On Wednesday I attended a conference “The New Intolerance on Campus”, organised by Spiked. Important arguments and valuable points were made both by the excellent speakers and from the floor.
We were reminded how important it is for our human growth, and our moral development to have our ideas, beliefs and assumptions challenged - Newman’s “The energy of the human intellect does from opposition grow”. However, instead of welcoming those who have opposing or even repulsive views, for the opportunity that they give us to challenge their arguments, modify our own or even guide them to more promising territory, the current trend is to shut them up.
This is best illustrated on our university campuses where the National Union of Students under a fug of progressiveness is actually doing the work of the State. Those who question the gender or race politics of our liberal elite are ‘no platformed’.
Safe spaces are created for the delicate, easily offended flowers of our education system. While claiming that their powerlessness means they need protection, they have the power to make sure that those expressing views they don’t like are silenced. Shut up.
Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked, told us that “Censorship is the midwife of stupidity”. In universities identity politics squash discussion of ideals or quest for the truth. Instead of exercising their intellectual muscles or capacity for moral judgement, students allow others, such as the NUS, to do their thinking for them. The students and the universities, which submit to this process, will, inexorably be dumbed down.
However, students should not be held entirely responsible. They are the fruits of what the education system has become.
Teachers have to submit to a form of brainwashing in order to be trained so are unlikely to have the tools to teach pupils to think for themselves. Pupils’ fragile egos are protected through absence of individual competition, red ink is not used and spellings remain uncorrected for fear of damaging their creative souls. No wonder when they come to university they have to be protected from original and challenging opinions. They do not appear to have been given the tools to argue robustly and challenge these opinions for themselves. Defenceless they turn to their NUS mummy, who will make those who say things they don’t like, shut up.
How much better they would do if they turned to The Conservative Woman instead! We not only talk about the virtues of freedom of speech. We do freedom of speech. As a member of the audience pointed out on Wednesday , what the NUS and others deem hate speech is in fact right wing speech. That is us. We don that most unpopular mantle ‘conservative’ and we challenge feminism, the rightness of abortion, gay marriage or most recently the untouchable status of doctors. We use rational arguments, evidence, hopefully humour and sometimes a little vitriol to lay waste to the liberal establishment’s most holy sacred cows. We do this under our own identities and we leave ourselves open to discussion, criticism and attack.
We drag identity politics into an arena where feelings are no longer in currency. The discussion centres on ideals, beliefs and evidence. It is not our fragile egos but the truth which is at stake.
Our support for individuals and the family is our real defence against intolerance and tyranny. It is the family with its idiosyncracies and complexities that provides the security that enables individuals with all their uniqueness, quirkiness and originality to thrive. Institutionalised childcare may look after the body, it may even allow for functional personalities, but I believe it encourages conformity to the whole. An example here might be Denmark, which while highly enviable in many ways encourages conformity amongst the Danes.
Where the family is strong plurality is encouraged because individuals no longer need state protection. They can fight lies and ugliness where they find them. They have the strength to challenge views and opinions they don’t like and get bruised and battered in battle. Because when they have finished they can go home and recover. For they have their families – a real sacred, and very safe space.