Our neighbours to the south were intent on the expulsion of tyranny from within their ranks at the birth of their country. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the guarantor of free speech. Free and open communication is their first line of defense against tyranny.
The Americans were running away from theocratic tyrannies in Europe. The Americans insisted on the separation of church and state. America would be a country the renders unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and it would render unto God that which is God’s.
Interestingly enough, in spite of the freedom of speech and the freedom to criticize religion, America ended up a much more religious place than Europe. Even those who profess faith in Europe find the level of seriousness that the average American pays to their belief system astounding.
Iran is undergoing a major cultural shift. They’re currently governed by a theocracy that mandates Islamic rule. I spent some time learning their language — Farsi — talking to the Iranians who have immigrated to Canada, we often spoke about religion. The majority of them were atheists, and none of them were practicing Muslims in the traditional sense. In spite of their heavily religious education and growing up in an atmosphere that rejects criticism of Islam, they hated the religion they were indoctrinated in.
Nothing in religion or politics is monocausal, but there can be little doubt that avoidance of criticism is a major cause of religious decline. Criticism, healthy debate, is the foundation of all sound philosophy. That Europeans largely abandoned a Christian mindset and that Iran is presently abandoning Islamic ideals has much to do with the fact that their people never had a healthy way of processing whatever doubts they had.
We build strength in our muscles by their facing resistance. We build knowledge by encountering things we don’t know. A religious ideology that has never been questioned is weak and easily crumbles.
In steps Trudeau. The defender of Islam, the defender of the transgender community, the defender of the disenfranchised. Trudeau is here to eradicate Islamophobia. He’s here to monitor the language we all use when discussing transgender identity. He’s here to call parenting child abuse if the parent doesn’t recognize the preferred gender of the child. He wishes to cancel free speech in favour of safe spaces, but this is historically unsafe for the thing being protected.
His efforts are extending beyond anything Canadians might have imagined ten years ago. Banning gender terms for government employees such as mother, or father, is something nearly unfathomable. This level of oversight is causing a counter-reaction that’s undermining the goals of the oversight itself.
Right-wing populist movements in reaction to this level of social justice tyranny are likewise advocating ideas so far to the right that they themselves would have been unfathomable ten years ago. The reaction to banning books criticizing Islam, human rights tribunals for critics of Islam, and Bill M-103, has been to suggest bans for Muslims entering the country and telling women who wear hijabs and niqabs to take them off. Neither curtailing free speech nor religious discrimination is acceptable. Liberty mandates the freedom to criticize hijabs and niqabs as rooted in misogyny coupled with maliciousness, and the freedom to wear one as an expression of femininity coupled with piety.
The solution to these ailments isn’t more government oversight, but rather it’s less. It’s more communication, not censoring communication. Many bigoted people lose their hatred or at least have it sedated after they’ve met someone they hate.
Anecdotally, most people who are transgender don’t become inconsolably enraged if someone uses the wrong pronoun; but if one’s experience with the transgender community is exclusively through YouTube videos where this does happen, they might have a different opinion. In my experience, most people who are legitimately Islamophobic don’t regularly interact with any Muslims. It’s the same phenomenon elsewhere; most people who despise atheists have only interacted with hateful and irrational atheists over the internet. Most people who hate Christianity have only read about it through witch trials in history books, and their unintelligent uncle at Thanksgiving Day dinner. The media will isolate the extremes because this is what gets ratings, but then the viewers have a skewed vision of reality.
If dialogue is the remedy for hatred then polarization is our worst enemy. Censorship is the recipe for more hatred. What it does is divide. Trudeau has no issue calling those people racists with whom he disagrees. He has no issue polarizing extremes. He calls pro-life people misogynist and removes government funding for those who won’t indicate they’re pro-choice. It excites his base and the increased hatred ensures voter turnout, but it’s dividing this country.
This is the mother bear psychology. The care for the disenfranchised can quickly turn into voraciousness. Mother bears care for their cubs and are vicious to all else. This viciousness is counterproductive if it’s an unprovoked attack against a sleeping predator.
Free speech is the foundation of societal growth. Science demands criticism. Religion, unless criticized, quickly becomes unhealthy. Echo-chambering breeds stagnant thought. Echo-chambering, the process whereby Christians congregate strictly with other Christians, or feminists discuss their views only with other feminists, or socialists restrict themselves to economic discussions only within socialist circles, prevents refinement of a worldview and it quickly leads to extremism.
I recall a friend who wasn’t permitted as a teenager to read literature that portrayed Christianity in a negative light. He wound up on street corners, on top of a soapbox, screaming at passerbyers to repent of their sins. When any subject came up in conversation, he couldn’t find any problem that couldn’t be dismissed as inherently a problem of sin. Africa’s poverty isn’t caused by economic forces, which it empirically is, it’s a sin problem. Every issue he encountered was at root, sin. He once responded to a financial advisor friend telling him how to save money by demanding the advisor save his own soul. An elderly church lady rolled her eyes and said of him that he was so heavenly-minded that he was no Earthly good.
Another friend is a feminist, who every issue she encountered was manipulation — toxic masculinity. A female friend once asked her if she had offended her and my feminist friend denounced her as manipulative and controlling by the intrusion into her life and wondered if her gender was in fact male. She saw toxic masculinity on every street corner. Every issue could be dismissed as toxic masculinity.
These are anecdotes. But the old proverb rings true — when one’s only tool is a hammer every problem appears as a nail. The examples of my isolated friends have one worldview, one mode of interpreting reality. They try to bend the corners to make the shapes fit even when it doesn’t make sense.
These people need to have their views challenged. This isn’t to say Christianity is a false philosophy or that feminism doesn’t have validity at its core. These are people that fell victim to an echo chamber and lost the capacity for critical thought on the subject of their echo-chambering. They only verified their views with those that already agreed with them and never faced criticism.
The centrality of free speech to science, to philosophy, to art, to politics, is no accident. It’s the foundation of all that is right in this world. Censorship is the foundation for all that is wrong in this world. The idea that Justin Trudeau knows more about a parent’s child then the parent is an anathema to a healthy society. He may be right in some circumstances, but the underlying arrogance is something that we’ve taken great pains to avoid. The government doesn’t have the right to this level of control over people’s lives. Perhaps Christianity is true, perhaps blasphemy is a bad thing, but I certainly don’t want Trudeau to determine this for Canada. Perhaps there really are 50 genders, the person whose judgment I would trust the least on this issue would be Justin Trudeau or any other politician for that matter.
The extremism is good politics in that it ensures supporters will vote on election day. It may alienate the majority of the country, but only 35% support is needed for a majority government and so Trudeau fosters an atmosphere of division counting on the support of a minority of thinking the world of him. It galvanizes the mother bears of this world.
When the amplification of echo-chambering is coupled with coddling, the lack of facing resistance, the end result is inevitably extremism. The princess who gets thoroughly disturbed by the pea and has been told by her friends that the pea is her arch nemesis will do everything she can to eliminate it.
The true ally to the transgender community and Islamic Canadians is liberty. But the table that holds your lamp can also stub your toe. Liberty giveth, and liberty taketh away. The freedom to wear a hijab is the same freedom others must have to criticize that choice. It’s far superior to anything Trudeau is suggesting. Liberty gives the thing itself, and it gives the resistance, which strengthens the thing. Wisdom demands of us that whenever we have a problem, can it be solved with more freedom or less freedom and in this instance, transphobia and Islamophobia have their greatest solutions in liberty.
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