Sunday, November 15, 2015

Baby on Board

“A university is not a ‘safe space.'  If you need a safe space, leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university.”

-Richard Dawkins-
"The only way to be "safe" from having one's core beliefs disparaged or dismissed is to abolish diversity and disagreement altogether — to mandate the one right way of life and of thinking."
Writes Joseph Reisert in The Kennebunk Journal of all places.  The subject is important and unfortunately I've only seen it addressed by far right extremists who like to accuse Liberals in general of Fascism and totalitarianism and all sorts of things including "hating Jesus."  Comical as their efforts are, there are movements particularly on college campuses that challenge the foundations of Liberal philosophy.  I like to compare it to those "baby on board" signs we used to see on car windows: a pretentious and narcissistic effort to coerce people to give them special consideration.  

Perhaps I'm a Liberal, perhaps not, but I think that demanding protection from disturbing opinions and sights and even annoying truths is an enemy of Liberal thought as codified in our Constitution, yet that's the way it is in some places, from ivory towers to shabby tenements. I resent being told I can't say that all lives matter because it doesn't provide a safe space for someone's publicity campaign.  Neither apparently, can I insinuate that racism isn't the exclusive property of white Americans.  because the intended ends justify the self-contradictory means. But that's only a small part of the inherent tyranny of the self-righteous safety seekers: of their leadership and by the people who want to own the road in armored cars with Baby on Board signs in the window

Is the effort to provide a Utopian safe space compatible with Liberal Thought?  Not if it mandates belief or any other form of uniformity and conformity.

"The problem is inherent in the demand for a subjective feeling of perfect safety." 

says the writer and indeed perfect safety in a physical and emotional sense is part of many people's vision of what our society ought to provide. There are those who feel justified in demanding that they be protected from seeing anything questioning their faith, whether that be an opinion or an artifact or a lack of faith in others. No one may insinuate in speech or Halloween costume that I am in any way different or humorous.  

A university certainly needs to protect the physical safety of all students, minority or otherwise, but does that extend to protect them from words and opinions - even those words they imagine to be disagreeable?  Safe Space apparently implies something much more than a safe place to study and learn and achieve for all students.  Space is safer when you congregate in distinct segregated groups of course. Do we ask where this is going?  NO!

A journalist wants to exercise his and our rights by covering your protest?  NO! it might make someone  feel "Unsafe."  And demands are made to physically eject him from the University of Missouri Campus where freedom of speech is for people who won't question you.  

It's often said that the safest state is a police state and I have to question whether our college campuses are voluntarily becoming illiberal safe havens for the timid and self righteous -- a place where no possible offense, deserved or otherwise, is permitted., where diversity is in danger, A safe space where nothing that challenges belief, opinion, self promotion or self image is possible.  Even the language is becoming Gerrymandered to prevent unsuitable expressions or thoughts and rather than becoming safe places for controversy, debate, demonstration and disagreement, Universities are becoming rigid protectors of timid children who seem to like it that way.  It's supposed to be a place where you grow up and learn to fend for yourself and to face the world armed with some knowledge and skill and a world full of people who don't agree with you or feel the need to respect your authority or agree with what you think you are.

No comments: