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Censorship, sincerity, and relationships
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I feel compelled to speak on another controversial topic - censorship as both the Right and the Left point fingers at each other in accusation of violated rights. But this is not a political exploration. It is a dive into the human consequences and costs we endure psychologically and socially. I can’t possibly be the only one thinking along these lines. I would love to hear your perspective.
Censorship generally provides the rules of socially acceptable ideas, opinions, speech, and even conduct. As in Russia right now, no one is allowed to say the word “war” when referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The penalty is jail. In Florida, they “don’t say gay.” Progressives debate who’s a “woman.” You get the idea.
Someone somewhere always claims that something shouldn’t be said in public.
The consequences for saying the wrong thing in public range from getting trolled online to having to apologize, lose your job, or get a label slapped to your name: homophobe, woke, misogynist, transphobe, white nationalist, anarchist, snowflake, etc. So, imagine you must feed your family, and voicing the “unpopular/unapproved opinion” would cost you your job. You’d show up to work every day, do and say whatever you have to in order to keep that job. Sometimes saying the “wrong” thing will get you death threats, disinvite you from an event, or kick you out of the next family Thanksgiving.
Your public persona will match whatever it needs to match so you can stay relevant, keep your audience, get your paycheck, and stay out of trouble. Unless you’re Joe Rogan or someone else who’s reached escape velocity and doesn’t care what others think or someone who has nothing to lose.
I grew up in communist Bulgaria. We were not allowed to even like music coming from the free world. We had to pledge allegiance to the communist gods Marx, Lenin, Stalin, etc. We were not allowed to speak critically of the government or demand accountability of any government official. If we failed to love everything communist, we lost job opportunities, the ability to purchase a car or an apartment, and risked going to jail.
Censorship is intended to minimize descent and friction. Now, it is also intended to minimize a group’s discomfort. But we have many groups with conflicting discomforts. We provide safe spaces and use watered-down words like “unhoused” instead of “homeless” or “bum.” We don’t have “stewards and stewardesses” anymore. We have “flight attendants.” I personally like “flight attendants” because it makes me feel like I might get attended to on my flight. But the reason it changed is because of a push to remove gender biases in job descriptions. So, we lost the waiters and waitresses to “wait staff” and “servers.”
We also lost details our minds can use to process information and understand each other better. If I tell you, “The flight attendant was nice,” are you going to know if I am talking about a man or a woman? Your mind cannot conjure up a picture of anything! The words sound empty. In the same way LGBTQ is an empty acronym. It conjures up nothing in your mind other than perhaps a rainbow flag, which is still far from the real people, their lives, and challenges. In fact, you don’t even know what Q stands for. Is it “questioning,” “queer,” or “other identities?” That depends on who you ask, but in terms of your subjective perception and understanding, you don’t have a clue what to picture in your head in place of that Q. Me neither.
Sometimes, it feels like to equalize the world we’ve homogenized it to the point of looking like a Hawaiian poi – a tasteless, grayish, flavorless mush on your Luau plate that you just push around with indifference. You know it might be good for you, but who cares when there’s meat and haupia pudding?!
If you wonder what changing words has to do with censorship – well, everything. The very fact that we are changing words AND mandating only the new words be used is censorship. It would be different if we could use all the words – the old and the new. Then it would be a matter of choice.
That’s in public, of course. Because in private, people use whatever words they want and don’t hide their opinions from themselves. Censorship does not change what people think, what they believe, and what they say in private. It only changes what they say in public. So, if the goal is to change people’s mindsets and attitudes, censorship does none of it. The misogynist and the racist are still going to be that in their heads, but we won’t know who they are because they will be hiding behind the approved opinions in public.
A recent example is the Fox News debacle, where hosts of pro-Trump shows, like Tucker Carlson, kissed Trump’s rump on camera but had pretty nasty things to say about him in private messages. Ironically, after getting canned, Tucker now talks about the censorship in big media and runs the risk of getting sued by Fox for opening his mouth and breaching his NDA.
Censorship pushes people into their own silos. Birds of a feather flock together and fortify their beliefs. Like Andrew Tate and his army of weirdos, just one example of many. People like him build empires on the grievances, insecurities, and demoralization of those who feel oppressed by political correctness, censorship, societal blame, and rejection.
On a more personal level, self-censoring to keep up with the “moral Joneses” messes with people’s ability to be sincere even in close relationships if they can manage to get one. It’s already no secret that people in the dating pool try to behave as much as possible so they will be liked. That’s natural. But add to this the anxiety of having “the approved” opinions, and you end up with people showing up to meet others completely not themselves. But no one can keep up appearances for too long, so these types of relationships don’t last, if they can even get started. Sometimes, they just give up altogether and hide in their basements, avoiding relationships, struggling to make friends outside of their online world, and feeling isolated and rejected.
Sometimes children get completely different messaging at home than at school. It could be a good thing, I suppose, if the school offers more than a kid can get at home. But often conscientious, educated parents clash with what the schools mandate, and kids grow up very confused and conflicted about most of everything, including who they are.
I think the pressure to hold the “approved” opinions feels uncomfortable for many. They would rather fly solo or join like-minded others. While others immediately adopt and capitalize on these new opinions becoming the next virtue champions. To each their own, but often these two attitudes result in people hating each other rather than trying to understand and tolerate each other. This, peaceful society does not make!
Sadly, having to keep up with the moral police depresses people more than they realize. (Just look at what is happening in Iran.) That’s because censorship IS one group exerting control over another by dictating what the approved opinions and behavior are. It’s a power dynamic in which one sits on top of another or on top of many. In the process, truths are hidden if they don’t easily fit within the approved narrative. Hidden truths may mean things not getting the attention they need – from people to issues to communities. The more people sign up to obey censorship dynamics, the more areas of life will remain neglected, and more people will become frustrated. There’s a strong relationship between frustration and aggression. Eventually, the lid blows off. In America, we have lots of guns, so aggression can easily turn deadly.
In case I haven’t made it clear so far, I am equally opposed to the moral police on the Left and on the Right. In fact, living in America these days is living under two different sets of censorship, incompatible with one another. Unless one fully aligns with the Far Left or Far Right, trying to walk on the eggshells of these two sets of conflicting restrictions imposed on us is no easy task. Those of us in the middle know what a woman is, and we want her to have abortion rights. We are concerned with too many kids getting sex reassignment treatments, and we believe in self-expression and self-determination. Get it?
Ideologies shouldn’t be imposed on people and shouldn’t ruin family relationships. Why are we letting it happen?
Interestingly, whenever something is “off limits,” “taboo,” or “censored,” it attracts more attention to itself. Back in Bulgaria, when we couldn’t listen to Western bands, we felt hungry for it, so we figured out how to connect to Radio Free Europe and listen to all the latest hits all day long. Kind of like “reverse psychology” if something is off limits and you get to do it, you are the cool one. So, that’s how all those Andrew Tate followers feel – empowered to spank their women and not just with their consent in the bedroom.
Back when I was working at the UN, “moral progress” was a big buzzword. It says that humans make moral progress, societies reflect that moral progress in their social order and laws, and the world becomes a better place. Such as abolishing slavery, equal rights for women, international cooperation, etc. Often, new ideas and understanding initiate and eventually necessitate moral progress. This causes friction with the way things are, but eventually, things sort themselves out based on what most people feel is an improvement. The process involves voicing discontent, educating others, and even revolutions like the French Revolution or the American Civil War.
Perhaps, we are in a standoff of ideas right now as we are trying to reconcile much of what we’ve been doing with what’s coming down the pipeline and trying to figure out what our place is in the Universe. That’s fair. Call it growing pains.
What is not fair is telling people what to think and punishing them for thinking differently instead of honestly providing them with the information and tools they need to make up their own minds and the safety they require to feel heard, seen and cared about. Moral progress is a process that doesn’t fit political deadlines. But it can easily be exploited for profit and personal agendas.
Here are the wise words of the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy,
“I don’t believe in revolutions. Real life begins as small changes occur in the souls of people.”
For these small changes to occur in the souls of people, we need truth, sincerity, and commitment to each other and our common better future. I get it. It’s not an easy task, and it feels hopeless at times looking at everything that’s wrong with the world.
But at the end of the day, the small changes in our souls are our responsibility, so we all need to stand up against any form of imposed thinking on us. OK. That’s not fun. We all want to hear our own thoughts and opinions repeated back to us so we feel amazing and smart. That’s why tribes, clicks, and Andrew Tate.
But try to enjoy a little discomfort poking around some unfamiliar territory. Imagine you’re the pioneer who battles the elements, faces unknown challenges, and risks life and limb to reach the other side of the country in search of a better life. Also, no showers back then and no drive-throughs. So, how bad could it really be to expose yourself to something new, different, and thought-provoking? Have we become so complacent, spoiled, and uncaring that the only thing that matters is our own personal comfort and image?
OK. Rant over. Sorry, not sorry.
Thank you for reading.
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