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.