Banning Political Thought and Expression

“Whereas in Europe new ideas were forced to compete against other doctrines and attitudes, with the result that people tended towards healthy skepticism about claims to absolute truth, and a climate of pluralism developed, in Russia there was a cultural void. The censor forbade all political expression, so that when ideas were introduced there they easily assumed the status of holy dogma, a panacea for all the world’s ills, beyond questioning or indeed the need to test them in real life.

Convinced that their own ideas were the key to the future of the world, that the fate of humanity rested on the outcome of their own doctrinal struggles, the Russian intelligentsia divided up the world into the forces of ‘progress’ and ‘reaction’, friends and enemies of the people’s cause, leaving no room for doubters in between. Here were the origins of the totalitarian worldview.”

A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution by Orlando Figes

It’s things like the quote here that lead me to believe I’ve stumbled across the playbook of our current political climate. I’ll be honest, it scares me. The more I read, the more I start to see the parallels, and the more I start to think we are being played by factions of our own government, our own people.

Several times in the past few years I’ve wondered why we all seem to think it’s ok to ban certain types of speech, political and philosophical. Several times I’ve wanted to post that banning, censoring, or otherwise legislating against “hate” is a slippery slope we don’t want to be on. I want to stand up and say, “If you forbid people to speak against you, if you say to your friends and family, “This kind of thinking will not be tolerated,” you aren’t changing anyone’s heart or mind. You only drive them underground, where their supposedly hateful ideas will fester and grow.” But I’ve been afraid.

The fact that I’m afraid to publicly state that “hating” is also a protected right, even in a semi-private, friends and relations only page, makes me shudder. What kind of country have we become that we are afraid to say what we think? Where will this lead us? Reading about the Russian Revolution, I’m starting to see where it could and that makes me terribly sad in some ways and reassures me in others.

It scares me because I worry that we’ll repeat the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. I hate to see people suffer, and I’m afraid those that will suffer most are the very people that are being used as pawns in a game; the poor, uneducated, and “underprivileged” that we say we are trying to help gain a better position.

It reassures me because I’m reminded that there is actually nothing new under the sun. People have always suffered in some way. Governments have always overreached. Revolutions have happened, people have struggled, and atrocities have been committed, over and over again. Humans seem to thrive on it.

What does shine through, for me, is human ingenuity and intelligence. The more I focus on individual stories, the more comforted I am. The big picture might be terrifying, but the things we do, the lives we lead inside that picture? Wow. We’re amazing.

This book is going to take me FOREVER to read. It’s over 800 pages long and I’m currently reading abut 25 pages an hour. I’m not getting much done other than to read, write, and do basic housework, but I’ll just keep going like this until someone around here complains!

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