism mixed with political (or social) authority is a match made in hell.

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  1. Refraining from doing so had to be argued for in the past and the arguments are worth revisiting: see this part of the TED talk “The Long Reach of Reason” by Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Watch the full talk if you have time. 

On (Dis)Engagement, Part 1: Trudeau’s pro-choice edict

On (Dis)Engagement: Let’s not act like we all need to think alike on everything (and ideas on how to proceed when we do) :: A two-part essay :: 1 2

“The fundamental political idea of modern times is the presumed moral superiority of centralized control.” – Paul Lutus

This two-parter isn’t actually about abortion, but rather about living in the same country while remaining on speaking terms with one other. The recent revival1 of abortion in our political discourse (pardon my charitable language) makes abortion a timely table-setter for the rest of this essay.

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau in 2009 (Wikipedia)

This past Wednesday, after his party’s weekly caucus meeting, federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said “I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills.”

I’m pro-choice™ myself, or at least I think I am. But does Trudeau’s definition mean “pro-choice, no matter what?” What if “voting pro-choice” means voting to explicitly permit no-questions-asked abortions at or after, say, 25 weeks, the 50% survival threshold for premature births? Is it so regressive to question the ethics of aborting a fetus that has a strong chance of being viable without further support of the mother? It’s possible to support easy and early abortions but to also have a nuanced position on late-term abortions. You might question the political wisdom of bringing it up, as women aren’t exactly lining up to get late-term abortions (only 2-3% are done after 16 weeks), so this would generate a lot of heat for seemingly no good political or practical reason.2

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  1. CTV News: “Topless protesters disrupt anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill” 

  2. Morally, “one is too many” may be an averable reason. But the evils of the asymptotic effort required to stamp out every last transgression might outweigh the evils of the actual transgressions.