I am a writer and an artist. Creativity drives me. It is what makes life worth living and it comes to me as naturally as does breathing. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. I want to express myself not only because I’m in love with myself, but so that I can entertain others and raise their spirits as well. Creating art is an act of love. I also celebrate the creativity of others. I love art, music, comedy, and fiction. Not everything is to my tastes, but I always appreciate it when someone puts in an effort to make something unique. The world is rich with fascinatingly complex and beautiful sights, sounds, and tastes and I want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy them. Producing art is fundamentally human and every human is at least somewhat creative. Enjoying and consuming art requires a creative mind to appreciate it. I am able to celebrate art I did not create by bringing my own interpretation to it. This requires creativity. Learning, understanding, and exploring are also fundamentally human. To be trapped in one place crushes the human spirit. I love to broaden my mind, so it sickens and saddens me when some people reject knowledge out of fear, remaining in ignorance and squalor. They continue to reject my help, but my love of truth and knowledge will not allow me to stop reaching out.
My love for creativity also extends to scientific speculation and theories. I don’t have to believe that everything I read is true to enjoy reading about it. I once got a book out of the library called The Dinosaur Heresies. It suggested, among other things, that the dinosaurs were warm-blooded and presented evidence to support the idea. This has since become mainstream thinking. I got another book out of the library called The Big Bang Never Happened. It suggested that we live in an infinitely old, hyperbolic spacetime and that quasars are magnetic plasma foci rather than black hole accretion disks. I have always been more interested in learning the basics of every school of thought on a subject than in learning any one worldview in great detail. I am attracted to heresies. I collect them. I find them irresistible – not because I want to rebel against “authority” – but simply because I love ideas.
My love of ideas also includes descriptions of alternate cultures and new ways to order our institutions. I don’t have to agree that all propositions are good ideas to want to learn about them. Learning is an end in itself. I derive pleasure from mulling over the possibilities of different forms of government. Reading only that which I already agree with is boring. I crave new ideas that I have never heard before. The fact that I might not agree with an author is all the more reason to read his/her work. It intrigues me to think there might be some merit to the arguments. I like to be surprised. Rarely does anyone change my mind, but I also read for reconnaissance purposes. Reading the work of my political/intellectual opponents informs me of the rhetorical devices they use so I better know how to formulate my own arguments to defeat them. How can I win anyone over to my side if I remain uninformed?
I want to hear from those I disagree with. I want Nazis, communists, and scientologists to be able to have their say. It helps me to refine my thinking and better understand what I don’t believe and why I don’t believe it. In fact, the vast majority of the things I have come to believe I arrived at by first hearing someone actually attempt to make a case for the opposite. Things are often known by their contrary. I want people to speak up. This is why it hurts so much when I hear people being shouted down and threatened with violence merely for making a few points. It is not only scary for those speaking and disappointing for those of us that want to hear them, but I also find it very very sad. The protestors hurt themselves most of all. They miss out.
Ironically, it is colleges where the most extreme forms of speech suppression take place. Colleges are at least nominally institutions of knowledge and learning, but I am finding this description harder to believe all the time. Even more ironically, it is the students who prevent those they don’t like from speaking. Why do they (or their parents) spend so much on education if they refuse to learn? It doesn’t make sense. There is so much agitation out there now that colleges are insisting that visiting speakers (or those that invite them) pay for the extra security. Thus, the rich get their points across while the poor remain unheard. Why can’t the college pay for security? What do they do with all that tuition money? Many colleges are subsidized by state governments. Why can’t the state pay for it? Since college students will be the next generation of leaders that will run our institutions when we retire, it hurts all of us when they remain uneducated.
Church is another place where free thought is often discouraged. One would think that God would want us to learn. Why else did he give us brains? Strangely, churches actually encourage learning if it is to draw you away from anti-church ideas, but once they have you inside you will often be told that any doubts are a symptom of sin that will expel you from God’s favor. Hypocrites!
There are many reasons to support freedom of speech. When speech is suppressed, those with unpopular views do not simply go away. Instead they communicate with each other in secret and become increasingly desperate to be heard. Some resort to terrorism when they have no other option. When questioning established doctrine is prohibited, it causes even reasonable people to wonder what the authorities have to hide and whether they are covering something up. Conspiracy theories thrive on secrecy.
Besides, the only way to know whether someone is worth listening to is to first listen to them. There is no way to know what they will say until they say it. If you don’t know what they’re going to say, you can’t know that it will be false. If they fail to convince you, no harm is done – and if they do convince you, doesn’t that mean you learned something? Isn’t that good? Don’t you want the best information you can get? What are you so afraid of? Why stay stupid?
On the other hand, if they are only repeating what they have already said, no further harm can come of it. What they have said is already part of the public domain and cannot be unheard. They are hurting no one. Let them continue.
When those in power are uneducated, we all suffer. In a democracy, this means the voters and this is why widespread ignorance is so dangerous. Suppressing speech kills democracy. When a tyrant controls what you hear, you may not even know you live in a tyranny. Knowledge is power and ignorance is enslavement. Of all people, it is students, artists, writers, and performers that should be most wary of enslavement because it cuts to the very soul of what learning and art are all about – freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom itself. Why then, do so many of them try to shut people up?
Any artist who does not support allowing those of unpopular views to speak is no artist at all and lacks the very thing that makes us human – the creative drive. They are something less than animals. It makes me wonder: Since they aren’t human, is it morally permissible to hunt them for food?
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.