Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Defense of the Right to Offend...

Mark Steyn belongs on Mt. Rushmore. Click on the links contained within to gain the full context of the rather impenetrable stupidity on display all over the world, and then ask yourself this question:

How is it that the Western World, the culture that has invented just about everything that is useful or enriching, that fostered the spirit of unfettered free inquiry, ensconced in Law the principle of the fundamental rights of all Men, which first harnessed and then unleashed the energy that makes modern life possible and sustainable, has fallen to this astoundingly low level of petty argument within itself, about it's own validity, accomplishments and worth?

Probably because we live in an age where people freely claim the pretense to an intellect, but possess none of it's actual tools. A steady diet of Post-modernism and multiculturalism will do that to you, you know.

There is no progress, in any sense or meaningful way, without the ability to ask questions -- and thus find answers -- which will eventually offend someone on some level. Offense is a necessary evil if society or science is to ever evolve to another, perhaps freer, more honest, more inclusive, and higher stratum. One is left to wonder just what has been left undiscovered, unexamined, unsaid because someone who would have discussed, examined, or discovered was kept from the initial impulse by the thought "Better not go there; someone might be offended"?

Why is it necessary to punish people who speak things that others don't like? Why is it necessary for people to find ever more ways to whine and wear the mantle of victimhood, even when they have no call to? Why have we divided ourselves by race, sex or sexual preference, religion, political leanings or economic class? When will all the fucking snivelling end? And when can we get back to kicking ass and taking names as a Culture?

I'm reminded of a famous speech, uttered by one of the most offensive people to ever walk the Earth, if the history books are to be believed:

"I am Theoprastus, and greater than those to whom you liken me; I am Theophrastus, and in addition, I am monarcha medicorum and I can prove to you what you cannot prove...I need not don a coat of mail or buckler against you, for you are not learned or experienced enough to refute even a word of mine...As for you, you can defend your kingdom with belly-crawling and flattery. How long do you think this will last? Let me tell you this: every little hair on my neck knows more than you and all your scribes, and my shoe buckles are more learned than your Galen and Avicenna, and my beard has more experience than all your high colleges..."

Who said that?

Why, it was none other than Phillipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better known to history as Paracelsus. Who was Paracelsus? He was a chemist, botanist, mathematician, astrologer, theologian, doctor, Ur-psychologist and all-around Royal Pain in the Ass (some believe, wrongly, that his name was the origin of the English word 'Bombast') who invented the modern science of toxicology, and who is one of the Fathers of modern pharmacology and medical diagnostics.

Who was he berating? The medieval medical profession (the Doctors of Physic) of his day who still believed that disease was either caused by an imbalance of 'humors' that could be treated with bloodletting, sweating or purging (which often killed the patient in the process), or who were still attached to the superstitious Christian belief that diseases were the just rewards of a sinful life.

It almost sounds like ObamaCare.

Paracelsus drove his opponents crazy. Many thought him insane (and if you ever read about his life, he just might have been). He was ostracized, attacked, stripped of his posts, bankrupted, persecuted, publicly vilified and humiliated...and he was also RIGHT. He suffered because he dared to speak a truth -- actually, many truths -- that offended, well... basically everyone; the members of his profession, the Church, the Universities of Europe, the Rich and the Powerful.

He died penniless and discredited, an itinerant doctor travelling all over Europe -- on foot -- experimenting, treating the sick and injured for the sake of his belief that he was put on this Earth for just that purpose. He left his few remaining possessions (one legend has it these consisted of his writings, a cloak, and a pair of boots) to the poor. His reputation as a thoroughly disagreeable, arrogant, obnoxious -- and most offensive man -- meant that his methods and discoveries would be denied to medical science for many years after his death by his quite considerable number of intellectual, religious and scientific enemies.

The point? Just because you don't like the messenger, just because you don't like the message, it doesn't necessarily follow that either is wrong, and the message certainly should not go unexamined because it offended someones tender sensibilities, or threatened someones rice bowl. Even a really stupid idea presented by a complete asshole can sometimes reveal some drop of wisdom, if you can manage to strip away the bullshit and keep your feelings in check long enough to examine it.

Truth is truth -- even if it's delivered with a four-letter word, a racial slur, bad joke, or a gratuitous insult -- real or perceived -- attached to it.

All this sensitivity bullshit is leading us towards a less-cohesive, rather than a more-inclusive, society. This will slowly chip away at our veneer of civility and the bonds of friendship, and ultimately destroy what few notions of freedom and democracy -- you know, the remaining freedoms that haven't already been bastardized and destroyed by illiberal Liberals already -- that we might have left.

I really fear to live in such a world, and not only because it will be either really, really boring or exceedingly violent, but because it will be intellectually, artistically and spiritually sterile. What remains of Life after such a thing occurs would be hardly worth living, because the basic right of expression will have been excised from it. No exchange of ideas, no arguments, no jokes, no books, no trade, no art, no music.

All human endeavor would stop right in it's tracks, out of fear of giving offense and the retribution that follows.

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